U.S. Census Resources on the Web

American FactFinder Guide

Table of Contents
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What is American FactFinder?

The Census Bureau developed the American FactFinder (http://factfinder.census.gov/) web site as its primary vehicle for distributing Census data. The Census Bureau has cut back on the number of volumes it's printing, and fewer printed reports will be distributed to federal depository libraries. The Bureau expects that most people will use American FactFinder (AFF) to retrieve Census data.

Currently, AFF provides data for the lowest level of geography (blocks), and data for the biggest variety of geographic entities, everything from zip code tabulation areas to state legislative districts to Census tracts. It also allows users to retrieve reference and thematic maps.

Data sets in American FactFinder

You can retrieve data from the following surveys using AFF:

This guide focuses on using AFF to retrieve data from the 2000 Census.

General information

For more help with using American FactFinder...

If you'd like more help with using AFF, you can ask at the Memorial Library Reference Desk (Room 262), or contact Beth Harper, Government Documents Reference Librarian, 608/262-9852.

Grace York of the University of Michigan has done a very thorough tutorial for AFF, including interactive exercises. Much of the material on this page is based on this tutorial. The tutorial is available at: http://guides.lib.umich.edu/content.php?pid=37625 (click on "American Factfinder and Census 2000" in the "American FactFinder" section). There are a total of 228 slides in this presentation, but you can just go to specific sections of the presentation if you'd like.

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Definitions & abbreviations for terms used in American FactFinder

Note: Icons after particular terms are icons you'll see when using the pages listed under the PEOPLE, HOUSING, or BUSINESS AND GOVERNMENT buttons in the Left Navigation bar. (6/5/06)

American Community Survey (ACS): survey conducted on an ongoing basis in every county, American Indian and Alaska Native Area, and Hawaiian Home Land. Collects the detailed data previously included in the sample, or Summary File 3 and Summary File 4, data sets. In 2005, the ACS was implemented across the country, for areas with large populations.

ACS data availability, by year and population size of area:
Type of data Population size of area Year data was first made available (data collected in previous year)
Annual estimates 250,000+ 2003
Annual estimates 65,000+ 2006
3-year averages 20,000+ 2008
5-year averages Census tract and block group 2010+

Census: A complete count, usually of a population, but also of businesses and commercial establishments, farms, governments, and so forth.
Examples: 2000 Census of Population and Housing, 2002 Economic Census
Related term: Survey

Data Sets: packages of data gathered from a given survey or compiled from certain questions; for certain geographies; at a certain time. Data sets currently available for the 2000 Census include:
  • American Indian and Alaska Native Summary File (AIANSF) Sample Data
  • 109th Congressional District data
  • P.L. 94-171 data (description)
  • Demographic Profiles (description)
  • summary files for
    • American Samoa
    • Guam
    • Northern Mariana Islands
    • U.S. Virgin Islands

Demographic Profiles (DP) : tables covering multiple subjects for single geographies (including the U.S., states, counties, minor civil divisions, places, metropolitan areas, American Indian and Alaska Native areas, Hawaiian home lands, and congressional districts). There are four kinds of Demographic Profiles for the 2000 Census:

Detailed Tables (DT) : the most detailed demographic data for the widest number of geographic units, including blocks, which are the smallest geographic unit in the Census hierarchy. Accessed from AFF's "Data Sets" page or through SEARCH results. When looking for or at detailed tables, you may see these other abbreviations:

Fact Sheets: Reports containing basic facts for a single geography (U.S., state, county, city, town, or ZIP code). Drawn from Census 2000 Demographic Profiles or the most current data from the American Community Survey Data Profiles based on your geographic selections.

Geographic Comparison Tables (GCT) : tables comparing variables across multiple geographies (all tracts in county, counties in state, etc.).   How to retrieve a geographic comparison table.

P.L. 94-171 data (aka Redistricting data): Public Law 94-171 requires the Census Bureau to provide state governments with selected decennial census data tabulations and related geographic products for specific geographic entities by April 1 of the year following the census. These data and products are used by the states to redefine their Congressional districts. P.L. 94-171 files provide data for race, Hispanic or Latino and not Hispanic or Latino, race for the population 18 years and older, and Hispanic or Latino and not Hispanic or Latino for the population 18 years and older.

Products: tangible products you can buy. Links to products usually lead to descriptions and ordering information; sometimes they lead to a link to a PDF report.

Quick Tables (QT ) : brief tables covering one subject (may include multiple variables).

