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U.S. Census of Population and Housing Basics : Home

Introduction to finding demographic and housing facts and statistics collected by the U.S. Census Bureau.

What Does the U.S. Census Bureau Do?

The U.S. Census Bureau collects a variety of data about the U.S. population and economy. Some of the most frequently-used censuses and surveys include:

The Decennial Census is a constitutionally mandated population count undertaken every ten years. Decennial census data includes information about:

  • Household relationship
  • Sex
  • Age
  • Hispanic origin
  • Race
  • Housing tenure (own or rent)

Aggregate data is released as available following each census, while individual census records (i.e. personal names and addresses) are kept sealed for 72 years to protect individual privacy.

As of January 2021, data from the 2020 Decennial Census is being tabulated and verified.  See the Important Dates page from the Census Bureau for updates on data availability from the 2020 Decennial Census.  

The American Community Survey collects more detailed information about a sampling of households on an ongoing basis. The ACS replaced the decennial census "long form" in 2001. 

The Economic Census profiles U.S. national and local economies every five years.

The Census of Governments profiles the nation's state and local government sector, with information on governmental structures, payrolls, and finance, every five years.

The Population Estimates Program (PEP) produces estimates of the population for the United States, states, metropolitan and micropolitan statistical areas, counties, cities, towns, as well as for Puerto Rico and its municipios.

The Census Bureau conducts over 130 surveys, on its own and in conjunction with other government agencies. For lists of these surveys, see

Lists of Census Data/Surveys by Topic

For lists of Census data by topic, see

Scope of This Guide

This guide provides an introduction to finding facts and statistics published by the U.S. Census Bureau. It focuses on finding demographic and housing information, with a little bit of information about economic statistics as well.

GIS/Geospatial Data

For help with geographic information systems (GIS) or geospatial data, please contact the Robinson Map Library.

In-Depth Social Science Data Analysis

If you're interested in working in-depth with data sets from the U.S. Census Bureau, or with other data sets in the social sciences, please contact the Data & Information Services Center (DISC). DISC provides "quantitative, numeric microdata for researchers and students conducting secondary analysis in the social sciences."