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SPAN 416: Beyond Spanglish: Forms, Functions, and Fallacies of US Spanish: Searching for Census Data

About U.S Census Data

Every ten years the U.S. Census Bureau conducts a census, where where they attempt to count the population of the United States. They also make available a wide variety of other demographic information, which can be useful for many kinds of projects. In addition to the every-ten-years data, they also release yearly estimate statistics through the American Community Survey, which is an ongoing project.

Are undocumented people counted by the census?

The U.S. Census Bureau says that they do count people who are undocumented, and that they are counted in the "Foreign-born" category (which includes other noncitizens). However, it can be assumed that undocumented people may be more hesitant to fill out census information, so the question remains as to whether these noncitizen counts are as fully-accurate as citizen counts. Likewise, the issue rose to prominence in 2018 with the Trump administration attempted to add a citizenship legality question to the 2020 census. Census officials argued that this would make undocumented people less likely to respond to the census, and this was ultimately blocked.

What is the difference between the Census and American Community Survey (ACS)?

The Census occurs every ten years, and attempts to be an accurate population count of everyone living in the United States, including all 50 states, Washington D.C., and the 5 U.S. territories. Every household in the U.S. recieves an invitation to fill out the census. Households are asked to fill out basic demographic information, like age, sex, race, Hispanic origin, and owner/renter status.

The ACS is a survey that occurs every month of every year. The survey is sent to a smaller sample of people (around 3.5 million)  living in the 50 states, Washington D.C., and Puerto Rico. It asks about topics not covered in the Census, like education, employment, internet access, and transportation. The samples are used to make yearly estimates about these topics within the communities the respondents live in. Note that the Census is meant to be an accurate count of everyone in the U.S., and the ACS is an estimate based on a smaller representative sample size.

You may find yourself looking both at Census and ACS data for this class. One topic of potential interest for this class, "Language spoken at home," is currently only covered by the ACS.

Source: The Importance of the American Community Survey and the Decennial Census


There are two major pieces of data recorded by the census, called "topics" on the database, that may be useful to examine for this class. The first is "Hispanic or Latino", and the second is "Language Spoken at Home". The first records whether a census respondent indicates they are Hispanic or Latino, and the second the predominant language spoken at home.

The census data website can be tricky to use, and you can find information in more than one way. My advice is to open to the census data website and type into the box one of the above topics, plus the place you are interested in looking at. For example, I typed "Hispanic or Latino richmond indiana" into the box. Doing this search gave me the Hispanic or Latino population of Richmond from the 2020 census, as well as 179 tables that organize the Hispanic or Latino population of Richmond by other demographic data, like age, sex, income, and more. I suggest you explore some of these tables to find even more interesting data. Some tables you might want to look for could be "HISPANIC OR LATINO ORIGIN BY SPECIFIC ORIGIN" (tells you the country of origin for people that are indicating they are Hispanic, can be a way to get a sense of what immigrant communities are living in a place), "PLACE OF BIRTH (HISPANIC OR LATINO) IN THE UNITED STATES" (breaks down the Hispanic population by whether they were born in this state, another state, or outside the U.S), "LANGUAGE SPOKEN AT HOME BY ABILITY TO SPEAK ENGLISH FOR THE POPULATION 5 YEARS AND OVER (HISPANIC OR LATINO)" (tells you the languages spoken at home for the Hispanic population), "NATIVITY BY LANGUAGE SPOKEN AT HOME BY ABILITY TO SPEAK ENGLISH FOR THE POPULATION 5 YEARS AND OVER (HISPANIC OR LATINO" (shows you the number of the Hispanic population who speaks only English at home vs. speaking another language at home, organized by whether they were born in the U.S. or another country).


Census Data home page

Richmond hispanic population data

Richmond Hispanic population country of origin data


QuickFacts is a great tool for when you are looking for basic demographic information about a specific place in the United States and want to find it quickly in an easy-to-read format. Type the region you want to examine into the search bar. Categories that may be of interest for this class are "Language other than English spoken at home, percent of persons age 5 years+ " and "Race and Hispanic Origin."


Citing Census Data

How to Cite Census Bureau data in MLA Format:

"Name of Table or Data Set." Name of Survey, Publisher, Publication Date, URL. Date Accessed.


"B03001: Hispanic or Latino Origin by Specific Origin, Richmond city, Indiana." 2017-2021 American Community Survey 5-Year Estimates, United States Census Bureau, 2021, Accessed 15 February 2023.

"Population Estimates, July 1 2022, (V2022), Richmond city, Indiana." Quickfacts, United States Census Bureau, 2022,,US#. Accessed 15 February 2023.

*Tip: Click on "Notes" in the top left of an data table to see more information about the particular survey that the data comes from.

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