Number 3, 2008
The U.S. Census Bureau is supported and funded by the U.S. government and is a widely used source for demographic data. Social, housing, and economic data can easily be obtained from the bureau’s website (www.census.gov). There is broad range of information presented (for example, data on age, sex, household structure, and/or income levels can be shown for any U.S. location [Edmonston and Schultze 1995]). The bureau provides data to the block level (Weeks 2005). According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the block is the smallest geographical unit in which census data can be collected. Blocks usually correspond with city blocks but in rural areas may include several square miles (www.census.gov). Census data can aid research over a range of topics. The data can help one understand sex and age structure changes for a county, can help one recognize housing differences between two or more racial/ethnic groups, can help one observe the difference in income between different types of families, and so on (Edmonston and Schultze 1995). Researchers who need population characteristics for grant purposes find census data to be useful. Because U.S. Census Bureau data is readily available via the Internet, the use of this data by the general public is common. Census data appeals to a wide audience. Political leaders use census data to make informed policy choices, and businesses use census data when planning the placement of industries (Weeks 2005). Because so many individuals rely on the U.S. Census Bureau, it is important to understand the uses and limitations of its data.
South Dakota State University
Brooks, Trevor; Khatiwada, Saileza; Vargas, Joel; and McCurry, Michael, "Rural Life Census Data Center Newsletter: The U.S. Census Bureau and American Community Survey: Advantages, Uses, and Limitations" (2008). Census Data Center Newsletter. 3.