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Social Work 303: American FactFinder

American FactFinder

American FactFinder is a service of the US Census Bureau, freely available on the web. Through FactFinder, one can collect statistical data and do mapping from the Decennial Census, the American Community Survey, and the Population Estimates Program (for people and housing) and the Economic Census (for establishments).


  Decennial Census through 2000 American Community Survey Population Estimates Program Economic Census
years every 10 years since 1790, years ending in '0' annual annual every 5 years, years ending in '2' and '7'
content basic demographic data and socio-economic data about people and housing. (Beginning 2010, basic demographic data only.) basic demographic data and socio-economic data about people and housing basic demographic data about people and housing economic data about establishments
geographies block, block group, census tract, township, county, state, nation, place (cities, etc.), metropolitan areas, etc. block group, census tract, township, county, state, nation, place (cities, etc.), metropolitan areas, etc. Data are currently available only for geographic areas with populations of 20,000 or more (as of January 2010). place, county, state, etc. places with 2,500 or more inhabitants, county, metropolitan and micropolitan area, state, ZIP Code, depending on the sector


Terminology. You will need to know that Place is Census terminology for incorporated places, census designated places, and consolidated cities. All of your communities are Places. Use the Glossary, Technical Documentation, Guide, or other documentation for other terms that you do not fully understand.

This guide will answer many questions that you will have as you use American FactFinder to collect data for your communities.

Suggested procedure

  1. Use "Fast Access to Information" to get a quick profile of your community. Make a note of the most recent total population. Note the source(s) of data. Note whether there is a comment such as "2006-2008 data not available for this geography".
  2. If you would like more data, it is good practice to check all relevant datasets to see whether your community is included, even if the population figure from "Fast Access to Information" suggests it might be below the population threshold.

Decennial Census, 2000

Census 2000. Some tips:

  • Use "Census 2000 Summary File 1 (SF 1) 100-Percent Data" for basic demographic data, i.e. sex, age, race, Hispanic or Latino, household relationship, group quarters, occupancy status, vacancy status, and tenure (owner occupied or renter occupied). Technical documentation.
  • Use "Census 2000 Summary File 3 (SF 3) - Sample Data" for basic demographic data and socio-economic data, i.e. population totals; urban and rural; households and families; marital status; grandparents as caregivers; language and ability to speak English; ancestry; place of birth, citizenship status, and year of entry; migration; place of work; journey to work (commuting); school enrollment and educational attainment; veteran status; disability; employment status; industry, occupation, and class of worker; income; poverty status; housing totals; urban and rural; number of rooms; number of bedrooms; year moved into unit; household size and occupants per room; units in structure; year structure built; heating fuel; telephone service; plumbing and kitchen facilities; vehicles available; value of home; monthly rent; and shelter costs. Technical documentation.
  • "Quick Tables" are handy. If you need more detail, try "Detailed Tables".
  • Under "Select a geographic type", choose "Place".

American Community Survey

American Community Survey. Some tips:

  • Use "2008 American Community Survey 1-Year Estimates" for geographic areas with populations of 65,000 or more.
  • Use "2006-2008 American Community Survey 3-Year Estimates" for geographic areas with populations of 20,000 or more.
  • For areas with a population less than 20,000, 5-year estimates will be released in 2010.
  • "Data Profiles" and "Subject Tables" are handy. If you want more detail, try "Detailed Tables".
  • Under "Select a geographic type", choose "Place".
  • Note the margin of error!
  • What can you do if you get the following message: "NOTE: Data for the following geographic area(s) cannot be displayed because the number of sample cases is too small"?
    • try again using a larger geography.
    • try again using a table where the number of sample cases is likely to be bigger.
    • Use the Decennial Census or Population Estimates Program instead.


Population Estimates Program

Population Estimates Program. Some tips:

  • For your communities, the most current data are from the 2008 Population Estimates (as of January 2010).
  • Use "Detailed Tables" to get data for your communities.
  • Under "Select a geographic type", choose "Place".

2002 Economic Census

2002 Economic Census


(2007 data for Illinois places are not yet released as of January 2010.) Provides data about businesses: number of establishments; sales, shipments, receipts, or revenue; annual payroll; number of employees. Tips:

  • Choose "Quick Reports" then "Geography Quick Reports" and the "2002 Economic Census".
  • Under "Select a geographic type", choose "Economic Place".


Race and Hispanic/Latino in Census 2000

“The data on race were derived from answers to the question on race that was asked of all people. The concept of race, as used by the Census Bureau, reflects self-identification by people according to the race or races with which they most closely identify. These categories are sociopolitical constructs and should not be interpreted as being scientific or anthropological in nature. Furthermore, the race categories include both racial and national-origin groups. […] People may have chosen to provide two or more races either by checking two or more race response check boxes, by providing multiple write-in responses, or by some combination of check boxes and write-in responses. [...]”

“The data on the Hispanic or Latino population were derived from answers to a question that was asked of all people. The terms ‘‘Spanish,’’ ‘‘Hispanic origin,’’ and ‘‘Latino’’ are used interchangeably. Some respondents identify with all three terms while others may identify with only one of these three specific terms. […] People who identify their origin as Spanish, Hispanic, or Latino may be of any race. [...]”

Source: Summary File 1, 2000 Census of Population and Housing, Technical Documentation

Exercise: Household Type and Relationship in the 2008 ACS

From the American Community Survey and Census 2000, one can collect data on Per Capita Income, Household Income, Family Income, and/or Nonfamily Income. In order to decide what data to collect and how to interpret the data, it is important to know what the difference is between a Household and a Family and to understand what a Nonfamily Household is.

Given the definitions of Household and Family under the heading "Household Type and Relationship" in American Community Survey, Puerto Rico Community Survey, 2008 Subject Definitions, pp. 51-54, decide for each of the following living situations whether the individual(s) are a Household, whether a Family, and whether a Nonfamily. (Alternatively, make these decisions based on Census 2000 definitions in Summary File 3, 2000 Census of Population and Housing, Technical Documentation.)

Situation Household? Family? Nonfamily?
a. Susan, her husband Eric, and their child live in one half of a duplex.      
b. Max lives alone in an apartment.      
c. Andrew, Mark, Karen, and Sally, all adults, share a 4-bedroom house. None are married or are couples.      
d. Mary and Doug married. Each has 2 children from previous marriages. Neither Mary nor Doug has adopted the other's children. The 6 individuals live in a mobile home.      
e. Seymour and Natasha are married and live together with their 1 child and with Natasha's mother in an apartment.      
f. Alex and Bill are a homosexual couple who are not married. They live together in a cottage behind the main house.      
g. Karen is a single mother, living with her young daughter in a rented apartment.      
h. Louise and Ted's granddaughter Cindy lives with them in their home.      
i. Matilda lives in a nursing home. She is widowed and her children live out-of-state.