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Government Documents and Resources: Census Toolkit

This guide provides information and links to documents and resources from the U.S. Federal Government, as well as international, state, and local resources.

Population Clock

U.S. Census Information

Getting Started with the Census

What's out there?

The United States Government provides a wealth of information on demographics, housing, and other topics through the U.S. Census Bureau:

  • Decennial Census - This is a comprehensive census conducted every ten years to collect information on every person in the United States, including age, sex, race, tenure (whether they rent or own a home), household relationships (who lives in a certain house with whom and how they're related), and vacancy characteristics. While the basic numbers are released when they're tabulated, the individual personal information (actual names of who lives where and with whom) cannot be released by law until  72 years after the census was taken (the average lifespan of its participants). The last census released was the 1940 census in 2012. 
  • American Community Survey - to bridge the gap in the 10 years between Decennial Censuses, the American Community Survey is conducted. This is conducted every year to gather information on things like age, race, income, commute time to work, home value, veteran status, and much more. 3.5 million housing units (addresses) are selected , and estimates are extrapolated for the entire nation based on this sample - yearly for geographic areas with populations of 65,000 or more and every 3 years for those with 20,000 or more.
  • American Housing Survey - runs every two years in the U.S. at large and 29 specific metropolitan area. Collects date on size and composition of the nation's housing, vacancies, physical condition of housing, characteristics of occupants, indicators of housing and neighborhood quality, mortgages, home values, and characteristics of recent movers. 
  • Annual Survey of Governments & Census of Governments - conducted annually and every five years respective, the Annual Survey provides info on the characterstics of state and local governments (structure, organization, function, finances, employment) and the Census of Governments provides similar information, though more comprehensively.  
  • Economics. There are several options here:
    • Commodity Flow Survey - info on commodities shipped, value, weight and mode of transportation, origin and destination of shipments, and more from manufacturing, mining, wholesale, and select retail and services.
    • Economic Census - conducted every 5 years, profiles the U.S. economy from the national to the local level, detailed by industry and business classification. 
    • Annual Economic Surveys - conducted yearly, these surveys provide info on manufactures, businesses, and nonemployer statistics.

Where do I start?

If you're searching for information about Alabama, its counties, or cities, see the page under the State & Local Resources tab, which will provide you with some direct links. If you don't find what you're looking for there, don't worry. Information from the Census Bureau can sometimes be difficult to find and use, so the resources on this page are provided to help you easily navigate the information available. The links will get you started, but if you have questions, need help, or can't find what you're looking for, please contact the Government Documents Department. We're here to help!

Census Resources

A Quick Look

  • Census Quickfacts - Quickfacts provides at-a-glance census information at the national, state, and county level, and is searchable by geographic area. You can find quick information on demographics (people), businesses, and geography here.
  • American Factfinder - American Factfinder is an online resource provided by the U.S. Census Bureau. It contains population, geographic, housing, and economic data. Factfinder allows you to search for information on population, race, ancestry, income, disability, education, employment, language, marital status, occupation, poverty status, housing characteristics, and more. It covers most geographic areas, from state, county, city/town, place, all the way down to specific ZIP codes and census tracts. It also offers geographic reference maps. NOTE: Only data gathered from the last two decennial censuses (2000 and 2010) is contained in American Factfinder; for historical census data, see the resources below.   

Searching Deeper

  • Census Data Sets - These are the individual tables containing all the data collected by the census. They include data from the American Community Survey, American Housing Survey, Economic Surveys, Surveys of Governments, Commodity Flow Survey, Decennial Census, Economic Census, and Population Estimates. Click on the "get data" link next to each tool to see its data tables.
  • Historical Census - the Government only makes available the latest census statistics (from 2000 & 2010) on American FactFinder. To find historical census data, you'll want to check: