Journal

Researching U.S. Census data during a government shutdown

Census.gov during the 2013 government shutdown

On October 1, 2013, the federal government partially shut down, taking with it the U.S Census, Library of Congress, and other government websites. 

If you've been caught in the middle of an intensive research project that depends on Census data, viable alternatives do exist for the short term:

Most Census data is accessible through the Wayback Machine

1) Accessed cached Census pages through The Internet Archive

You can browse the vast majority of the Census website and embedded PDF report files by visiting the Internet Archive Wayback Machine and typing in census.gov into the search. Choose the September 30 snapshot to view a cached version of the Census website the day before the Oct 1 shutdown. Most of the navigation links, such as Data, should work.

Protip: Google the exact Census data you're looking for, e.g.

census 2000 "educational attainment" income race

then copy and paste the Census URL (http://www.census.gov/hhes/socdemo/education/) into the Wayback Machine. 

2) GIS fanatics: National Historical Geographic Information System

NHGIS is run by the University of Minnesota's Population Center. Quoting the website: "The National Historical Geographic Information System (NHGIS) provides, free of charge, aggregate census data and GIS-compatible boundary files for the United States between 1790 and 2012."

This includes decennial census data through 2010 and the American Community Survey 1, 3, and 5-year estimates for 2010 and 2011. The website has a data selector tool that likens the American Fact Finder, which allows you to find tables and output into a variety of formats. Free registration is required. 

3) Casual statistics: CensusReporter

This project is funded by the Knight Foundation, and aims to make Census data easy to visualize. Great site if you're looking for casual Census statistics with beautiful data visualizations.

4) Hardcore stat monkeys: census.ire.org

Also funded by the Knight Foundation, this website lets you download Census datasets in bulk. You can download any table for any geographic location (except the entire USA) from the 2000 Census. 2010 data is accessible through a Javascript call. Beware that you will need access to the SF1 data dictionary, which can be accessed through Social Explorer if accessing the Census version through Wayback Machine doesn't work.

5) ($$) SocialExplorer.com

This is probably the best U.S. Census resource, short of the Census itself. But unless you're comfortable only researching Census 2000 aggregate data, it's not free! A local college or university library may subscribe to it, otherwise it's $149 for 3 months.

Other government data shutdown sites of potential interest