State data centers serve as clearinghouses for census data in their states and responded to our survey on the state's needs for data, as well as the needs of county and city governments, businesses, and other data center affiliates (non-profit associations, etc). We report on responses provided by 18 states: Alabama, Alaska, California, Hawaii, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Montana, New Hampshire, New York, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Carolina, and Wisconsin.

In focusing on state and local needs for census data, first the general census data categories (general demographic, race and ethnicity, immigration, labor force and occupation, education, disability, transportation, income and poverty, and housing) and their uses are discussed. This is followed by a discussion of specific uses of census data; uses of data for meeting state and federal legislative requirements, preparing state and federal grants applications, public health and social service programs, community planning and development, environmental uses, and economic uses are discussed. Next, the appendix addresses the level of geographic detail needed by states and local jurisdictions for performing their work. Finally, general conclusions regarding the needs reported by state data centers are presented.


Small-area census data are essential to state and local governmental agencies for descriptive analyses, assessments, and planning related to public-policy decision making, including the day-to-day decision-making process. Those purposes include, but are not limited to: meeting state and federal legislative requirements, allocating funds for social service programs and assessing the need and effects of public health and social service programs, community planning and development, environmental monitoring, and economic analyses. Census data are used to describe neighborhoods, which helps private and public agencies understand their community's needs and target program and policy efforts effectively. The actual data items used to meet the policy objectives of the states and local communities are varied, but data at the county, municipal, tract, census block group, and census block levels are frequently used to inform the decision-making process and achieve public-policy goals of the state and local governments and community groups. Based on the survey responses, it is apparent that census data are important for being able to accurately describe the demographic diversity within a county or city for understanding the society and the ability to make government more effective. More important, however, is that the census is the only reliable source of accurate small-area data available to them.

Census data are used for everything from selecting a site for a major power plant or community day-care center to planning the construction of a new road or bridge to distributing federal funds. State and local governments use census data to prepare analyses related to population trends; community and economic development

The National Academies | 500 Fifth St. N.W. | Washington, D.C. 20001
Copyright © National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved.
Terms of Use and Privacy Statement