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Government Information: Data and Statistics

This guide will help you find federal, state, and city of Boston information online and in print

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CIA World Factbook

data.gov portal to federal data sites

The Joy of Stats takes viewers on a rollercoaster ride through the wonderful world of statistics to explore the remarkable power they have to change our understanding of the world, and explores cutting-edge examples of statistics in action today. 

 

Finding Statistics

Databases

ProQuest Statistical Abstract of the U.S. Statistical Abstract of the U.S. 

Published annually by the Federal Government since 1878, The Statistical Abstract of the United States is the best-known statistical reference publication in the country, and perhaps, the world. It is used as both an answer book (“How much corn is grown in Iowa?”) and a guide to statistical sources (“What organization has the most authoritative data on foreclosures?”). As a comprehensive collection of statistics on the social, political, and economic conditions of the United States, it is a snapshot of America and its people for the current year.

 

ProQuest Statistical Insight logoStatistical Insight provides abstracting, indexing, and full text for publications from hundreds of public domain and licensed sources. Institutions can subscribe to the entire collection or to selected modules: Federal statistical publications. 5,000 titles/year. Coverage from 1973; full text from 2004. State government and business statistical reports. 2,200 titles/year. Coverage from 1980; full text from 2007. International statistical publications from the UN, OECD, EU, etc. 2,500 titles/year. Coverage from 1980. Full text from 2007.

Historical Statistics

 

General, all subjects

ProQuest Statistical Insight logoStatistical Insight provides abstracting, indexing, and full text for publications from hundreds of public domain and licensed sources. Institutions can subscribe to the entire collection or to selected modules: Federal statistical publications. 5,000 titles/year. Coverage from 1973; full text from 2004. State government and business statistical reports. 2,200 titles/year. Coverage from 1980; full text from 2007. International statistical publications from the UN, OECD, EU, etc. 2,500 titles/year. Coverage from 1980. Full text from 2007.
 
Statistical Abstract of the United States  Prior editions of this statistical bible, published annually by the US Department of Commerce between 1878 and 2012, are also available in PDF from the US Census Bureau. Many volumes are also available as searchable files at HathiTrust. BPL also has print copies of every edition for in-library use.  

Census and Population, Economy

 
Historical Boston population dataSome data by neighborhood, mainly population census data from 1930 to 1990,  
 
Historical Census Browser (University of Virginia): Covers 1790 through 1960 decennial censuses; examines state and county data by topic within a census year or across multiple years. Data cannot be downloaded.
 
Historical Statistics of the United States: Colonial Times to 1970 is a two-volume set, also published by the US Census Bureau. A print copy is also available in the Research Services Department.
 

Historical Statistics of the United States: Earliest Times to the Present is a 5-volume print set published in 2006 by Cambridge University Press. It is available in the Social Sciences Department. 

Economic Report of the President (1947 to the present at FRASER, the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis website. Reviews the nation's economic progress using text and extensive data appendices). 

FRASER, maintained by the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis, includes a wealth of historical economic data and time series from many sources. You can browse by title, topic, or theme, date, and author. 

Statistics of Income, 1916-2006BPL has digitized ninety years' worth of Internal Revenue Service data on income of individuals, businesses, and corporations.


Social Conditions

Vital Statistics of the United States (1890-2003): Browse annual editions issued between 1890 and 2003 here. Presents data on natality, life expectancy, mortality, marriage, and divorce.

Federal Immigration Statistics: View selected editions published between 1910 and 1997.

Crime in the United States (also called Uniform Crime Reports): See all editions, 1930 through 1995 here

Statistics by Subject

Links listed below go to federal agencies' portal pages to frequently requested statistics. For state and city of Boston data, go to the State and Local Data tab on this page. For statistical yearbooks and other compendia by subject, go to the Key Titles tab.

Census, Population, Demographic

Finding Census data, both current and historical, can be overwhelming. It can be helpful to understand the geographic concepts the Census Bureau uses in collecting and organizing its data. If you are doing historical research, it is also helpful to know what types of data has been collected over the years, beginning with the nation's first census, conducted in 1790. 

  • Census Bureau Questionnaires site provides the questions asked in each the decennial census questionnaires, 1790 to 2010. An examination of the questions asked during each census illustrates changes in our nation's understanding of race, immigration, housing, work, technology, and other societal issues.
  • Geographic Terms and Concepts provides definitions of geographic terms and concepts as well as a description of the different methods used to present information for geographic entities in U.S. Census Bureau data products.

