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Data Services Knowledge Base

Q:  

I have found some estimates data on the Census Bureau website, but I have no idea how to look at it. Can you help me?

A:  

Many of the files on the estimates page are created for users who will be using a statistical package. However, you do not have to be familiar with a statistical package to see the data. The files are small enough that they can be opened in Excel.

The first thing you need to look for is something called the layout file. This defines what the file will look like. It defines what is in each column of the file such as date, age, population (White men, etc.). The layout will also indicate whether the format is comma delimited or a fixed format, etc. Excel will usually recognize the format, but it is useful to have this information before you go to open the file.

The specific link you provided is below:

http://www.census.gov/popest/data/datasets.html

Click on File Layout to see the column definitions. You could save this to your desktop for reference purposes or open it to look at it. It is a Word document, although sometimes these are text documents, which Word can read.

To open the data file in Excel, you need to first download it to your desktop.

Assuming a Windows environment, right click on the link you are interested in. For instance,

7/1/2001 to 12/1/2001

Save to your desktop.

Open Excel and choose File Open. Make sure that you are looking at "All Files" not just Excel files.

Highlight the filename [NC-EST2006-ALLDATA-R-File04.txt]

Click OPEN

Excel will walk you through a wizard. It recognizes that these are fixed width data, so go ahead and click on NEXT NEXT FINISH.

To make sense of your data, you will probably want to insert a row at the top of the Excel file and type in the information from the layout file. For instance, SERIES, DATE, TOTAL, TOTAL MALE, TOTAL FEMALE, etc.

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