Reference Maps: maps showing boundaries and physical features.   How to retrieve a reference map

Survey: A data collection activity involving observation or questionnaires for a sample of a population. (A census is a 100-percent sample survey; it collects information about every member of a population.) Surveys are normally less expensive to conduct than censuses; hence, they may be taken more frequently and can provide an information update between censuses.
Examples: American Community Survey, Annual Survey of Manufactures.
Related term: Census

Thematic Maps : maps of U.S. with breakdown of demographic characteristics for states, counties, metropolitan areas, and Congressional Districts.

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How can I...? - Hints for finding information in American FactFinder

General hints

  1. When using the SEARCH section to find places, enter only the proper name of the place you're searching for, not the kind of place. For example:
    • "Madison," not "Madison city," "City of Madison," or "Town of Madison"
    • "Dane," not "Dane County"
    • But "New York City," "Oklahoma City," or "Sauk City" ("city" is part of the proper place name)
  2. When looking at a list of search results for a place name or keyword search, not all tables or maps will be on the main page of results. Click on MORE for additional tables or maps in a particular category.

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How can I get basic facts for a state, county, city, or town?

http://factfinder.census.gov/

Use the FAST ACCESS TO INFORMATION section of the main AFF.

  1. Click in the box below GET A FACT SHEET FOR YOUR COMMUNITY.
  2. Type the name of a city, town, county, or zip code.
  3. Click in the STATE box and select a state from the pull-down menu.
  4. Click GO.
    Note: You may have to click on a particular geographic name if there are multiple geographic entities in the state that have the same name.
  5. American FactFinder will display a brief list of general, social, economic, and housing characteristics. For more statistics in any category, click SHOW MORE next to the category heading.
    Note: If data from the American Community Survey are available for the community you searched, that will display. You can retrieve data from the 2000 Decennial Census by clicking the 2000 tab.

Updated 3/23/10.

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How can I get a detailed table for a Census tract?

http://factfinder.census.gov/

Note: These instructions describe getting detailed tables from Census 2000, Summary File 3, but the principles are the same for retrieving data from other data sets, such as Summary File 1.

  1. Highlight the DATA SETS (definition) button in the left-hand navigation bar.
  2. Click on a survey (example: DECENNIAL CENSUS).
  3. Click the button next to the data set from which you want data (example: CENSUS 2000 SUMMARY FILE 3 (SF 3) - SAMPLE DATA).
  4. Click DETAILED TABLES in the list to the right of the data set description.
  5. Click NATION in the box under SELECT A GEOGRAPHIC TYPE.
  6. Click CENSUS TRACT (under "State/County").
  7. Click a state name (example: WISCONSIN) from the drop-down menu in the SELECT A STATE box.
  8. Click a county (example: DANE) from the drop-down menu in the SELECT A COUNTY box.
  9. Click a tract number (example: CENSUS TRACT 3) in the SELECT ONE OR MORE GEOGRAPHIC AREAS... box.
    Optional: Click MAP IT to the right of the ...GEOGRAPHIC AREAS... box to view a reference map of the area. The map will appear in a new window.
  10. Click ADD (below the ...GEOGRAPHIC AREAS... box).
    Optional: Select additional geographic areas by holding down the CONTROL button on the keyboard, clicking on each area you want to add, and then clicking ADD.
  11. Click NEXT (to the right of the CURRENT GEOGRAPHY SELECTIONS box). The new window will list all tables available for the geography(ies) you've selected.
  12. Select a table from the SELECT ONE OR MORE TABLES box.
  13. Click ADD.
    Optional: Select additional tables by holding down the CONTROL button on the keyboard, clicking on each table you want to add, and then clicking ADD.

    Optional: View a list of available tables by subject.

    1. Click the BY SUBJECT tab (under CHOOSE A TABLE SELECTION METHOD).
    2. Select a table subject in the SELECT A SUBJECT... box.
    3. Click SEARCH (to the right of the SELECT A SUBJECT box).
    4. Click a table in the box below SELECT ONE OR MORE TABLES....
    5. Click ADD.
      Optional: Select additional tables by holding down the CONTROL button on the keyboard, clicking on each table you want to add, and then clicking ADD.
    Optional: Search for tables by keyword.
    1. Click the BY KEYWORD tab (under CHOOSE A TABLE SELECTION METHOD).
    2. Click in the box under ENTER A KEYWORD....
    3. Type a keyword (example: education).
    4. Click SEARCH.
    5. Click a table in the SELECT ONE OR MORE TABLES... box.
    6. Click ADD.
      Optional: Select additional tables by holding down the CONTROL button on the keyboard, clicking on each table you want to add, and then clicking ADD.
  14. Click SHOW RESULT (next to the CURRENT TABLE SELECTIONS box).

