Census and data and stats, oh my!

One of the most common questions we receive at the reference desk is, “Where can I find statistics on drug use/graduation rates/employment/etc.?” And the mother of all statistical groups is the United States Census.

April 1, 2010 is Census Day, and forms will be mailed out in mid-March. Why is the census important? Because as anyone who works with data will tell you, garbage in = garbage out. In other words, the data that comes out of a survey like the census is only reliable if it can be considered accurate. It’s important for everyone to participate, so that accurate information can be gathered that will affect everything from Congressional representation, to levels of federal aid. View a fact sheet on the Census and how it applies to colleges and universities, or stop by the reference desk to pick up a copy.

Need stats? Try these resources:

American Fact Finder – Provided by the Census Bureau, American Fact Finder is the easiest way to query census data.

CIA World Factbook – Tons of data and information on countries around the world.

Fedstats – Provides access to statistics from more than 100 U.S. Government agencies.

Statistics are used in every field of scholarship, in one form or another, so we’ve also put together a display of materials at the reference desk on the census and its history in the United States, as well as some information on statistics and how they are compiled and used. Stop by and check it out!


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