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Philadelphia Schools and Neighborhoods: Census and Other Data

Census Data Overview

American Community Survey

The American Community Survey (ACS) is an ongoing survey conducted by the U.S. Census Bureau since 2005. In 2010, the ACS replaced the decennial Census long form as the source of sample data for population and housing indicators. The short form of the decennial Census is still distributed to obtain a count of the entire U.S. population.

ACS Links: 

ACS asks questions about age, sex, race, family and relationships, income and benefits, health insurance, education, veteran status, disabilities, employment location and mode of travel to work, place of residence, price paid for living essentials.

ACS 1-year estimates are data that have been collected over a 12-month period and are available for geographic areas with at least 65,000 people. The Census Bureau combines 5 consecutive years of ACS data to produce estimates for geographic areas with fewer than 65,000 residents. Therefore, the 5-year data, collected over 60 months,  provides tract level information.

Because the ACS is based on a sample, rather than all housing units and people, ACS estimates have a degree of uncertainty associated with them, called sampling error. In general, the larger the sample, the smaller the level of sampling error. To help users understand the impact of sampling error on data reliability, the Census Bureau provides a “margin of error” for each published ACS estimate. The margin of error, combined with the ACS estimate, give users a range of values within which the actual “real-world” value is likely to fall.

Decennial Census

A Decennial Census is mandated by the U.S. Constitution and is used in reapportionment. The first Census was held in 1790 and counted only heads of household.  Over time, the Census questions increased in number and varies.  See Questions asked in each census.

For much of the past century, the Decennial Census included a “short form” with questions answered by every household in the country and a “long form” answered by about 1 in 6 households. For the 1990 and 2000 Censuses, the questions on the short form (age, race, etc.) are the basis for the Census 100% data (SF 1 & 2), while questions on the long form are the basis for the Census sample data (SF 3 & 4).

Starting with the 2010 Census, the sample long form is no longer used.  Instead, sample data previously collected on the long form is collected through the American Community Survey (ACS).

Census Geography


Census Geography - See Reference Maps, including the 2010 Census Tract maps for Philadelphia County.

American FactFinder (

American FactFinder provides easy access to Decennial Census and American Community Survey data.  Starting July 1, 2019, all new data will only be added to the Census Data site (see below).  However, American FactFinder will remain accessible until June 2020.

In order to get tract level data, you need first to know the tract number in which a school is situated;

Click Advanced > Show me all

Click Geographies (either in the center or on the left) and then the Address Tab

Enter address of school.

On the resulting table, note the value Census Tract # Philadelphia County, Pennsylvania under Geography Name

Click that linked tract number to select it as a future search limit.

Click the in that same tract line of the table to see the tract number going back and click Map View for a map of the tract area.

For tract level data

Click Topics and a pop-up will appear, as well as a list of tables under that.  If you choose tables from the popup, they will be added to the larger list of tables. On the larger list, check the boxes next to the table to display.  Race and Ethnic Groups is a separate category on the left.

At page bottom, click View.

(Only tables with tract-level data will be available for viewing).

Census Data (

Census Data - As of April 2019, includes ACS from 2010-present, Decennial Census of 2010, Country Business Patterns 2012-16, Economic Census 2012.  Fall 2019 additions will include the 2018 ACS and the 2017 Economic Census.

For tract level data: 

Click on Advanced Search, choose Geography filter, then "140 - Census Tract" 

Select: Pennsylvania > Philadelphia County > desired Tract number(s).   Click View All Results.

Tables, maps. and webpages with data related to the geography/tract chosen will display. 

Select the Customize Table button to change the table layout, double click the  to expand the table options box.  From there, you can change the year, show margins of error, change/add geographies, sort and filter the data, view the data table notes, and download the table. 

Click Print and Share to download a csv file to Excel.   Print and Share will be operational soon.

Address searching:  This functionality has not been added to, but, in addition to the American FactFinder through June 2020, you can find this information using the Census Bureau’s Geocoder at