February 2007

Spotlight On…   Census

The U.S. Census

The United States government has conducted a census of the population every ten years since 1790. The purpose of these first decennial counts was to determine the Congressional representation, based on the number of inhabitants for each state. Over the years the statistics were found useful also for tracking the economy, for example, in manufacturing and agriculture, and for collecting data on social issues such as crime and poverty. More information on the history and the development of the census is available online.

Most census information is now being published electronically. The main online source for 1990 and 2000 census data is the American Factfinder at the U.S. Census Bureau. A broad and useful list of other census websites is given on the Library’s Government Resources webpage.

The government publishes several other population reports besides the Census, such as the Current Population Reports, which are based on samples and estimates. The Ohio State University Libraries has compiled an online list of these reports by series and by subject.

Census Information at the Public Library

The Public Library has a collection of census information from the earliest census up through the most recent releases of the Census 2000 data. Because the amount and kinds of information collected has changed for each census, it is sometimes difficult to compare information across the years. The library has reference materials to help understand and use census materials. The census data and resources are located in the Government and Business Department at the Main Library. Please refer to the PowerPoint presentation, Researching Your Service Area, for an outline of a program recently presented at the Library.

Many genealogists rely on census information for individual families in helping to trace their family history. Census data for individuals is protected by privacy laws for 70 years after the census is conducted. For example, release of the family level records from the 1920 census was begun in 1990. With the completion of the 2000 census, the records for 1930 will now be made public. These more detailed census reports are available in the History and Genealogy Department at the Main Library. For family-level census data available online, see the Genealogy links on the Library's Sites by Subjects page.

The Public Library provides Internet access to the public at all of its agencies. If you need assistance in using these sites, please contact the library staff by phone or email.

Census 2000 Data

Census data is not released all at once. It takes about three years to fully compile and analyze the census counts. The first data released in early 2001 were the population counts, because of their importance to the makeup of national and state legislative bodies. The final detailed statistics on social, economic and housing data were released in Summer 2003. Currently available data and a full schedule of census release dates are posted on the Census Bureau website.

State and Local Census Data

Census data is compiled at several levels, from city blocks to the nation as a whole. For example, counts are taken for states, metropolitan areas, and places. Often the summaries of this level of data are available at state or county offices.

The Office of Strategic Research maintains a census website with demographic and economic data for the State of Ohio and its counties.

In Hamilton County, the primary agency for the management of census data is the Hamilton County Regional Planning Commission, which posts Cincinnati area demographic tables and maps. Another online source for local census maps is the City of Cincinnati's Census/Demographics page. Also see Cincinnati Community Boundaries by Census Tracts: Year 2000 which lists neighborhoods alphabetically. Use these Tract Numbers to collect data on the U.S. Census Bureau website.