5 Awesome Free Online Data Tools from the U.S. Census

Too often in the day to day business of research, we forget that there’s an astounding set of data resources provided by the U.S. Census Bureau. Doubtless other U.S. federal agencies and statistical agencies in other countries have some nice data goodies for us, but the U.S. Census Bureau is the treasure trove.

Here are 5 of my favorite free online data tools provided by the U.S. Census Bureau.

1) The American FactFinder


The American Fact Finder is often the best place to start on the Census Bureau website. It is a user-friendly front-end to a vast amount of information made available by multiple Census Bureau initiatives, including the Decennial Census, the American Community Survey, and a number of economic surveys.

There is a helpful search interface that allows you to narrow down data by topic (people, housing, business, year, etc.), geography, race and ethnic group, and industry codes.

Or you can use the Quick Start search box to find data using just a few criteria – sort of like using the “I’m feeling lucky” button on Google.

You can also search your own (or any) street address to find out lots of relevant information, including county, town, block, census tract, metropolitan statistical area, congressional district, state legislative district, school district and more.

The American Fact Finder

The American Fact Finder

2) The 2010 Census Interactive Population Map


This is an interactive visualization of data from the 2010 decennial census.

You can interactively drill down on the map in order to see a map visualization of a particular community on a number of criteria, including total population, race, ethnicity, age, sex, and household characteristics.

The map shows various geographic levels, from states down to census tracts, color coded on criteria from dark (most populous) to light (least populous).

You can also choose up to 5 locations to compare them on the same criteria, and you can even embed the interactive data you select on a website.

2010 Census Interactive Population Map

2010 Census Interactive Population Map

3) County Business and Demographics Map


The County Business and Demographics Map is very similar to the Census Interactive Population map, except it depicts business data rather than population data.

The County Business and Demographics Map

The County Business and Demographics Map

4) DataFerrett




In true federal style, the Ferrett in DataFerrett is an acronym (for Federated Electronic Research, Review and Extraction & Tabulation Tool). Coincidentially, it helps you ferret out the right data.

DataFerrett helps you identify, extract and recode data across federal, state and local surveys and statistical data, including both one-off and longitudinal datasets.

With DataFerrett you can search for the right variables and put them in something called a Data Basket.  From the Data Basket you can create spreadsheets, graphs, maps, PDFs and more right within the tool. And of course, you can download the data.

5) Censtats Databases


Looking to skip the bells and whistles and go straight for some of the most commonly requested data? The Censtats databases may be the place to look.

The Censtats databases are a good place to find quick tables on things like state and county population and business data. With the Censtats databases you can run these simple searches, and you can also download the relevant data files.

The Censtats databases also include information such as building permits, international trade data and housing data.

What about you? What are your favorite places to get data from the U.S. Census? How about from other agencies in the U.S. or other countries? What cool data tools can you point us to?

About Dana Stanley

Dana is the Editor-in-Chief of Research Access.


  1. Awesome!

  2. itisfritz says:

    check out the census data website I built: http://census-2010.us

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