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Finding & Using U.S. Census Data

A guide for finding and ulilizing data from the U.S. Census


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The United States Census Bureau is the principal agency of the U.S. Federal Statistics System responsible for producing data about the American People and economy.

Census data can be valuable information for a variety of disciplines. Use this guide to help explore different tools, datasets, and platforms offered by the U.S. Census Bureau.

Census Data

The mission of the U.S. Census Bureau is serve "as the leading source of quality data about the nation's people and economy. We honor privacy, protect confidentiality, share our expertise globally, and conduct our work openly. We are guided on this mission by our strong and capable workforce, our readiness to innovate, and our abiding commitment to our customers."

The Decennial Census:

The decennial census is a constitutionally mandated count of the population of the U.S. which is conducted by the government every ten years. The count is used for apportioning Congressional seats, as well as many other purposes, such as demographic research, allocating funding, and informing public policy.

Historical Changes:

The Census has changed greatly over time. Though the first Census in 1790 did little more than count population, over the years it has grown to include many other types of information. Many questions and terminology (e.g. racial categories) have changed over time as well.

The Long Form and the American Community Survey:

Over time Congress became concerned that there were too many questions.  In 1940 the Long Form was created as a way of finding out more detailed information (e.g. questions on income and educational attainment) from a sample of the population.  The long form of the Census was sent to 1 in 6 households. The 2000 Census was the last time the long form was used. Since 2000, the American Community Survey has replaced the long form.  The American Community Survey is an ongoing survey of a sample population that will provide us with detailed and more current information.

Census 2020

The 2020 Census is happening now! 

Take the Census | U.S. Census Bureau

Everyone living in the United States and its five territories is required by law to be counted in the 2020 Census. You can respond online, by phone, or by mail.

For more information please visit:

Key Resources from the U.S. Census

Find information using interactive applications to get statistics from multiple surveys.

American FactFinderProvides Access to data about the United States, Puerto Rico, and the Island Areas. The data in the American FactFinder comes from several censuses and surveys conducted by the U.S. Census

State and County QuickFacts: Easy access to facts about people, business, and geography

Business Dynamic Statistics: This tool shows tabulations on establishments, firms, and employment with unique information on firm age and firm size.

ResearchDataGovResearchDataGov is a web portal and application system for discovering and requesting restricted microdata from federal statistical agencies.

Census Resources from FSU Libraries

The Libraries purchase access to certain databases that make available value-added public census data.


Much of the content provided in this guide comes from the University of Michigan's research guide titled: "U.S. Census and Demographic Information" which was created by Catherine Morse.

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