Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

General Content Questions

1. What is Social Explorer?

A leading demographics website, Social Explorer is an easy-to-use web-based application that creates fast, intuitive, and visually appealing maps and reports. With Social Explorer, anyone with an Internet connection can access census and demographic data that was previously the domain of social science experts.

2. What content is available on the site?

This interactive website includes the entire US census history from 1790 to 2010, the American Community Survey (ACS) from 2005 to 2011, the Religious Congregations and Membership Study (RCMS) from 1980 to 2010 (the most complete census available on religion in the US), InfoGroup data on religious congregations in the US for 2009 and 2010, and carbon emissions data for 2002 from the Vulcan Project. Overall, the site contains 39 billion data points, 200,000 variables, and 15,000 interactive maps.
Subscribers have full access to all data and tools. Free edition users can explore a limited amount of data. For a comparison of the data available on each version, please click here.

3. How often is Social Explorer updated?

The Premium edition is updated regularly, as soon as data releases are made available from the Census Bureau. Stay tuned for new datasets coming online later this year, including election, crime, and economic data.

4. How can I find out when a new update has gone live?

Browse the Maps and Tables tab for the full list of data. All new data releases are announced on the blog, and you can also sign up for a free occasional newsletter containing information on new features and data, as well as other site news.

5. What is the American Community Survey?

The American Community Survey (ACS) began in 2005 as a nationwide survey conducted by the Census Bureau that replaces the “long form” in the decennial census. The ACS collects demographic, housing, social, and economic data on a three-million household sample of the United States each year. The Census Bureau releases ACS data on a rolling basis, with three different files covering a one-year, a three-year and a five-year release. The five-year release, releases all data at all geogrpahies down to either the Census tract or block group; the three-year file releases much data down to geographies that have a population (estimated) of at least 20,000 or more, and the one-year file releases data for geographies that have a population (estimated) of at least 65,000...

6. What is Census geography?

The Census Bureau releases demographic data about the country at a variety of different geographic levels. Some of these geographies, such as states, congressional districts, or zip codes, are familiar to most users of the data. Others, such as census tracts and block groups, are specialized divisions created by the government specifically for the purposes of census enumeration. For instance, a census tract is a small subdivision of a county established by the Census Bureau to be homogenous with respect to population characteristics, economic status, and living conditions. Tracts usually have between 2,500 and 8,000 residents, and in urban areas, they usually correspond to familiar neighborhoods. Certain census tracts are subdivided into block groups, where that level of detail is available. More information about census geographies is available from

County and tract maps in Social Explorer are historically accurate for the census year in which they appear: if a county or tract did not exist in a given census year, it will not appear on the Social Explorer map. Note that prior to 1990, tracts did not exist for the entire country: only certain areas—generally large urban areas—were divided into tracts and assigned data by the Census Bureau.

7. What is a FIPS code?

Federal Information Processing Standards Codes (FIPS codes) are a standardized set of numeric or alphabetic codes issued by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) to ensure uniform identification of geographic entities through all federal government agencies. Every census geography is assigned a unique FIPS code so it can be quickly identified and associated with census data. More information about FIPS codes, including lists of codes for several major geographies, is available at

Social Explorer automatically displays the corresponding FIPS codes when a user generates a report. In addition, users who know the FIPS codes of the geographies they are interested in can input these codes directly into the Social Explorer reporting tool to expedite the production of reports. This feature is particularly useful for generating reports about a large number of geographies simultaneously.

8. What does “compatible data” mean?

Today, census data is consistent across geographies. The set of data available at the state level, for instance, is the same as the set of data available at the tract level. Between 1940 and 1960, however, the Census Bureau generated independent data for tracts and counties, each with a somewhat different set of variables. To facilitate historical analysis and simplify research, we have created a “compatibility set” for 1940 and 1950 that represents all the variables that appear at both the county and tract levels. Subscribers have the option of viewing all county and tract data sets, while the public version includes only a subset of the compatibility sets.

9. How do I cite information on Social Explorer?

The following are popular citation format guidelines for sources without an author.


  • Report:

Data source. Title of table, dates. Prepared by Social Explorer. permalink URL (date accessed).


U.S. Census Bureau. Population Density, 1960. Prepared by Social Explorer. (accessed Jul 27 13:58:03 EST 2010).

  • Map:

Title of map, dates. Social Explorer, permalink URL (based on data from <identify data source>; date accessed).

Population Density, 1960. Social Explorer, (based on data from U.S. Census Bureau; accessed Jul 27 17:16:03 EST 2010).


  • Report:

Data source. “Title of table, dates.” Social Explorer. Medium. Date posted.


U.S. Census Bureau. “Population Density, 1960.” Social Explorer. Web. Jul 27 13:58:03 EST 2010.

  • Map:

“Title of map, dates.” Map. Social Explorer. Social Explorer, n.d. Medium. Date posted.

