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Q:  

I have some students working for me who are unfamiliar with statistical packages. Is there a way that they can pull off data for all census tracts in the tri-county area for Detroit? I have specific tables that I want for 1990 and 1980.

A:  

The best resource for this is the National Historic Geographic Information System (NHGIS) out of the University of Minnesota. They have tabular data from 1790 to 2010. They allow you to select all census tracts in a county.

http://www.nhgis.org/

You need to register to use (e-mail address and a password). You get instant access after registration and then can continue to use the system forever.

Select NHGIS Data Finder on the main page. In your case, select 1990

Census tracts are one of the default geographic units of data. However, block group, block, place, zip code, etc. are available choices under:

 Show 14 more geographic units.
 Select state and county  
 Select every census tract

The next steps I find a bit bothersome, but the system works well for those who are unfamiliar with the possible data choices.

You go through choices to find your tables. For instance, in your case you would look under:

Core Demographics/Race

The table numbers are indicated by N1, N4, etc. You need to be careful with the table numbers as the data make available both SF1 and SF3 data for some of the tables and thus table N4 for SF3 is not the same as table N4 for SF1.

Your next table (Race by Hispanic origin) would be found under:

Background-Ancestry/Hispanic

You and your students will need to be careful with the output. The cells are not always in the order one would expect them to be, so you have to be sure and use the dictionary. For instance, an age table, will output the ages as:

5-9, 10-14, 60-64, 65-69, 70-74, 75+, 0-4, 15-19, etc.

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