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Michigan State University

U.S. Census Statistics: Historical Census

Census statistics are a rich source of U.S. economic, social and demographic statistics, particularly for small areas and local communities.This is a basic guide to the major U.S censuses.

Sources for Historical Census Statistics

When using historical Census data keep in mind that the data collected and geographical boundaries have changed over time. The Census website provides a report on these changes and maintains a listing of all historical questionnares for reference. The print census volumes are the most comprehensive. Many of the online tools will be limited in available geographic areas, i.e. for small geographic areas like cities you will likely need to consult the print volumes for early years.

Consult the UM library guide for a complete listing of available geographies and variables in the various products over the years. See what statistics are available in each year with this list of items on the 1790-2010 Census of Population and Housing schedules (PDF).

Map of Main Library 3 West showing the location of the Census collection

  • Print Census Volumes
    The MSU Libraries print Census volumes are located on the 3rd Floor of the West Wing. The Census website provides scans of the printed volumes as well, although some people find it easier to use the printed volumes due to the complexity of the material.
  • Social Explorer
    Create maps and reports from selected census statistics.  Note: Statistics for more geographic areas are available in the printed or online volumes on the Census Bureau website.
    1790 to 1930: County, state and national data.
    1940-2010: Census tract, county, state and national data.
    2006- : American Community Survey
  • National Historic Geographic Information System
    "The National Historical Geographic Information System (NHGIS) provides, free of charge, aggregate census data and GIS-compatible boundary files for the United States between 1790 and 2011." Note: Statistics for more geographic areas are available in the printed or online volumes on the Census Bureau website.






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