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Using American FactFinder (AFF): Home

instructions and tips on using AFF to find and map Census Tract data

Guided Exercise Using AFF

Finding Tract data: Step by Step

American FactFinderAmerican FactFinder (AFF) is's primary vehicle for disseminating Census data. It allows searching and browsing for all kinds of information on geographic areas from the smallest units (blocks) to the largest (the nation). AFF contains information from the most recent and second-most-recent decennial Censuses, plus recent data from the American Community Survey, the Economic Census, and other surveys.

AFF is set up so that information can be found using many different pathways. The steps below, and in the tabs above, will show you how to use one of the most straightforward methods for finding Census Tract data: the Guided Search option.

checkSome quick tips for Guided Search:

  • The tabs for choosing Topics, Geographies, and Racial/Ethnic Groups can be accessed in any order.
  • If you want to generate a map from your data, you must choose at least two geographic units; they don't have to be contiguous.
  • Keep track of the items in Your Selections box, as they will be used to generate your search results; delete any topics or geographies that were added during early explorations but are no longer needed!

Step 1: Choose topics

  1. From the AFF main page, choose the Guided Search option.
  2. On the next screen, click on Get Me Started.
  3. Next, accept the checked button I'm looking for information about People. (see below) Then click Next..
    AFF topics choices
  4. This page (see below) allows you to choose your specific topics. Expand the broad headings by clicking on one, then click on the topic you want. You may select multiple topics. Your choices will be added to the Your Selections box. These topics are essentially search terms that AFF will use to find data tables for you. Note that with each topic selection, this box automatically updates to tell you how many tables fit the selected criteria.

AFF topic selection

Choosing race or ethnic data

Black familyThere are two ways to choose racial or ethnic data as a topic for searching. It's important to choose the correct method, depending upon whether you want to see data only for a particular group or groups, or if you want to see this data in addition to totals for your Tract. 

Option 1: if you want total figures for your Tract

  1. Choose the racial/ethnic categories via tab #2 Topics — Origins, as illustrated in the box above.
  2. Choose another topic of interest, if needed

Option 2: if you want data only for one or more racial/ethnic groups, if you want to focus on a particular race or ethnic group, or if you want more detailed information on the group, choose this option.

  1. Choose a topic using tab #2 Topics if desired
  2. Choose a racial/ethnic group or groups from tab #4 Race/Ethnic Groups
    1. The Basic Groups option includes straightforward totals for groups such as White, Asian, Black or African American, Hispanic or Latino. Some complexity is available, such as with Two or More Races.
    2. The Detailed Groups option includes all 107 groups and combinations that are available. It also offers more information options about the groups.

checkREMEMBER: if you choose a racial/ethnic category using tab #4 Race/Ethnic Groups, the tables that show up in Search Results will be limited to the group(s) you choose. For example, if you had chosen Educational Attainment and then chose Hispanic or Latino from tab #4, your results would only show tables that give Educational Attainment among Hispanics in your selected area, plus general population totals. 


This guide was originally developed by retired librarian Kathy Amen.