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Bureau of the census

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Source description: The Bureau of the Census (or the Census Bureau) was established as a permanent office by an act of Congress on March 6, 1902, but the major functions are authorized the U.S. Constitution, which provides that “a census of population shall be taken every ten years.”

The Census Bureau is the preeminent collector and provide of timely, relevant, and high-quality data about both the people and economy of the United States.

The Census Bureau home pay is the gateway to all the information gathered by the bureau fulfill its official purpose of providing a population coun Included are statistics relating to business ownership, labor, education, health, age, income, expenditures, and industry. This is provides access to both data and tools necessary for its analysis and distribution.

For the latest developments at the site, check out the New on the Site section ( or the News Releases section ( Alternatively, subscribe to the mailing list (

Pricing: No cost; free Web site.

Source content: This summary provides information on the key areas of the Web site that are especially useful to business. Each section links not only to statistics but also to publications and reports, mostly available in PDF format:

1. People. This section provides links to demographic information, including the latest federal and state projections, and to income data.

It also provides in-depth information on housing, including property characteristics, housing completions, and residential segregation.

Also included are international population data tables and a link to the International Data Base, which is a computerized data bank containig statistical tables of demographic and socieoecnomic data for all countries of the world.

2. Business. The economic census is the major source of facts about the structure and functioning of the economy.

The economic census has been taken at five-year intervals since 1967, but only the information from 1992 and 1997 is available electronically from this Web site.

The census provides data on all industry sectors, down to the country or place level, and includes establishment, revenue, and payroll information.

3. Geography. This is the section that links to the Geographical Information Systems (GIS) maps, products, and data sections.

Included are Census 2000 Maps and Boundary Files, Glossaries, Relationship Files, 2000 Tabulation Tallies (number of geographic entities for Census 2000), and the Census 2000 TIGER (Topically Integrated Geograhic Encoding and Referencing system) Line.

These tools are useful for creating specialized maps demonstrating certain factors such as population, major roads, or nearby water resources.

4. American FactFinder. This service lets you search, browse, retrieve, view, map, print, and download census data.

One can create custom tables and maps to compare data for different geographic areas or use the Data Sets feature to access all available tables for the 2000 and 1990 Decennial Census, as well as the 1997 Economic Census and American Community Survey data.

Tables can be downloaded either as rich text or in a comma-delimited or Microfost Excel format.

5. Subjects A to Z. This alphabetical subject index is for those who are not sure where to look for the needed information.

Linked topics range from “Accommodation and Foodservices Sector to “Zip Code Statistics.”

Source evaluation: The Census Bureau is the major collector and provider of demographic and economic data.

Commercial publishers use this data to compile subject or age-specific reports and then sell this information. Using American FactFinder, the user can now compile the most recent information into tables and maps specific to individual needs.

Shows the basic components of the Census Bureau Web site, which also provides a subject index and a search feature.

Navigation within the various levels of the page are more challenging, although one click on the U.S. Census logo returns the user the home page. After descending through several levels of report this may be the only way to regain some focus.

In the Data Set section of American FactFinder, tabs at the top of the page enable the user to move within sections.

The layout is not ideal, but both access and data are free and the amount of information available is impressive. The links to access tools and other sources of information are invaluable.

Source value rating: All of the data source reviewers were asked to rate each source on the basis of the following eight categories, using “10” as the highest rating and “1” as the lowest (“80” being a perfect score):

1. Relative cost-to-value:   10
2. Relative timeliness of data:   10
3. Relative comprehensiveness of data:  10
4. Ease of use:     6
5. Search options available:   7
6. Level of support services:   8
7. Level of training offered:   8
8. Amount/kinds of special services offered: 8
Total Rating:     67

Useful tips
• The amount of information on the Cenus Bureau Web site can be overwhelming at first, so check out the site a few times before you need to use it just to become familiar with the type of information and its limitations.

• For the latest information, begin with American Factfinder and the move on to the full census reports if more is needed. Help is always available from depository libraries and Census Bureau offices.


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