Search tools are great but they usually send you to a long list of web pages and options you have to crawl through to find what you need. And that can be challenging, especially on a large-scale site like census.gov.
The U.S. Census Bureau produces more than 120 surveys. How can you find one on housing? Retail Sales? Family size? What’s the most recent data? Are the data only available at the national level or more local ones like counties?
A basic search tool will not give you a quick answer but the new Census Survey Explorer (CSE) will. CSE is an innovative tool designed to cut research time and frustration by listing surveys by geography, frequency, topic and subtopic.
Have a research question? The tool quickly produces results, so you can go directly to your best choices to investigate further.
Our data education experts weighed in to help determine the information that data users need to know:
Previously, finding data required opening multiple pages (and sometimes even downloading tables) to uncover survey topics and other key information offered. The process had to be repeated for every survey, often stopping short of guiding users to related surveys.
Now, you simply select one or more filters/options and the CSE tool generates a comprehensive list of surveys that match your needs.
You can set your criteria and choose from 150-plus subtopics (race, commuting, income, etc.), five main data categories (economic, demographic, social, government, housing), several geographies such as state, county and ZIP codes, and the frequency of publication (annual, monthly, and so on).
Search results provide a shortcut to the surveys that meet your needs or interests.
Start by using the dropdown menus then select your criteria by checking boxes.
For example, if you are looking for surveys that have demographic data on children at the county level, use the menus to check off the "demographic" topic, "children” subtopic, and "county" geography. All the surveys that have demographic data on children for counties will show up.
You can click on a survey name to continue exploring that survey's news, data, reports and information.
The Census Bureau conducts surveys for other government agencies and some links on our webpages may take you to those other agencies for more information.
The tool also has guidance pages that answer questions that arose during user testing.
Let’s say you’re doing research for a college paper, grant proposal or business plan. All three scenarios would require backing up your work with data.
How do you find out which of our many surveys meet your needs? Which topic or geography contains the data key to your project?
No problem. Have a research question? The tool quickly produces results, so you can go directly to your best choices to investigate further.
A fun, unexpected benefit of this tool is that you may learn about data topics you never knew existed or discover new or more obscure surveys that contain interesting data.
For example, while looking for surveys with demographic data, the Non-Employer Statistics by Demographics (NES-D Series) is displayed as an option. This survey has race and ethnicity data on the self-employed, which could add another dimension to your research.
For more about this tool and tips on how to use it, watch this seven-minute Data Gem video from Census Academy.
Mary Leisenring co-founded Census Survey Explorer and leads the Census Academy program.
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