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How to Use Census Data in ArcGIS: Download Census Data

This is a short how-to guide for accessing and using the TIGER/Line Shapefiles as well as joining data from the US Census Bureau to the TIGER/Line Shapefiles created by Census bureau.

Downloading Data from American FactFinder (AFF) to use with TIGER/Line Shapefiles

Open your internet browse and visit

First, click on “Advanced Search”, then “Topics”, and then click on “Dataset” to narrow down which data you would like to work with (e.g. 2010 SF1 100% Data).  Click on the blue link and AFF will add the dataset to the “Your Selections” box.

You can use the other subtopics to narrow your search and AFF will continue to add items to “Your Selections” by clicking on the blue links (e.g. “People” – “Age & Sex” – “Age” will result in all tables relating to age).

Once you have completed selecting your topic, close out of the “Select Topics” window using the “Close X” button.

Click on “Geographies.”  There are four search options:
- List: uses dropdown menus making it the easiest method. - Name:  a search box allows you to type the name of a jurisdiction. - Address: enter an address and then choose a geography. - Map:  choose your geography by viewing it on a map or by drawing a polygon or point.

Once you have found your area of interest, select your geography by clicking on the blue link and AFF will send the geography to the “Your Selections” box.

Once you have narrowed your search by topic and geography, the “Search Results” will update.  Find the table you are interested in (e.g. P13 Median Age by Sex).  The results may fall on several pages.  Scroll through the pages in the top, right corner, or change the number of results per page.

Click on the box next to the table and click “Download.”  In the pop out windows, click OK, then download, and save the zipped file to your computer.  Unzip the file.  

Change the file extension on the data file from .csv to .txt. Open the file using the Text Import Wizard in Microsoft Excel.  The file is delimited using the comma.  Also, be sure to tell the wizard that “GEO.id2” is a text field.  Otherwise, you will lose the necessary leading zeroes in the key geographic identifier field.
Click on “File – Save As” option to save the data table as an “Excel Workbook.”