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Michigan State University

Social Work Policy: Statistics

In-depth guide to policy information sources


When you need additional numbers to back up your assertations. Statistics help shore up arguments and measure the extent of a social problem.


Top Picks!

  • ProQuest Statistical Abstract of the United States
    The first reference source for statistics on all aspects of the population, economy, and society of the United States.

  • Green Book
    This is a document compiled by the House Committee on Ways & Means that provides general information (including many numbers and statistics) on a variety of Federal social service programs.

  • American FactFinder
    Get data from the U.S. Census Bureau.  You can use American FactFinder to view, print, and download statistics about population, housing, industry, and business. Using FactFinder, you can also find U.S. Census Bureau products; create reference and thematic maps; and search for specific data.

More General Statistical Resources

  • Historical Statistics of the United States (Millennial Edition)
    This new edition adds thirty years of data and contains coverage of topics that received little or no coverage in the 1975 edition: American Indians, slavery, poverty, race, and ethnicity. The electronic edition has been designed to give users a variety of means to search and navigate the vast amount of data in the Historical Statistics. Users will be able to graph individual tables or to combine data from different tables into "custom tables" and to download tables for use in spreadsheets and other applications.


Statistics from Michigan Agencies

Use the Michigan Statistics research guide for a more comprehensive listing, or browse the website of the government agency you are interested in for a pertinent section.
  • State of Michigan Green Book Report of Key Program Statistics
    This monthly report published by the DHS provides summary reports for DHS programs including Family Independence Program reports, State Disability Assistance reports, Food Assistance Program reports, Adult Medical Program and Medicaid reports, State Emergency Relief reports, and Child Development and Care reports.

Census Statistics

What is the U.S. Census?

The U.S. Census is a data collection program that provides data about the U.S. population.  It is managed by the U.S. Census Bureau.  Two main surveys make up the Census:

1.  Decennial Census (also known as the Census of Population and Housing)

  • Conducted every 10 years beginning in 1790.

  • Attempts to count and collect basic data on the entire population.

  • From the 20th century it provides demographic and socio-economic statistics for population areas down to the block and neighborhood level.

    • Historically, detailed data was provided by giving a long form to a sample of the population.

  • Begining with Census 2010, the Decennial Census only collects the most basic demographic data. 

    • The detailed data provided by the long form (sample questionnaire) is now available in the American Community Survey.

2.  American Community Survey (ACS)

  • Replaces the long form (sample questionnaire) of the decennial census from 2010.

  • Collects statistics on detailed demographic and socio-economic characteristics.

  • Statistics are available for some geographic areas from the ACS beginnning in 2001.

  • Surveys are done in 1, 3, and 5 year increments.

    • 1-year ACS estimates provide data for areas with populations of 65,000+ and have the smallest sample size.

      •  Most current, but least reliable data.

    • 3-year ACS estimates provide data for areas with populations of 20,000+.

    • 5-year ACS estimates provide data for areas with populations of all sizes and have the largest sample size.

      • Least current, but most reliable data.

How can I access statistics from the U.S. Census?

    This is the official website of the U.S. Census Bureau.  

  • Library Databases
    The library subscribes to a number of different databases that repackage Census data.  For example:

    • Social Explorer
      This database is particularly useful for creating maps.

    • SimplyMap
      This is a business-oriented database that focuses on mapping and complementing Census data with marketing surveys.

    • PolicyMap​

Policymap is an online data and mapping application that gives access to over 15,000 indicators related to housing, crime, mortgages, health, jobs, demographics and education.


FactFinder Help

The FactFinder Help documentation includes video tutorials.  Access by clicking on the "Tutorials" table of contents link.  These video tutorials provide a basic orientation to the data interface and cover the following topics: Quick Start, Topic Search, Search Using Geographies, Working with Search Results, Create a Map, Modify a Table, Transpose Rows and Columns, Bookmark and Download.

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