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The U.S. Census Bureau: An essential bookmark

You could literally spend days on this site and not scratch the surface of the wealth of data it contains. Are you covering an education budget cut and want to know the historical distribution of funding to your state’s public education system from federal, state and local sources? There is a data table for that. Covering the current real estate market and want to know the affordability of homes over the past 40 years? There’s a PDF for that

Even though you can’t possibly know every statistic available on the site, you should be aware of the type of information that is available from the Census Bureau so you can continuously find and add statistics or additional context to your stories. Here are some things to know about this essential bookmark.

Beyond demographics and population

Most people know that the U.S. Census Bureau contains demographic information for the country, and many journalists should know that it contains employment and business statistics, but there is a lot of data you may not know is available to you. Here are a couple of lesser-known data and surveys it collects. 

Emergency Management
The Bureau produces local data that is essential for emergency planning, preparedness, and recovery efforts for tornados, winter storms, floods, hurricanes, and wildfires. Use this to see real-time data on populations impacted by natural disasters.

Income Inequality
Using data from three of the surveys they conduct, the Bureau is able to summarize income and wealth distribution throughout the country. Use this link to view the change in real median household income.

International Trade
Data is collected monthly on all goods and estimates of services exported and imported between the U.S. and other countries. You can learn that our largest export market in March 2022 was Canada, accounting for 18.1% of total exports.

Voting and registration
Collects the characteristics of American voters broken down by demographics and provides redistricting data for state and congressional districts. View some of their visual data charts for voting by age, race, and gender.

Facts for Features and Stats for Stories

Throughout the year the Bureau publishes special editions of curated data and statistics to assist reporters in writing feature articles, which they call ‘Facts for Features.’ So far this year they have published editions for Black History, Irish-American Heritage, Women’s History, and Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage months. They have also released a fact sheet comparing notable data from 1950 to the most recent 2020 Census survey.

Similarly they provide newsworthy statistics through their ‘Stats for Stories’ for a wide range of events, holidays, and observances, including Pride Month, Memorial Day, Earth Day, and even National Beer Day. In addition to providing key statistics to boost your story, such as there being 71,000 veterinarians in the US as of 2019 for National Pet Day, these releases provide outside links that may be useful in your reporting, such as AmeriCorps Open Data system for National Volunteer Week

You can subscribe to the Bureau to receive new releases when they become available.

Census Academy

Confused on using the various data tools available? You’re not alone and that is precisely why the Census Bureau created their Census Academy. Within the academy they have currently created nine free courses to help you get the most out of their site. Each of these courses is self-paced and average an hour including videos, explanations, and materials that you can peruse at your own pace.

If you would like to learn a skill from an instructor and be able to ask questions, they hold 4-5 webinars a month on a range of topics. Check out their upcoming webinars or view an archive of past webinars.

Additionally, the Bureau curated a series of short ‘how-to’ videos they dub ‘Data Gems’ that are selected to help you efficiently navigate their website and data tools.

Get started using U.S. Census Bureau data today!

Author

  • Julianne Culey

    Julianne is the Assistant Director of the Reynolds Center with expertise in marketing and communications and holds a master's in Sociology from Arizona State University.

    View all posts

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