New Online Tool Gives Public Wider Access to Key U.S. Statistics

July 30, 2012  - By
Image: GPS World

The U.S. Census Bureau released a new online service that makes key demographic, socio-economic and housing statistics more accessible than ever before. The Census Bureau’s first-ever public Application Programming Interface (API) allows developers to design Web and mobile apps to explore or learn more about America's changing population and economy.

According to the announcement, the new API lets developers customize Census Bureau statistics into Web or mobile apps that provide users quick and easy access from two popular sets of statistics:

  • 2010 Census (Summary File 1), which includes detailed statistics on population, age, sex, race, Hispanic origin, household relationship and owner/renter status, for a variety of geographic areas down to the level of census tracts and blocks.
  • 2006-2010 American Community Survey (five-year estimates), which includes detailed statistics on a rich assortment of topics (education, income, employment, commuting, occupation, housing characteristics and more) down to the level of census tracts and block groups.

The Census Bureau reports that the 2010 Census and the American Community Survey statistics provide key information on the nation, neighborhoods and areas in between. By providing annual updates on population changes the survey helps communities plan for schools, social and emergency services, highway improvements and economic developments.

“We hope to see many apps grow out of the Census API, as this opens up our statistics beyond traditional uses,” Census Bureau Director Robert Groves said. “The API gives data developers in research, business and government the means to customize our statistics into an app that their audiences and customers need.”

For example, developers could use the statistics available through this API to create apps that:

  • Show commuting patterns for every city in America.
  • Display the latest numbers on owners and renters in a neighborhood someone may want to live in.
  • Provide a local government a range of socioeconomic statistics on its population.

“Apps give people simpler access to our statistics so they can get the information they need to answer questions or solve problems,” said Stephen Buckner, chief of the Census Bureau's Center for New Media and Promotions. “As Web developers exercise their creativity with our statistics, we believe the public will gain more opportunities to access more of our information on their laptops and mobile devices — anytime and anywhere they wish.”

The Census Bureau announced it has also launched a website for developers to provide feedback and ideas on the API. The website includes an “app gallery” where the public can view and download Web apps that have already been created:

  • Age Finder — Users have the flexibility to get a count of the population for a single year of age or for a customized age range by sex, race and Hispanic origin for states, counties and places.
  • Poverty Status in the Past 12 Months by Sex by Age — Users can get the poverty rate for counties in New York by sex and multiple age groups in an app developed by the Program on Applied Demographics at Cornell University.

Developers can access the API online and share ideas through the Census Bureau’s Developers Forum.

With the release of this API and other upcoming forward-looking online communications improvements, the Census Bureau is meeting the goals of the President's digital strategy to make information more transparent and customer-centered.

Editor’s note from the Census Bureau: The API does not include any information that could identify an individual; such information is kept strictly confidential by law. The API only uses statistics that the Census Bureau has already released publicly and in aggregate form.

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