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Census Information in the Library

describes the Library's collection of Census material in print, microfiche and CD/DVD

Census Information

NOTE that the Library ceased receiving new tangible government documents in Spring, 2016, and withdrew large numbers of tangible documents during the previous year.

This set of guides describes the collection of Census Bureau publications in the Blume Library. When online versions of the publications described here are available, links are provided. 

The Census Bureau collects demographic information (data about the population) and economic information. These guides refer to the Library's collections of both kinds of information. They also cover finding both current and historical data. However, the Library does not receive many recent tangible publications; therefore most of the material presented in this guide refers to older Census data.

Here's a detailed description of what you will find under the tabs representing the different sections of this guide:

  • Demographic information
    • Current Censuses (2000 and 2010)
    • Historical information (1990 and previous Censuses)
  • Economic information
    • Current Censuses (2002 and 1997)
    • Historical information
    • Census of Governments
  • Special Issues
    • Census Geography
    • Comparability
      • Race
      • Hispanics
      • Geographical changes

Location of the Publications in the Library. Paper publications will be found in Superintendent of Documents Classification order, on shelves next to the Periodicals Collection, on the Library's 2nd floor. Microfiche is located in cabinets on the west wall of the 2nd floor. Census CDs/DVDs are on reserve and must be requested at the Circulation Counter. The general classification for Census Bureau material, in all physical formats, is C 3.

Circulation. Tangible Census material in the Library's collection may be checked out by St. Mary's students, faculty, and staff under the same regulations as other Library materials. CDs/DVDs are on Reserve and have a loan period of 7 days. Printed items are in the documents stacks on the Library's 2nd floor and may be checked out for the same periods as books. Microfiche is in cabinets on the west wall of the 2nd floor and may not be checked out.

Members of the general public are welcome to use any of these materials in the Library.

What you need to know before searching for any Census data


Data at is available in a variety of formats. Much basic information is provided on normal web pages, through drop-down menus and other devices (for some data to display, Java must be enabled). More extensive files might be available for download in spreadsheet or PDF format. Electronic versions of publications such as documentation and historical reports are usually in PDF format.

Census data is not available instantly

As required by the Constitution, the Census Bureau conducts a complete count of residents of the U.S. every ten years. Simple counts of people in states and areas must be available by the beginning of the year following the Census because this data is used to apportion Congressional seats. The other data (income, education, etc.) generated by the Census surveys usually takes a few years to become available. This detailed data, giving social and economic characteristics of the population of small geographical areas, is usually not available until at least three years after the Census was taken.

Geography matters

The more detailed the statistics one searches for, the less detailed are the geographical areas for which the statistics are available. For example, in past Censuses, general population counts were published for places as small as 1,000 people. But poverty status figures were given only for places as small as 2,500. Detailed cross-tabulations of poverty status and educational level may only be given for large (more than 250,000) cities. Thus, two parameters are important when selecting a Census report to study: the kind of statistics one needs, and the geographical area of interest. For more information on Census geography, see the Geography page.

Not all data is created equal, and some isn't created at all

Information contained in the Census volumes is collected from questionnaire responses. Some basic information (e.g.: age, sex, race) is obtained from all residents, whereas other, more detailed questions (e.g.: income, education, employment status) are only asked of a sample. And some questions are not asked at all, (for example, "what is your religion?") which means that no data on these subjects is available from the Census Bureau. For more information on the importance of Census methodology, see the Comparability page.