Demographic Information Online

This is a guide to and starting point for research about basic demographic information on the World Wide Web. Demographic information consists of numeric data or statistics involving groups of people. Some questions requiring demographic information to answer would include:

  • How many people in the United States have college degrees?
  • Is more than 12% of the population of St. Charles County, MO, over the age of 60?
  • Did more or less people own homes in 2000 than did in 1960?
  • Is the number of African-American children in my town increasing or decreasing?

Demographic information has many purposes; it is used for research in the social sciences, creation of policy, identification of potential customers in marketing. The following resources will be particularly useful for research in the social sciences, although they may have other applications as well.

Understanding demographics:

Some demographic information takes the form of data, numbers that must be interpreted. Other demographic information takes the form of statistics, numbers that have already been interpreted. The following resources may help familiarize you with the language used:

Glossary of Selected Social Science Computing Terms and Social Science Data Terms
Just like the name says! This glossary includes names for different kinds of data, particularly in the social sciences, as well as defining some of the terms used in the extraction and analysis processes.

Glossary for Qualitative Research Methods

This glossary comes from course lecture notes for a course taught at Liverpool John Moores University by Bob McClelland and Gaynor Bagnall called Research Methods for Social Sciences.

Statistics Every Writer Should Know
A site of statistics for beginners.

U.S. Census of Population and Housing

The U.S. Constitution requires that a census of population be taken every ten years. Today, this is known as the Census of Population and Housing. The Census measures many different things, including the number of people in the U.S., their races, their ages, and a great deal of information about their living quarters.

Census 2000

Bureau of the Census
The Bureau of the Census is in charge of planning, conducting and interpreting the Census. Their website contains information about the history of the Census, information about what the Census can tell us, and links to other Federal government statistical resources.

American Factfinder
American Factfinder is a web interface for Census 2000 information. It allows users to create maps or tables by selecting a number of criteria. American Factfinder is fairly complicated, so we recommend that you use the tutorial before starting your research.

Historical Census data

Historical Decennial Census Population and Housing Counts
The Bureau of the Census provides a certain amount of historical census data from the 1790 population counts to the present. Most information is only available for certain years.

Historic United States Census Data Browser (University of Virginia)
The University of Virginia, in combination with the Inter-University Consortium for Political and Social Research has produced this web site, which allows the user to browse Census data from 1790 to 1960.

IPUMS (University of Minnesota Population Data Center)
Integrated Public Use Microdata Samples (IPUMS) are taken from thirteen federal censuses. They are data samples from which users can create an extract. Although the censuses have historically coded different information, and recorded it differently, IPUMS has recoded the samples to make analysis easier.

Other U.S. Demographic Data

Statistical Abstract
The U.S. Statistical Abstract is a collection of statistics from a variety of sources, compiled and cited by the Bureau of the Census. It is available in print at your local federal depository library, or in Portable Document Format (PDF) form at the website. It can also be useful as a locater of further resources.

County and City Data Books
For the more advanced user of data, the County and City Data Books are extremely useful. This web interface, provided by the University of Virginia Libraries, allows a user to customize, extract or subset data from the 1988 and 1994 County and City Data Books.

This utility allows extraction of data from the Current Population Survey (CPS), the National Health Interview Survey (NHIS) and the American Housing Survey (AHS).

International demographic data

IDB Summary Data: Summary Demographic Data for Foreign Countries
The Bureau of the Census is responsible for the International Database (IDB) which furnishes data on foreign countries.

US-Mexico Demographic Data Viewer (DDViewer)

Developed by Columbia University’s Center for International Earth Science Information Network, this utility allows users to dynamically create maps on the fly based on demographic and socioeconomic data for the US and Mexico.

This pathfinder created by Abigail Leah Plumb