The Ellen Clarke Bertrand Library

History 201: Introduction to Historical GIS: Using Census Data

Using Census Data

Thinking About Census Data

  • What topic are you interested in?
  • What years / timespan do you need data for?
  • What geographic level (county, city, MSA, etc.) are you looking for data for?

Census Data

Census data is collected at specified intervals (usually a period of years). While we traditionally think of the Population Census as "Census data" there are many other topical areas for which a Census is produced, including manufacturing, agriculture, and the economy. The Bertrand Library has print volumes for many of the Censuses listed below, including data for California covering the time period you are studying in this class. All of these volumes are found in the Government Documents Collection on the First Level Mezzanine.

Census of Population and Housing (every 10 years): Information about the demographics and social characteristics of locations are found in the Census of Population. Information about housing conditions and some economic information are found in the Census of Housing. These Censuses are often published separately and are located in two different areas in the Government Documents Collection on the First Level Mezzanine. Electronic versions of the Census of Population can be found on the Census website.

Census of Agriculture (every 5 years): Conducted by the USDA every five years, the Census provides a detailed picture of U.S. farms and ranches and the people who operate them. It is the only source of uniform, comprehensive agricultural data for every state and county in the United States.

Census of Manufactures (every 5 years): Provides comprehensive statistics about manufacturing establishments, activities, and production.

Census of Retail Trade and Census of Service Industries (every 5 years): As part of the Economic Census, contains information about the number of establishments, sales, employees, and payroll.


Links (for reference - in most cases data prior to 1990 is not available online from these sites)

U.S. Census Bureau

American FactFinder - Online portal for Census data from 2000 to present.

Economic Census

Census of Agriculture - see the Publications page for past volumes (all should be available in PDF)

Census Reports on Manufacturing

Census Reports on Retail Trade

California Statistical Abstract

National Historical Geographic Information System - online resource for extracting data from censuses back to 1790.


How do I cite the Census?
Here is an example citation for citing the Census of Population and Housing in Chicago/Turabian style:

U.S. Census of Population and Housing, 1990: Summary Population and Housing Characteristics: Pennsylvania. Washington: Government Printing Office, 1991.

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