Since the 2000 census was completed, the Census Bureau has been going all out to make the results available to the American business community in a variety of useful digital formats, and as quickly as possible. In the process, the Census Bureau has reinvented the way they distribute information, and the results have been nothing less than remarkable.
The 2000 census was the first census to be taken in the digital age. Until this census, only mainframe computers could handle the sheer volume of the data collected. The development of the personal computer and the Internet over the last ten years has changed that forever. Now, widespread distribution of census results is easy and inexpensive.
The Census Bureau understood the changes, and focused on ways to distribute Census 2000 data electronically. The cornerstone of their effort is the official Website for Census 2000 data, called "Gateway to Census 2000" (www.census.gov/main/www/cen2000.html
), and every advertiser should consider taking a look at this site.
The Census 2000 Website is arguably the best designed Website in the entire Department of Commerce. It manages to present an overwhelming amount of information in a very elegant and streamlined fashion.
The Census 2000 home page comprises three sections, including Access Data by Geography, Census Data, and Information Links.
The Access Data by Geography section offers four ways to search for census 2000 reports. Two of the ways go through the American FactFinder search engine. One links directly to the AFF home page (http://factfinder.census.gov/), and the other uses the AFF search box (just fill in the street address and it gives you statistics about your block). The AFF offers tables and maps of Census 2000 data for all geographies down to the block level.
The State & County Facts section also has its own home page, though its just a map of the US for selecting which state you want data for. Once youve selected a state, you have the option of selecting a county to further refine the data.
The last of the four searches, the Data Highlights search, finds Census 2000 data by state, and is a good place to start. Each state page presents links to a variety of reports including the Demographic Profile, Summary File1, and Summary File 2. These reports contain the following data:
A Demographic Profile includes four tables that provide various demographic, social, economic, and characteristics for the states, counties, and metropolitan areas.
Summary File 1 (SF 1) contains data on age, sex, households, families, and housing units based on answers to the questions common to both the Census 2000 Short-Form and Long-Form Questionnaires.
Summary File 2 (SF2) contains 47 detailed tables focusing on age, sex, households, families, and occupied housing units for the total population, and for 249 detailed population groups.
Nearly all of these files are in Acrobat format, but many are also available in Word, text, and Excel files, making exporting the data into a spreadsheet as easy as it is useful.
The last part of the Census 2000 Gateway home page is the Information Links section. It contains relatively little data, but one item it does offer is very important. Its called "Introduction to Census 2000 Data," and its a four-page Acrobat file describing the various Census 2000 products available. A PowerPoint presentation on Census 2000 products is available for download as well.
One has to wonder what it would be like if every data collecting group in the Department of Commerce made its data this easy to access. Its also worth considering just how much the digital revolution could improve other key Department of Commerce publications.
Several key reports, like the State and Metropolitan Area Data Book, only come out every five years. In the past, the difficulty in assembling the information made it impossible to release these reports more frequently. We may be at a point these reports could be issued on a yearly basis. It would be a big help to American business if this proved true. If its not possible now, it will be soon
Its only a matter of time before census data is collected and reported in real time. The technology needed to do this is largely in place. Within a decade or two, we may be able to have up to the minute information not just on census statistics, but dozens of other useful statistical reports.
This kind of service is currently beyond the budget of the Department of Commerce, and beyond its charter as well. It will only happen if Congress approves it, and that will take pressure from the business community, but that shouldnt be a problem. The Census Bureau has done a great job with Census 2000, and they deserve the support of American business.
One of the best ways to show support for the Census Bureaus efforts is to simply use their Website to get data. Like any commercial Website, the Census Bureau monitors the number of visitors to their Website, and uses these numbers to justify its existence, and any plans for expansion it might have. We need to make sure the Census Bureaus success is rewarded.
The 2000 census is a classic case of a government agency doing the right thing the right way, and for the right reasons. The Census 2000 Gateway site should serve a model for all future Department of Commerce Websites, and its in our best interests to make sure it does.
Note: The Advertising & Marketing Review online edition now links to the Census 2000 home page and key Census 2000 results.