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1. What content is available on the site?

Social Explorer includes the entire US Census (1790 to 2010) and the American Community Survey (2005 to 2015).

Specialized U.S. data resources include the FBI Uniform Crime Report (2010 to 2015), American election results (1912 to 2016), Religious Congregations and Membership Study (1980 and 2010), Vulcan Project carbon emissions data (2002), US Business Patterns (2014), and County Health Rankings and Roadmaps Program data (2010 to 2016).

International data resources include the United Kingdom Census (2011), Canadian Census (2011), Eurostat (1990, 2000, 2010 to 2013), World Development Indicators (2013), and Irish religion and population data (1911 and 2001).

Overall, the site contains billions of data points and hundreds of thousands of variables. Subscribers have full access to all data and custom tools. Free edition users can explore a limited amount of data. For a comparison of the data available on each version, please click here.


2. 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.

3. 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.

4. 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 includes all data at all geographies 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.

5. 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.

6. What is a FIPS code?

Federal Information Processing Standards Codes (FIPS codes) is 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.

7. 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.

8. 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)


9. 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 towards the top right of the map dashboard to create links, email maps, share via social networking, or generate an embed code.