We all know that the 2010 Census data has started to come out, giving newsrooms updated demographic information from the once-every-10-years count of the American population. The Census Bureau website has detailed information and a schedule of new releases. But what if you just want to quickly download population figures and do some simple comparisons?
A new project by Investigative Reporters and Editors and the Donald W. Reynolds Journalism Institute at the University of Missouri offers quick access to 2010 Census data in a variety of formats and ranges. The project, built by volunteers from the Chicago Tribune, New York Times, USA Today, CNN, Spokesman-Review (Spokane, Wash.) and the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, allows users to browse data from states, counties, places and even individual tracts, providing 2000 Census data for comparison.
For example, data from Alachua County, Fla., shows that the total population grew some 13.48 percent from 2000 to 2010 (the project helpfully includes raw numbers and the percentage change). And each page can be downloaded as a CSV file that can be opened in Excel or another spreadsheet program for analysis, although you’d be best-served to have a reference to Census data headers handy. Luckily, the IRE Census project provides one.
Developers who want to use Census data directly in Intranet or Internet applications can also get their fix via the project’s JSONP files, which make it easy to read the data programmatically. You can even download a shapefile of geographic data, and the project allows you to compare multiple geographies (such as a five-county area) if you want to.
The Census Bureau is still your source for reports and in-depth releases based on the 2010 Census data, but if you want to play with the data yourself and don’t want to download the entire set (which can be very large and hard to manage), IRE’s project is a great way to dip your toes in the Census pool.