A topic that has been at the forefront of the news in recent weeks is the United States’ decennial census. On the outset of each decade, the United States Census Bureau collects data in an effort to count every resident in the United States. An accurate and up-to-date count of the United States population serves two essential purposes. The first is to help apportion the approximately $400 billion in federal funds to communities across the country. These funds are used to help maintain and improve a vast array of social and economic programs and many other elements of the country’s infrastructure that require money for creation, development, and upkeep. The other essential function of the census is that when the state populations are updated, the data is then used to determine the representation of each state in the U.S. House of Representatives, allocate Congressional seats, the number of electoral votes for each state, and government program funding. As you can see, the census plays a vital role in both the economic and political development of the United States on a decennial basis.
While the census is often viewed as an endeavor of national importance, the results of the census will absolutely have a significant impact on a local level. Right here in the Albany community and the University at Albany, it is critical that everyone, especially on-campus and off-campus students who only reside in Albany while classes are in session, be accounted for by the U.S. Census Bureau.
On-campus students will receive Census forms in their residence halls during the week of April 12th, and UAlbany residence hall staff will distribute the forms and collect the completed ones for return to Census officials.
Off-campus students will receive a Census form in the mail. Only one form will be sent to each residency, so be sure that all of your roommates, if you have any, are represented on the form. Return the completed Census form in a self addressed stamped envelope by April 15th, 2010.
If you are interested in finding out more information about the Census, you can find a wealth of information and census statistics through the Libraries’ website. To get to the census data in our government documents online resources, click on “Research by Subject,��? then click “Government Information,��? followed by "Internet Resources – United States. On this page, scroll down until you reach the section on Census materials. You should be able to find nearly any piece of data from any of the previous censuses, starting with 2000 and going all the way back to the very first census in 1790.
Let’s say you were interested in the total population and social characteristics of the state capital of New York, based on the data from the 2000 census. You would first want to enter the American FactFinder . In the Fact Sheet box towards the top of the page, type in Albany and click “Go.��? Once you click on the link to Albany, be sure to click on the tab for the 2000 census, as the page defaults to data collected from the 2006-2008 American Community Survey and not the 2000 census. From there, you can find all of the pertinent data to satisfy your information needs.
The process for finding much older and highly specific data from previous censuses is just as easy as finding data from the 2000 census. As an example, let’s say you needed to find out the number of families in Suffolk County, Massachusetts, according to the 1790 census. The first step would be to enter the page for the 1790-2000 Census of Population and Housing, click on the link to the 1790 Census(, then click on the PDF link next to “Return of the whole number of persons within the several districts of the United States...". On the 21st page of the PDF document, you will find various detailed data, including the total number of families, for Suffolk County, Massachusetts and each town within the county.
The University Libraries have many books discussing the United States Census, its history, the process of collecting the data, and how to interpret the data. Some of these books include, but are not limited to, the following titles:
Anderson, Margo J. The American Census: a Social History. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1988.
University Library / HA 37 U55 A53 1988
Anderson, Margo J. Encyclopedia of the U.S. Census. Washington, DC: CQ, 2000.
Dewey Library / Reference HA 37 U55 C66 2000
Hillygus, D. Sunshine. The Hard Count: the Political and Social Challenges of Census Mobilization. New York: Russell Sage Foundation, 2006.
University Library / HA 181 H37 2006
Lavin, Michael R. Understanding the Census: a Guide for Marketers, Planners, Grant Writers, and Other Data Users. Kenmore, N.Y.: Epoch, 1996.
Dewey Library / Reference HA 37 U55 L38X 1995
Riche, Martha Farnsworth., and Deirdre Gaquin. The Who, What, and Where of America: Understanding the Census Results. Lanham, MD: Bernan, 2003.
Dewey Library / Reference HA 201.122 W46X 2003
If you have any questions or need assistance with conducting research with census data, please get in touch with a librarian at the Reference Desk. You can give us a call at 442-3691, send an email through the Ask-A-Librarian Service, or stop by the Reference Desk.
Blog post created by Matthew Laudicina