CHICLA 330: Gentrification In Latinx Comm. (Spring 2021) : Census geography
Geographic Definitions & Concepts
More detailed information about census geography can be found at the following sites:
- Glossary of geographic terms from the Geography Program
- American Community Survey
- Metropolitan and Micropolitan Statistical Areas (glossary; need to scroll down to "M" section for definitions of "metropolitan" and "micropolitan"
Getting Census Data for Neighborhoods
The Census does NOT provide data for "neighborhoods." How cities define neighborhoods varies between cities and and other municipalities.. Some municipalities (such as Chicago) don't have official boundaries for neighborhoods.
The boundaries of a group of Census tracts and the boundaries of a neighborhood most likely won't align perfectly, and it's okay. This is an issue that's known and accepted among researchers, city planners, and other professionals.
When looking at maps of Census tracts and block groups in Social Explorer, as you mouse over a tract or block group, a box should appear with the number of the tract/block group. I recommend noting the tract and block group numbers for your neighborhood for future reference.
Main Geographic Divisions & Hierarchies
Why This Matters
When retrieving Census data, you'll be asked what geographic level you want the data from, whether for the whole U.S., or for Census tracts.
Not all data are available for every kind of geography.
Data becomes available for different geographic levels at different times.
Three important geographic terms
"Place" is roughly equivalent to "city," "village," etc, in the Census.
- In Social Explorer, look for “Census place.”
- Other data retrieval sites may use just “place.”
- Small, relatively permanent statistical subdivisions of a county.
- Their primary purpose: to provide a stable set of geographic units for the presentation of decennial census data.
- Generally have between 1,500 and 8,000 people, with an optimum size of 4,000 people.
- Statistical divisions of census tracts and composed of clusters of census blocks.
- A census block group consists of all census blocks whose numbers begin with the same digit in a given census tract.
- Typically contain between 600 and 3,000 people, with an optimum size of 1,500.
- Smallest type of geographical unit for which the ACS 5-year estimates have data.