Demographic Party April 9, 1999
The Census Bureau's Web site is one of the handiest tools around to debunk an argument, advance a theory or settle a bet. But using it hasn't always been a picnic, as we discovered when we wrote about the site's data-lookup features two years ago.
The new American FactFinder site makes the process a bit easier, particularly with its "community profiles" and "thematic maps" tools. The former yields quick tables of data about cities and counties, handy for answering head-scratchers like "How many people actually own cars in Manhattan?" The latter generates nicely drawn maps of such census info as housing density, income, ethnicity and so on.
Caveats: The Java interface used throughout the site can bog an info search down quite a bit, and much of the data here comes from 1990's census. If nothing else, keep a bookmark handy for when 2000's data goes online.
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