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Finding Your Data

What data are available on private and public health insurance coverage for the population 18 years and over for small geographic areas, such as census tracts? ... on the Asian population by age and gender by census block? This section reviews resources and methods to answer these types of questions. It is focused on Census Bureau statistical programs that provide demographic-economic data for small area geography.

The richness of demographic-economic data tabulated from the decennial censuses has long created a challenge for data users to locate subject matter data of interest; or, is it even tabulated? The addition of the annual American Community Survey has increased data analysis opportunities, but added to the challenge of finding the subject matter items that meet specific application needs. Ultimately, the user has resorted to the difficult-to-use, sometimes even difficult-to-locate, technical documentation. The ensuing challenge is to manually browse through the technical documentation pages to locate the data item and data item name used to access the data.

Using New Resources
As a part of the Census Bureau API resources, there are now options available to search for subject matter data tabulated from the decennial censuses, American Community Survey and related demographic economic statistical programs.

Visit the main page that lists datasets. From that page, individual "dataset item list Web pages" may be opened. Selected, more widely used, dataset item list Web pages are shown below. While these are very useful reference sections as they exist, there remain a few challenges to finding data -- specific subject matter.

1) The browser Ctrl-F search tool does not provide multi-word, non-phrase, searches. For example, Age and Asian cannot be be searched in the same query using the browser Ctrl-F.
2) Even when the browser search tool yields successful searches, the list of lines/items shown in the Web page are only highlighted and not reduced in scope. It is very difficult to browse through rows/lines that are not relevant.

Selected Dataset Item List Web Pages
Click on links below to open dataset item list Web pages.
"Richer" demographics are like income, educational attainment, employment attributes, enrollment, housing value, etc.

1990 Census
  • Summary File 1 (SF1 -- 16,529 items)
      - complete count items (item/field names start with P or H); no "richer" demographics
  • Summary File 3 (SF3 -- 3,318 items)
      - estimates items (item/field names start with P or H); includes "richer" demographics

2000 Census
  • Summary File 1 (SF1 -- 8,127 items)
      - complete count items (item/field names start with P or H); no "richer" demographics
  • Summary File 3 (SF3 -- 14,431 items
      - estimates items (item/field names start with P or H); includes "richer" demographics

2010 Census
  • Summary File 1 (SF1 -- 8,919 items)
      - complete count items (item/field names start with P or H); no "richer" demographics
      - there are no "richer" demographics from Census 2010

American Community Survey (ACS)
  • ACS 2012 5 Year Data (SF -- 23,534 E items)
      - estimates items (item/field names start with B or C); includes "richer" demographics

With the ACS, the Census Bureau introduced the margin of error (MOE) estimate associated with every ACS item estimated. Unlike the decennial census item list Web pages, the ACS item list Web page includes a line/item for both the estimate and the margin of error estimate. The estimate item name ends with "E"; the MOE estimate item name is the same item name as for the estimate but ends with "M".

ACS Item/Field Naming Conventions -- scroll section
An ACS detailed table number consists of up to five elements:
1. An initial character which is either "B" or "C."

A "B" is used for base tables. These tables provide the most detailed estimates on all topics and for all geographies.
A "C" is used for a collapsed version of a "B" table. A "C" table is very similar to a "B" table with the same number (e.g., C07001 and B07001), but two or more lines from the "B" table have been collapsed to a single line in the "C" table. For example, the lines "75 to 79 years", "80 to 84 years" and "85 years and over" from a "B" table may be collapsed to a single line of "75 years and over" in a "C" table.
Not every "B" table has a collapsed version.

2. The next two characters identify the subject of the table.
01 = Age and Sex
02 = Race
03 = Hispanic or Latino Origin
04 = Ancestry
05 = Foreign Born; Citizenship; Year or Entry; Nativity
06 = Place of Birth
07 = Residence 1 Year Ago; Migration
08 = Journey to Work; Workers' Characteristics; Commuting
09 = Children; Household Relationship
10 = Grandparents; Grandchildren
11 = Household Type; Family Type; Subfamilies
12 = Marital Status and History
13 = Fertility
14 = School Enrollment
15 = Educational Attainment
16 = Language Spoken at Home and Ability to Speak English
17 = Poverty
18 = Disability
19 = Income (Households and Families)
20 = Earnings (Individuals)
21 = Veteran Status
22 = Food Stamps
23 = Employment Status; Work Experience; Labor Force
24 = Industry; Occupation; Class of Worker
25 = Housing Characteristics
26 = Group Quarters
27 = Health Insurance
98 = Quality Measures
99 = Imputation table for any subject