Updated 3/23/10.

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How can I get a table comparing all all counties in a state, states in the nation, etc.?

http://factfinder.census.gov/

Note: these instructions are specifically for comparing all counties in a state, but the principles are the same for comparing all states in the nation, all places in a state, and so on.

  1. Highlight the DATA SETS (definition) button in the left-hand navigation bar.
  2. Click on a survey (definition) (example: DECENNIAL CENSUS).
  3. Click in the button next to the data set from which you want data (example: CENSUS 2000 SUMMARY FILE 3 (SF 3) - SAMPLE DATA).
  4. Click GEOGRAPHIC COMPARISON TABLES to the right of the data set name.
  5. Select a geographic type (ie, the type of geography you want to divide into smaller parts) (example: STATE) from the drop-down menu in the SELECT A GEOGRAPHIC TYPE box.
  6. Select a state name (example: WISCONSIN) from the drop-down menu in the SELECT A GEOGRAPHIC AREA box.
  7. Click a table format (ie, the kind of areas you want to compare) (example: STATE-COUNTY) in the SELECT A TABLE FORMAT... box.
  8. Click NEXT.
  9. Click the table you'd like to view (example: INCOME AND POVERTY IN 1999: 2000).
  10. Click SHOW RESULT.

Checked 3/23/10.

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How can I print tables I'm currently viewing?

Note: following these instructions will print out all the tables you're viewing on one particular web page.

  1. Put your cursor on PRINT/DOWNLOAD (in the second blue menu bar from the top of the page).
  2. Click PRINT. A print window for your computer will appear.
  3. Click PRINT.

Checked 3/23/10.

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How can I download tables I'm currently viewing?

Note: following these instructions will save all the tables you're viewing on one particular page. In Microsoft Excel, if you're saving multiple tables, each table may be saved to a different worksheet in the same file.

  1. Put your cursor on PRINT/DOWNLOAD (in the second blue menu bar from the top of the page).
  2. Click DOWNLOAD. A new window will appear.
  3. Click the button next to the download option you want.
    Note: download options currently include:
    • Downloading data rows plus headings and footnotes in comma-delimited, tab-delimited, rich text format, or Microsoft Excel formats.
    • Downloading zip files containing data rows only in Microsoft Excel, comma delimited, and pipe delimited formats.
    Optional: Click EXPLAIN MY CHOICES for explanations and examples of downloading options.
  4. Click OK (at bottom of screen; may need to scroll). A new box labeled FILE DOWNLOAD will appear.
  5. Click SAVE.
  6. Choose a location in which to save your file by clicking SAVE IN and selecting a file destination.
  7. Type a file name in FILE NAME box.
  8. Click SAVE.

Checked 3/23/10.

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How can I find out which Census tract, block, legislative district, etc., a particular street address is in?

http://factfinder.census.gov/

Use the ADDRESS SEARCH box in the bottom-left corner of the main AFF page.

  1. Click STREET ADDRESS.
    Optional: Click in the SELECT A YEAR AND PROGRAM box and select a survey from the drop-down menu. The default selection is Census 2000, which will return the largest number of geographies related to that address.
  2. Type a street address and a city in the text boxes, then select a state from the drop-down menu, or type a street address and a zip code in the text boxes.
  3. Click GO.
  4. The geographies that the address is a part of will be listed in the GEOGRAPHIES CONTAINING... box.

Checked 3/23/10.

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How can I get a reference map?

http://factfinder.census.gov/

Use the ADDRESS SEARCH box in the bottom-left corner of the main page.
  1. Click STREET ADDRESS.
    Optional: Click in the SELECT A YEAR AND PROGRAM box and select a survey from the drop-down menu. The default selection is Census 2000, which will return the largest number of geographies related to that address.
  2. Type a street address and a city in the text boxes, then select a state from the drop-down menu, or type a street address and a zip code in the text boxes.
  3. Click a specific geography in the GEOGRAPHIES CONTAINING... box.
  4. Click MAP IT.

Checked 3/23/10.

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U.S. Census Resources on the Web | Government Documents at Memorial Library |
Memorial Library Home Page | UW-Madison Libraries

Page created June 2006; last updated on 3/24/10.

Created and maintained by:
Beth Harper
Government Documents Reference Librarian
276 Memorial Library
728 State St
Madison WI 53706
(608) 262-9852