. (based on data from )


“Population Density, 1960.” Map. Social Explorer. Social Explorer, n.d. Web. Jul 27 13:58:03 EST 2010. . (based on data from U.S. Census Bureau)

10. Where can I find permanent URLs to reports and maps on Social Explorer?

The permanent URLs for tables can be taken from your web browser after creating a report. To share maps, click on the share button to create links, email maps, share via social networking, or generate an embed code.

Subscription Questions

1. How do I subscribe to Social Explorer?

Annual subscriptions are available for universities, schools, public libraries and organizations. Monthly and annual subscriptions are also available for individuals. Visit How to Subscribe, or contact us for subscription information. Social Explorer is distributed by Oxford University Press.

2. Are free trials available?

Free 30-day trials are available to libraries and institutions considering a subscription. If you are an individual and would like to try out the site, find out if your library or organization already subscribes or is interested in a free trial. Librarians and administrators can sign up for a trial on this site.

3. Are discounts available to consortia and consortia members?

Special pricing is available for library consortia. For further details, please get in touch with your consortia manager or contact us.

Access Questions

1. I cannot access Social Explorer.

Suggestions for Library Administrators:

a) Please verify that you have submitted your library’s signed subscriber agreement to Oxford University Press (OUP). All new subscriptions require a signed license agreement on file that has been verified prior to activating service.

b) Please check that OUP has your library’s most current IP address information on file. Administrators can verify account details from Subscriber Services. You will need an administrative login. If you have lost or forgotten your administrative password, please contact us.

c) If your library’s IP information has changed, please contact us to report the new address(es) or to update IP information currently registered.

d) Your library’s access may have expired or been placed on hold if OUP has not received your subscription payment or if your free trial has expired. It is customary for OUP to contact subscribers before a renewal/anniversary date or trial expiration. For further assistance, please contact our customer service team during business hours.

Individual Customers:

You have entered an incorrect username or password or no longer have an active subscription. Please contact us.

2. Is remote access available?

Remote or off-site access is available to all institutional subscribers at no additional cost. Users often access institutional subscriptions through a library’s electronic resources. For further assistance setting up remote access, please contact us.

Individuals can access the site remotely by linking their MyExplorer accounts to their institutional access, which will authenticate users for remote login access to Social Explorer for three months.

3. Is library card access available?

Libraries have the option to allow patrons to access the site using their library barcode. Please have your librarian or administrator contact us for further details on setting up library card access.

4. Is Social Explorer accessible through Athens?

Athens authentication is now available for Social Explorer.

5. I have forgotten my username and password.

If you are using access information provided by your library, please contact your librarian or administrator for library access information. For individual subscriptions, you can send yourself a password reset through the login page.

Technical Questions

Social Explorer supports the following internet browsers:

  • IE10/Windows Vista, 7 and 8
  • IE9/Windows Vista, 7
  • IE8/Windows
  • IE7/Windows
  • IE6/Windows (version 6.0.2900.2180 or higher)
  • Firefox 3/Windows
  • Firefox 2/Windows
  • Firefox 1/Windows
  • Firefox 2/Macintosh
  • Firefox 1/Windows
  • Safari 5/Windows
  • Safari 3/Macintosh
  • Safari 2/Macintosh
  • Opera

For maps to display, Flash version 9 or higher is required. Click here to get or update your flash player.

Pages will also display on other browsers. Please feel free to contact us if you have a specific browser or platform question.

2. Is the site accessible to visually impaired users?

Due to the functionality available on the site, Social Explorer may not be accessible to all visually impaired users.

3. Does Social Explorer support federated searching?

Social Explorer does not currently support federated searching. The dynamic nature of the site, which continually generates maps and reports based on user requests, inhibits federated searching.

Subscriber Services

1. Are usage statistics available?

Usage statistics are available on a monthly basis to subscribing institutions and library consortia.

2. How do I access my institutions statistics?

Please visit Subscriber Services. Your administrative login will be required. If you have lost or forgotten your administrative login, please contact us.

3. How can I view or update my subscription record?

Institutions and individuals within North and South America may view or change their subscription details at our account management system. Subscribers outside of North and South America click here.

4. How can I get a mailing address and other contact details for Social Explorer inquiries?

In addition to using the contact us form as a fast means of reaching both of the OUP online customer service teams, full contact details are below.

Subscribers in North and South America
Customer Support - Online Subscriptions
198 Madison Avenue
New York, NY 10016
Tel: 1 800 334 4249 ext 6484 (Monday-Friday, 9am-5pm EST)
Fax: 1 212 726 6476

Subscribers Outside the Americas
Online Products
Oxford University Press
Great Clarendon Street
Oxford OX2 6DP
Tel:+44 (0) 1865 353705 (Monday-Friday, 9am-5pm GMT)
Fax: +44 (0) 1865 353308