3. The next 3 digits are a sequential number, such as 001 or 002, to uniquely identify the table within a given subject.

4. For selected tables, an alphabetic suffix follows to indicate that a table is repeated for the nine major race and Hispanic or Latino groups:

A = White Alone
B = Black or African American Alone
C = American Indian and Alaska Native Alone
D = Asian Alone
E = Native Hawaiian and Other Pacific Islander Alone
F = Some Other Race Alone
G = Two or More Races
H = White Alone, Not Hispanic or Latino
I = Hispanic or Latino

5. For selected tables, a final alphabetic suffix "PR" follows to indicate a table used for Puerto Rico geographies only. These Puerto Rico-specific tables exist because for some geography-based subjects, the wording of the Puerto Rico Community Survey questionnaire differs slightly but significantly from the American Community Survey questionnaire. The matching table used for United States geographies has the same ID but without the trailing "PR" (e.g., B06014 and B06014PR).

Using CV XE GIS dBrowser to Search Dataset Item List Web Pages
The CV XE GIS dBrowser tool can be used for more advanced data item searching. The following graphic illustrates use of the dBrowse operation being used with the ACS 2012 "dataset item list file". With Database>dBrowse started, the acs2012.dbf dataset item list file is opened. The query "at('M',item)=0 .and. at('private',itemdesc)>0 .and. at('insurance',itemdesc)>0" is applied to the file. The results of the search are displayed in the graphic.

When the filter statement/expression "at('M',item)=0 .and. at('private',itemdesc)>0 .and. at('insurance',itemdesc)>0" is applied, 68 items are located/displayed (of total items 44,689 in file) that meet the filter condition -- as shown in the graphic above. There are three parts to the query connected by logical operator AND:
  at('M',item)=0 -- include only estimate items, the ITEM field must not contain the character M.
  at('private',itemdesc)>0 -- the case sensitive word 'private' must occur in the ITEMDESC field.
  at('insurance',itemdesc)>0 -- the case sensitive word 'insurance' must occur in the ITEMDESC field.

The last item in the grid (see pointer) has these attributes:
  ITEM: B27002_010E
  ITEMDESC Male:!!18 to 24 years:!!With private health insurance
  TABLEDESC B27002. Private Health Insurance Status by Sex by Age

More about structuring a query/search filter: using dbase query/filter expressions.

Dataset Items List Files
Download the dataset items list files zip file (requires no fee ProximityOne User Group userid). The zip file contains the dataset items list files for the 1990 Census, 2000 Census, 2010 Census and ACS datasets.

Each file is structured in the same manner. There are three fields for each record/item line entry. ITEM is the official name of the subject matter item used in a data access operation (e.g., in the DEDE subject matter items list). ITEMDESC is the item description for this specific item in the corresponding table. TABLEDESC is the table description/name that contains the item referenced by the ITEM and ITEMDESC fields. In this version, these three fields have been derived directly from the Census-sourced Web versions. ITEMDESC has been truncated to 100 characters. TABLEDESC has been truncated to 250 characters.

Item Search/Filter Considerations
There are other ways that searches/filtering can be performing instead of using the AT operation. See using dbase query/filter expressions. The operation "at('insurance',itemdesc)>0" searches the field itemdesc (or ITEMDesc) searches all records for the case-sensitive literal 'insurance'. Note that the operation "at('insuran',itemdesc)>0" will likely yield the same result. Using the case-sensitive literal 'Insurance' will likely yield no or very few matches.

The operation "at('INSURANCE',tabledesc)>0" searches the field tabledesc for the case-sensitive literal 'INSURANCE'. This will technically process correctly. However, since the tabledesc value is the same for all items in that table, more items may be listed than desired. Generally, a query on ITEMDESC is preferred to a query on TABLEDESC.

Many spelling abbreviations are used in the Census sourced material; no modifications to the spelling have been made. This may affect search operations.

Support & DMI Web Sessions
Learn more about using resources described in this section. Join us in a Decision-Making Information Web session. There is no fee for these one-hour Web sessions. Each informal session is focused on a specific topic. The open structure also provides for Q&A and discussion of application issues of interest to participants. We can address your specific questions about finding relevant data and related applications.

Additional Information
ProximityOne develops geographic-demographic-economic data and analytical tools and helps organizations knit together and use diverse data in a decision-making and analytical framework. We develop custom demographic/economic estimates and projections, develop geographic and geocoded address files, and assist with impact and geospatial analyses. Wide-ranging organizations use our tools (software, data, methodologies) to analyze their own data integrated with other data. Follow ProximityOne on Twitter at Contact ProximityOne (888-364-7656) with questions about data covered in this section or to discuss custom estimates, projections or analyses for your areas of interest.

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