Below are helpful sites, from the Census Bureau and other sources, to help you find relevant data:

  • A Handsome Atlas shows off colorful and imaginative visualizations from the 1870-1890 federal censuses. Definitely the most stunning site to feature census data!
  • American Factfinder is a gateway and navigation tool to thousands of datasets collected and published by the Bureau of the Census. It is recommended to review ‚ÄčUsing American Factfinder, as well as check the list of datasets before you begin your search.
  • American Community Survey is an ongoing survey that provides data every year — giving communities the current information they need to plan investments and services. Data is collected on such topics as age, race, sex, income and benefits, health insurance, and journey to work.
  • Census Atlas of the United States provides the complete content, in PDF format, of the Atlas, a large-format publication about 300 pages long and containing almost 800 maps. Data from decennial censuses prior to 2000 support nearly 150 maps and figures, providing context and an historical perspective for many of the topics presented.
  • Census of Population and Housing links to digital data arranged by decennial census, 1790 through 2010, with some special reports on non-population topics (i.e., business). All documents are PDF. 
  • Historical Census Browser (University of Virginia): Search for data by topic on the population and economy of the US, states, and counties, using data from the 1790 through 1960 censuses. Data can be collected in the form of tables or maps, for one census or across several censuses.
  • National Historical Geographic Information System provides free online access to summary statistics and GIS boundary files for U.S. censuses and other nationwide surveys from 1790 through the present. Most NHGIS data files cover all areas in the United States. Data files for census blocks and block groups are available for individual states.
  • StatsAmerica  is a service of the Indiana Business Research Center (IBRC) at Indiana University's Kelley School of Business, which is ranked among the nation's top business schools. The website focuses on state, metro area, county, and regional data for the US and contains items from hundreds of data sets from dozens of federal and state sources, along with some commercial or private source data.

 

Compendia

Boston population data

Crime Statistics

Find additional links to Boston and Massachusetts crime data under the State and Local Data tab in this guide. 

The FBI's Uniform Crime Reports have been published annually since 1930. Early volumes include articles. Crime Statistics are provided, along with caveats on the data. The title changed in 1984 to Crime in the United States, though the publication is still known by its previous name.1930 through 1994 have been digitized by the BPL — links will take you to the publication at the Internet Archive. 1995 through the present have been digitized at the FBI's website

Immigration Statistics

The Boston Public Library has in its collections federally collected immigration statistics. The volumes were published under different titles.  The following have been digitized.

Annual Report of the Commissioner-General of Immigration (catalog entry)

Annual Report of the Immigration and Naturalization Service (catalog entry)

Statistical Yearbook of the Immigration and Naturalization Service (catalog entry)

Reports after 1997 are available at the Department of Homeland Security website.

Key Titles

Agriculture

Crime and Criminal Justice

Economy (including business and commerce, labor and employment, banking, transportation)

Education 

Health and Vital Statistics

Foreign and International 

  • World Factbook contains data on foreign nations, including population, national defense, transportation, economy.

Immigration

State and Local Data

Listed here are selected statistical sources for Massachusetts and Boston. See the Statistics by Subjects and Key Titles tabs for links to federally produced data.

Crime and Criminal Justice

Economy, labor and employment, transportation

  • Federal Reserve Bank of Boston
  • Massachusetts State Data Center produces quarterly and annual data on the state's economy. 
  • MassBenchmarks provides high-level economic and public policy research in research reports and through the MassBenchmarks quarterly journal.
  • StatsCapeCod: Despite its name, this site provides users with compelling and current information about all towns in Massachusetts. Each category (except the overview) provides a comparison point to the U.S., Massachusetts, or the county of which the town is located – you can choose your level of comparison from the Select Comparison option. Toggling through the five categories also gives the user a fast perspective on the size, growth, and characteristics of the people, workforce, housing and industrial base of the town.
  • UMass Donahue Institute researches and publishes reports on a variety of economic and public policy issues. Reports 1997 to present are available on its website. You must browse reports by publication year as keyword searching to locate reports is not available.

Education

Environment

General

Government

Health

Social, demographic, population data (see also the Census tab on this guide)

Voting and Elections

Statistics of Income, 1916-2006

The Internal Revenue Service Statistics of Income Program began with the passing of the Revenue Act in 1916. The purpose was to publish statistics related the operations of the internal revenue laws.

Between 1916 and 1953, the reports were of all aspects of income tax. In 1954, the reports were split into categories: individual income tax returns, corporation income tax returns, estate income tax returns, and fiduciary income tax returns. Beginning in the 1990s, the IRS has spreadsheets of some of the data from the reports.

Statistics of Income (1916-1953)

Post-1953 reports: Individual Returns | Preliminary Business Returns | Corporation Returns

Statistics of Income - 1916 to 1953

Individual Income Tax Returns

Preliminary Business Tax Returns

Corporation Income Tax Returns