Want to find your dream city? There’s a Census app for that.

November 26, 2013

One in 10 Americans move every year, and the Census Bureau thinks it can make it a little easier for them to decide where to land.

On Tuesday it debuted Dwellr, a mobile app that sifts through census data to come up with a list of 25 places that could be a user’s dream location.

It starts by asking 11 questions. By the sea or near the mountains? Big city or small town? Prefer to walk around or drive? Neighbors who are retirement age or millennials with college educations? And what kind of climate is ideal?

Ultimately, it comes up with 25 places that most closely fit the user’s preferences, based on data that the census has collected through the annual American Community Survey. With each city come statistics on its demographics, socioeconomic conditions and housing stock.

Though the app is a little more lighthearted than most of the statistical surveys produced by the Census Bureau, it comes with a serious purpose.

The bureau is undergoing a digital transformation. Many of its surveys that once relied on mailed questionnaires and follow-up phone calls now can be filled out on the Web, foreshadowing the 2020 Census, which also is expected to be conducted online.

“We have to make our data more friendly and accessible to the general public,” said Stephen L. Buckner, head of the Census Bureau’s Center for New Media & Promotions. “More people are on the go, and over half the population has smartphones. They don’t use just desktops to access statistics; they want to pull data anytime, anywhere.”

Last year, the Census Bureau introduced its first mobile app filled with economic statistics. It is working on a third app, modeled after a trivia game, complete with a digital badge at the end.

Carol Morello writes about demographics and the census, as well as a lot of other stuff that comes down the pike. She has worked at the Washington Post since 2000.
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