U.S. Census Begins Releasing Raw Data

By Sean Dalby on Feb 03 2011

Yesterday the U.S. Census Bureau announced that they will release raw data down to the block level on total population, race, Hispanic origin, voting age, and housing unit counts from the 2010 census for public consumption. The data will be released on a state-by-state basis, with data on Louisiana, Mississippi, New Jersey, and Virginia to be released this week. The Census Bureau will release more state-wide data following this general schedule here.

This data release is in addition to the more general population and reapportionment data already available in a few places. The Census Bureau also recently launched a new data browser, called "Fact Finder", making it easier to find specific data.

The Data and an Important Change

The 2010 Census only issued the short questionnaire, instead of issuing both this and the long survey as they have in previous censuses. The short questionnaire collects this data:

  • Name
  • Age
  • Gender
  • Race
  • Ethnicity
  • Relationship Status
  • Home Ownership Status

The long survey, which asks more detailed questions about education, employment, type of home owned, income level, and more, is being asked as part of the Census Bureau's annual American Community Survey.

Working with the data

We are excited about this data release for a number of reasons. This data, and particularly the demographics it provides, will be important in our continuing work with the Department of Education and New America Foundation's Federal Education Budget Project and some upcoming mapping projects we have in the works with them. We also plan to incorporate it into the existing U.S. Census data available on MapBox.

This release is also a great win for open data. It's exciting to see the U.S. Census Bureau making information readily available to the public, and both in ways that are digestible to the general public with the Fact Finder data browser and in formats that are easy to work with technically. Much of the already data released has been in .csv format and all of their shapefiles are available for download.

I was unable to get a specific release date for the new national shapefiles from any officials at the press conference, however its expected to come out soon - possibly in June or July. Currently, you can download shapefiles down to the block level for every state.

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