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Investigative Journalism

Introduction to Census Research

When using Census data, it is important to have a firm grasp on what it is you want to accomplish through your research.  To simply explore what information is available, the U.S. Census Bureau provides a broad yet strong explanation.  Before you begin searching for particular data, determine the following factors:

  • Desired format of the data

  • Time period

  • Aggregated data versus information on individuals

  • Comparing multiple locations to each other versus comparing multiple characteristics of one location

Once you have specific questions in mind, the descriptions of the resources included in this guide should be able to point you in the right direction.


Census enumerator in 1950 interviewing a family

Open U.S. Government Data

Electronic resources available through IU Libraries

Local Resources

Print (and microfilm) materials available at IU Libraries

Census materials are located in Wells Library, on the 2nd Floor of East Tower, within Government Information, Maps, and Microform Services.

Decennial Census: The data collected across the United States population every 10 years.  The information collected from the 2010 Decennial Census is also available online. IU's collection includes the microfilm editions of the U.S. Decennial Census Publications 1790-1970.

The Economic Census is taken every 5 years and measures American business and economy.  Please note that not every industry is included in this census.  The U.S. Census Bureau gives a thorough overview of these industries.


Census reference books located in Wells Library: