Census and Other Statistical Resources


Statistical information is generated by a wide range of providers which include but are not limited to local, state, federal, and foreign governments.  Nongovernment entities such as treaty organizations (for example the United Nations or the European Union), trade associations, and special interest groups can also be collecting and disseminating information.  Finding statistical data on a given topic is not always easy.  You may have to think outside the box.

“Accurate speculation about how the data would be gathered and who would have gathered it can help determine where it might have been published. For example, research on the smoking habits of college students may have been collected by market researchers (and noted in business sources) or collected by the Student Health Center or a professor (and published in a journal). “  [San Francisco State University]


Before you start your research ask yourself the following questions.  How you answer them will determine what resources you will use. 

Ask yourself the following questions:

  • What is the subject or topic of interest? 
  • What variables are of interest? Race? Sex? Acreage? Gross National Product?
  • Who or what is being counted? Individuals? Businesses? Families? Households?
  • What level of geography is desired? World? Country? State? County? City?
  • Do you want data for a single location or multiple locations?
  • Who might be collecting this data?  Who cares or has a vested interest in the topic?  Are they reliable? Authoritative? [San Francisco State University]
  • How would this data be gathered? Can it be gathered?  Think about the real world; e.g., Is the data private or personal? Is it illegal or hard to count? Would it be too expensive to gather? [San Francisco State University]
  • What time period should the data cover? Current? Historical?
  • What frequency of data do you need? (Are you looking for figures for a specific point in time or are you comparing data over a period of time?)
  • Do you want data in tabular format or data you can manipulate?
  • Was the data published? Was it widely distributed?  Data can be found in journal articles, reference books, corporate or agency records, Internet sites, etc. It could be in an office file cabinet and not widely distributed. [San Francisco State University]
  • Are there access restrictions? Is the data free?  Is it only available to individuals in the company or agency?  [San Francisco State University]

Your answers to these questions will help you to determine where to look for the data. For example, the Census of Population and Housing is the only place you will find data at the census tract level. Very current data is likely to be found online. Historic data, on the other hand, is more likely to be found in print resources, particularly if you are looking for detailed statistics.  Much more data is collected than is ever presented in tables. The raw data files may be available, but usually require the use of statistical programs such as SPSS or SAS.

If you know the publication in which the figures you need were published, search the OSU Libraries' catalog  to determine whether the library has a print copy. Government agencies and organizations frequently post recent statistical data on their websites. Some maintain archives of older data. Search the organization's website for a section labeled "Statistics." If you don't see one, look for "Research" or "Publications."

If you do not know who collected or produced the data, can you make an educated guess?  Who would need this kind of information?

Examples: Number of airplane crashes in the U.S. - U.S. Department of Transportation?; Number of AIDS cases by country - World Health Organization?

If you can not guess - Try a one of the general resources below first:

Statisical Abstact of the United States.  Washington, DC:  GPO.
[Find in Library]  | [ [Online
Published annually since 1878 by the U.S. Census Bureau, the Statistical Abstract is a compilation of data gathered from many sources. Most tables are at the National (U.S) level, but some state, city, foreign, and other level data is available. The volumes also provide text summaries of social, political, and economic data. The Statistical Abstract is considered to be the most authoritative source of facts about the American people, institutions, and economy.   The 2012 volume is the last abstract published by the Bureau.  As of October 1, 2011 the U.S. Census Bureau stopped collecting data for this and other Statistical Compendia Program publications.  Current statistical data is still available from the governmental agencies that provided it to the Statistical Abstracts originally.

If you did not find exactly what you need in the Statistical Abstract, did you find something similar to what you want? The source is provided at the bottom of the table. That agency or organization may have published more detailed statistics.

Note: Tables are drawn from both government and non-government sources. Tables containing copyrighted information are not available in the online version of this title.

Related titles:
Statistics and Data Sets. 
Online source providing selected links to State, Federal, Foreign, and International Statistical Resources. The page is arranged by broad topic. Note: Unless you are looking for raw data to manipulate yourself, do not follow the Data Set links.

Proquest Statistical Insight [Formerly LexisNexis Statistical]
OhioLink membership required for access.  Subscription database indexing statistical resources from many sources including U.S. Government, State Governments, International Governmental Agencies, Nonprofit Organizations, Universities, Research Centers, and Businesses. The database consists of two parts - Power Tables which searches only tables available full text within the database, and Abstracts which searches the complete index.

Print version: American Statistics Index (ASI) - U.S. Government; Statistical Reference Index (SRI) - U.S. States, research centers, businesses, etc.; and Index to International Statistics (IIS).

Many of the tables indexed in this database are available in the ASI, SRI, and IIS microfiche collections held by the OSU Libraries.  Please check the catalog for availability and location.

Then try:

Are you looking for comparative statistics for several countries? Try  Foreign Statistical and Census Resourcs; or International Treaty Organizations and Agency Statistics.

Do you want statistics for a single country or part of a country, other than the U.S.? Try Foreign Statistical and Census Resources.

Are you looking for statistics for the United States, regions, states, counties, cities, zip codes, or census tracts? Try U.S. Census Information; or Non-Census Federal Statistics; or State and Local Government Statistical Resources.

Do you want statistics for a single state or smaller area? Try U.S. Census Information; or Non-Census Federal Statistics; or State and Local Government Statistical Resources.

Are you looking for opinion polls, data on religion, detailed sales figures, or other information not likely to have been collected by a government agency? Try Non-Government Statistical and Data Resources.



San Francisco State University. Leonard Library.  Finding Statistics – Hard to Find Data.


Further Information

University of Buffalo.  University of Buffalo Libraries.  Statistical Information Sources