How to Use American FactFinder
American Factfinder can be opened from the main Census website. This page also displays other useful Census options, such as mapping data and canned reports.
On the sidebar located on the left-hand side of the webpage there is a link to “American FactFinder” – click on that bar to bring you to the American FactFinder website.
In the middle of the page there is a heading titled “Getting Detailed Data”. You can either get overviews of the Census or you can look at the Census data sets.
The Census data set page includes all the data sets for the 2000 Census and two of the primary data sets for the 1990 Census. There is a brief description for each of the data sets to explain which one you should be using to get the information you need. Traditionally, the most popular data sets are either Summary File 1 (SF1) or Summary File 3 (SF3) – if you are unsure of which data set is most pertinent to you be sure to look at the “Technical Documentation” (PDF) file associated with each data set. Once you decide which data set is the most appropriate to use for your specific interests click on the appropriate bullet and choose a tool from the right side of the page (See Step 4).
There are a set of tools located to the right of the page for each data set. The following options are available:
Geographic Comparison Tables
Enter a table number
List all tables
List all maps
About this data set
Technical Documentation (PDF)
The Most Useful Options for Researchers:
The “thematic maps” or “reference maps” help you locate specific areas including specific census tracts. “Reference maps” are a tool to view the boundaries of census geographies, such as counties, cities, towns, and more. “Thematic maps” are a tool to view census data in graphical format for all geographies – national to individual census blocks. If you aren't sure exactly where the area you are interested in is located, use Thematic Maps to view the general area.
Detailed or Custom Tables
These are the options we find researchers use the most often. To find information on particular areas use either the “Detailed Tables” or “Custom Tables” links. The Detailed tables provide information about a particular variable in its entirety. For example, if you select detailed tables and the variable “race” you will get all the race data for a particular area. “Custom tables” allow you to pick and choose particular variables as well as pre-constructed tables that compare two variables.
Geographic Comparison Tables
The “Geographic Comparison Tables” are tables that include comparisons between different geographic areas such as between a county and a state.
The “Quick Tables” are tables that you would use for variables that may seem like they have been previously analyzed these variables have already been computed and are quickly displayed in a table.
Depending on which dataset you are interested in examining you will have different criterion to select. One item that is consistent regardless of the dataset you choose to use is that you will always use some type of geographic unit based on your research question. Simply fill in the appropriate criteria from each of the drop down menus including:
Geographic Type – This is the geographic unit you are interested in such as tracts, blocks, MSAs, etc. (For further information see link above)
Particular geographic area (This is the area for the specifics including a particular census tract or multiple tracts)
Click “Add” to move the appropriate information. If you are interested in multiple geographic units select each unit and add them to your analysis
On the data table select the appropriate variables you are interested in studying. There is a lengthy list of census variables you can choose from on this page just select the variable and click “Go” to preview the item and add to your list. Select all the variable choices you are interested in by clicking on the appropriate boxes. Once you have selected all the appropriate variables then click “Add” to include them in your analysis.
Click “Next” once you have added all the variables you are interested in examining. You can then either click on “Show Result” which will show you all the information for the variables you selected or you can customize the table to examine particular variables by filtering out certain information. Depending on the number of variables you have selected the table you will have constructed may be too wide for a screen print. You may wish to highlight the table, copy it and paste it into an Excel spreadsheet. You may wish to transpose the table, to do so you select it, copy it, and choose “Paste Special” from the Edit menu, at which point you should click on the values only and transpose options to place it in a new target cell.
You are now finished and can work with the data you have selected!
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