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Michigan State University

Finding Census Tract Data: Census Books

Census Books

The bound volumes are still the only place you can find ALL the variables for ALL the geographies available from 1790 to 1990.  For Censuses 2000 and newer, you must use the online resources.

The main library has most/all of the Census of Population and Housing reports from 1790 to Census 2000. The books are located in the East Wing on the 1st floor.  Population Censuses 1790-2000 are shelved together, then the Census of Housings 1960-present are shelved together. (Prior to 1960, population and housing was published jointly in a single set of books). Each year of the census contains many volumes, increasing in size each decade. You must hunt through the volumes looking for those that contain Census Tract data.


The Census Books are near the north stairwell on 3-West


These are some of the 1960 and 1970 Census volumes.  The envelopes contain tract maps.


The 1970 volume and the Detroit tract map.  This volume contains tract data for US metropolitan areas between 'Dallas' and 'Detroit'.  This volume will contain tract data for the whole Detroit Standard Metropolitan Area


Above you see a page from Table P1 in a Census Tract book. Across the top you can see the numbered Census Tracts, and down the left side you can see a few of the census counts. 

PDFs of Census Books

The Bureau of Census has scanned and made available in PDF format much of the census volume collection at the Census History website.  Not all parts of all censuses are available.  The PDFs are not searchable and follow the exact same format and arrangement of the paper volumes.  You must really look carefully through the list of options to find the Tract level information.

1960 Detroit is in the "Dallas to Fresno" volume of the 1960 Census of Population and Housing


The link to the Tract data appears about half-way down a long list of choices.


The data are grouped in exactly the same way as the bound volumes.  You can see that the Detroit tract data is grouped with Dallas and other U.S. metropolitan areas.

*Note*  MSU "Full Set of Application" computers, like those in most computer labs and in the library sometimes have trouble opening these PDF files.  If you have trouble, try right-clicking on PDF link, save to desktop, open Adobe Acrobat, then open the file.



Each table of tract data takes up many, many pages.  The tracts for each community in the Detroit Metropolitan Area is listed first alphabetically by county, then alphabetically by community within that county.  So the first tracts listed are not for Detroit, but Macomb County's East Detroit!  Macomb comes first, then Oakland, then Wayne County.  The picture above shows General Characteristics of Troy in Oakland County.


The 1970 volume contains this helpful (but long) table showing census tract number changes between 1960 and 1970.


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Kathleen Weessies
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Geosciences Librarian; Social Sciences Coordinator; Head, Map Library
MSU Libraries
366 W. Circle Drive E240