Importing US Census Bureau Data into ArcGIS Pro

The US Census Bureau does make some of their data available in geospatial data files, but those offerings tend to be a limited subset of available data. Therefore, if you want USCB data that is not already available an existing service, you will need to do an attribute join between tabular data available from the USCB's data.census.gov website and the USCB's TIGER/Line cartographic boundary shapefiles. This tutorial describes that process in ArcGIS Pro.

data.census.gov

The US Census Bureau and the American Community Survey

Demographic Data

Demographic data is "the statistical characteristics of human populations (such as age or income)." Etymologically, the word is a combination of the Greek words dêmos (people) and graphein (write) - literally, writing about people (Merriam-Webster 2020). Typical demographic variables for an area include:

The US Census Bureau (USCB) is the part of the US federal government responsible for collecting data about people and the economy in the United States. The Census Bureau has its roots in Article I, section 2 of the US Constitution, which mandates an enumeration of the entire US population every ten years (the decennial census) in order to set the number of members from each state in the House of Representatives and Electoral College (USCB 2017).

The American Community Survey

Among the Census Bureau's many programs is the American Community Survey (ACS), an ongoing survey that provides information on an annual basis about people in the United States beyond the basic information collected in the decennial census. The ACS is commonly used by a wide variety of researchers when they need information about the general public.

Unlike the constitutionally-mandated decennial census which is only taken every ten years, the ACS continuously surveys people in America's communities so that the ACS data can be more detailed and current than the decennial census. However, because it is a survey rather than a complete count like the census, there is uncertainty about how accurately the sampling represents the facts on the ground, and that uncertainty is expressed in a statistical margin of error (MOE) on most ACS values (US Census Bureau 2018).

ACS data is released with data that is gathered over 1-year and 5-year intervals. The shorter intervals are more current, but less accurate, and often available only in a limted set of areas (like highly populous counties). The longer intervals are more accurate, but less current. You should choose the data set based on whether the analysis you are performing needs data that is more accurate or more up-to-date. For this tutorial, we go with accuracy by choosing the most recent five-year estimates.

The American Community Survey

Profile Pages on data.census.gov

The USCB's primary data portal is data.census.gov.

Although the portal provides a wide varity of types of access to the USCB's data, profile pages can be useful if you are looking for summary demographic and economic information about a specific area.

You can find these pages in data.census.gov by searching for a place name along with the word "profile."

The video below shows how to access the profile pages for the USA, Illinois, and Urbana, IL.

Downloading a Table From data.census.gov

Downloading Data Tables Using data.census.gov

The video demonstrates how to download data tables from data.census.gov and prepare them for use in ArcGIS Pro using the Excel 365 web app. This example uses median household income by county in Illinois.