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Open Census Data Update: Now Including ACS Data From 2016-2019

April 28, 2021
by
Eugene Chong

Open Census Data is Integral to Geospatial Analysis

As places data becomes increasingly part of business analytics across industries, so does combining it with other data sources and types for deeper insights. The geospatial data ecosystem is continually evolving to include new types of data related to a physical place, and as organizations become more data mature, they are finding new ways to join and leverage multiple datasets. 

Demographic data is fundamental to most geospatial analyses. Accurate representations of populations as they relate to physical space can reveal consumer behavior, identify areas of need, and inform strategic plans. Whether joined to points of interest (POI), communities boundaries, or any other type of geospatial data, demographics provide critical information to analysts in every industry.

Collecting and Accessing Open Census Data

Open census data provide detailed demographic information for data enrichment.
Detailed demographic information is increasingly used for data enrichment.

The most well-known source of demographic data is often a country’s census. In the US, the Census Bureau collects and delivers over 7,500 demographic attributes related to gender, age, income, ethnicity, and other key socioeconomic traits through the annual American Community Survey (ACS). While the census occurs every ten years (you probably remember filling out the 2020 census pretty recently), ACS data is collected every year. Census and ACS data can be aggregated at various geographic levels of granularity, enabling analysis at the scale required by a particular project.

But this aggregation is not always easy or accessible for everyone who would like to use the data.

While US Census Bureau and ACS data is free to download on government websites, many users find it cumbersome and time consuming, especially for the increasing number of non-data scientist users.

US Census and ACS data is free, but requires multiple downloads for all data variables at a national level.
US Census and ACS data is free, but requires multiple downloads for all data variables at a national level.

To make census data more accessible and easily joinable to other geospatial datasets, like our places data, SafeGraph downloads and joins it to census block group (CBG) geometry. Our data download page is updated with ACS 5-year estimates from 2016-2019, along with associated CBG geometries, to provide free and easy access to essential demographic data.

Working with Open Census Data

SafeGraph open census data provides an easy, consolidated download for all ACS attributes and national CBG geometry. 
SafeGraph provides an easy, consolidated download for all ACS attributes and national CBG geometry. 

SafeGraph offers open access to census data, specially designed to enable users, regardless of their level of expertise working with geospatial data, to easily access and incorporate key demographic data into their analysis. Our updated site gives users multiple options for downloading census and ACS data in GeoJSON format.

On our census data page, users can download:

  • 2016-2019 ACS data (separate download files for each year to help keep things organized)
  • CBG geometry data applicable to all 2016-2019 ACS files

Getting Started with Open Census Data

SafeGraph’s Neighborhood Patterns data provides anonymized mobility data at the CBG level, making it easy to join to census demographics.
SafeGraph’s Neighborhood Patterns data provides anonymized mobility data at the CBG level, making it easy to join to census demographics.

With census and ACS data, users with varying levels of data science experience across industries can analyze how places relate to people, and how people interact with places. SafeGraph Patterns data includes the origin and daytime CBGs of visitors to specific POIs, so when combined with census information, it’s easy to understand who visitors are, their demographic characteristics, and their travel behaviors. Similarly, Neighborhood Patterns data is easily joinable to census data, and shows mobility between different CBGs. 

The analytics opportunities are endless, but at SafeGraph we often see places data joined to demographic data for improved:

  • Site selection
  • Trade area analysis
  • Location-based marketing
  • Investment research

To help you get started, we’ve created a new data science notebook that lets you enrich your POI data with census data.

Be sure to check out our other census data resources:

Questions about working with open census data? Don’t hesitate to reach out - we’re here to help.

Eugene Chong
Eugene Chong
Data Science Analyst @ SafeGraph
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SafeGraph is just a data company

That's it – that's all we do. We want to understand the physical world and power innovation through open access to geospatial data. We believe data should be an open platform, not a trade secret. Information should not be hoarded so that only a few can innovate.