We are often asked where various kinds of census statistics can be found.  This blog post will help you get started on your quest.  This post was last updated Oct. 21, 2022. 


Published volumes of aggregated census statistics for 1790 to 2020 can be found on the Census Bureau's website here:  https://www.census.gov/programs-surveys/decennial-census/decade/decennial-publications.html.  Go to "more" on the timeline that starts with 2020 to choose an earlier census year.  The published volumes typically include statistical information by state, county, and Statistical Metropolitan Areas (since 1950).  These publications rarely break down the statistics at small community levels.


Census statistics, 1790-2010, are digitally searchable at IPUMS USA at https://usa.ipums.org/usa.  Level of available detail varies. 

NARA’s Electronic Records Division has electronic data that includes statistical compilations such as the County and City Data Book Files, 1944-1988 (National Archives Identifier 625278 at https://catalog.archives.gov/id/625278).  There are also detailed tabulations from the 1970 through 2010 decennial censuses described in Reference Reports that are online at https://www.archives.gov/research/electronic-records/reference-report.  For further information about NARA's holdings of census statistics, contact the Electronic Records Division, Reference Branch, at cer@nara.gov.  Note that a number of the 1970 Census Summary Statistics files are available for download from the National Archives Catalog; please refer to the "Download" links in the "Statistics from 1970 Census of Population and Housing" reference report at https://www.archives.gov/research/census/1970-statistics.

The Census Bureau's data.census.gov website at https://data.census.gov/cedsci contains data from 2000 to 2020.  Read the FAQs at https://www.census.gov/data/what-is-data-census-gov/guidance-for-data-users/frequently-asked-questions.html for more information.


The population of Minor Civil Divisions (MCDs) for some census years can be found in descriptions of census Enumeration Districts (EDs) that were written by the Geography Division of the Bureau of the Census and its predecessors.  MCDs are political units below the county level.  For example, the written description of the 1950 EDs includes both population totals for the 1940 and 1950 censuses, as shown in the image below for EDs in Walsh County, North Dakota.  In the first image, note that Grafton city data is given for 1950 (4901) and 1940 (4070).  The 1950 total for Ward 1 is shown (1289) followed by the total for ED 50-20 (698), which was only part of Ward 1. In the second image, we see similar data for the rest of Ward 1 and Grafton's other wards and EDs.  Click on the images for a better view.

1950 Census ED Descriptions with 1940 and 1950 Population Data, Walsh County, North Dakota, page 21950 Census ED Descriptions with 1940 and 1950 Population Data, Walsh County, North Dakota, page 3
1950 Census ED Descriptions with 1940 and 1950 Population Data, Walsh County, North Dakota, page 21950 Census ED Descriptions with 1940 and 1950 Population Data, Walsh County, North Dakota, page 3

Enumeration District descriptions that include population data are as follows:

  • 1950 ED descriptions include population numbers from the 1940 and 1950 censuses.  Available at NARA’s Official 1950 Census Website at https://1950census.archives.gov.


Housing statistics are sometimes available for areas as small as a city block.  For example, the Census Bureau published block-level information about dwellings for 213 cities from data collected during the 1950 census.  For more information, see 1950 Census Block Housing Information Is Available For 213 Municipalities at https://historyhub.history.gov/message/44596.


Researchers are often interested in ethnic, racial, or other population characteristics of a Minor Civil Division.  However, published reports typically consist of aggregated statistical data at the census tract, county, or state level, so they may not provide the level of desired detail. 

Sometimes researchers may have to compile their own data.  For example, "Hispanic" origin or descent was not a separate category until the 1970 census.  Questions asked on the various censuses can be found here:  https://www.census.gov/history/www/through_the_decades/index_of_questions.

  • The 1970 census only asked a sample of persons if they were of Mexican, Puerto Rican, Cuban, Central or South American, or other Spanish origin.
  • The 1980 and 1990 censuses asked all persons if they were of Spanish or Hispanic origin or descent.
  • The 2000 and 2010 census asked if the person was Spanish/Hispanic/Latino.

As a result of the above, persons interested in statistics of Hispanic inhabitants of a particular Minor Civil Division prior to 1970 may need to compile their own data by going through the publicly-available census schedules (1790-1950) for the particular location to compile lists or statistics of Hispanics living there in each census year.  Census schedules showing information for individual persons for the 1960 and later censuses are not publicly accessible due to a 72 year restriction on public access to protect people's privacy.


These agencies can help you locate and understand census data:

  • State Data Centers (https://www.census.gov/about/partners/sdc/member-network.html) organize a statewide network of coordinating and affiliate agencies that work in partnership with the Census Bureau for data dissemination at the local level.  Their personnel are knowledgable about available data and where to find it.
  • Census Depository Libraries (CDL) (https://www.census.gov/about/partners/cdl.html) receive Census Bureau publications, CD-ROMs, and information, and provide the public with local no-fee access and assistance in using the information.  There are 123 CDLs across the country that are located in metropolitan statistical areas served by a Federal Depository Library (FDL) (https://ask.gpo.gov/s/FDLD).

We hope this blog post provides useful guidance on how to begin your own census statistics research.