Reporting on Ethnic Communities: Data & Statistics

Main Data Guide

For a more comprehensive guide to data in journalism, see:

Data & Statistics for Journalists 
Need to find data on a specific topic, like health or education? Look in this Columbia Library guide to find a variety of data sources.

Common Census Variables

In Decennial & ACS datasets:

  • Population
  • Age
  • Gender
  • Race
  • Urban / Rural Population
  • Households
  • Family Relations
  • Housing Units
  • Home Occupancy
  • Home Tenure

In ACS datasets:

  • Ethnicity
    • Ancestry
    • Nativity  (Place of Birth for the Foreign-Born)
  • Citizenship Status
  • Residence
  • Employment Status
  • Commuting
  • Industry and Occupation
  • Education
  • Income
  • Poverty
  • Rent or Mortgage
  • Home Value
  • Housing Characteristics

Other Data Sources

Having trouble finding data on your ethnic community through the census? Here are some additional sources you might try.

Associations Unlimited
This directory lists international and United States national, regional, state, and local nonprofit membership organizations.  Once you've identified an organization associated with an ethnic group (for instance, the Jewish Community Relations Council of New York), check their website for related data.

Pew Research Center
This nonpartisan think tank regularly produces reports on a variety of topics, including those that touch on ethnic communities. You can search theirlist of topics (including a section on ethnic media); there is also a separate section on the Hispanic Trends Project

US Census Bureau: Data & Surveys

The major source for demographic data in the United States is the U.S. Census Bureau. This government agency produces a several surveys; the two major ones are:

Decennial Census: What is generally called "the census" (or sometimes "Census of Population & Housing"). Survey of the entire U.S. population, performed once every 10 years (2010, 2000, 1990, etc. back to 1790). 

ACS (American Community Survey): A more detailed survey, performed more frequently than the Decennial Census (different areas on a rolling basis). If the decennial census data is too outdated or not detailed enough, you may use the ACS instead. See: Subjects included in the ACS

Other surveys produced by the Census Bureau include:

Accessing US Census Data

Once you know which survey data you need, you must then choose which source from which to get that data. 

Special Populations

The Aging

The NYC Department for the Aging has a couple of reports on the elderly population:

Counting Unauthorized Immigrants 

Here's a great article on this topic from Pew Research, who has a respected estimate on the undocumented population:
Unauthorized Immigrants: How Pew Research Counts Them and What We Know About Them

The Dept. of City Planning's Chapter 7 of Newest New Yorkers 2013 discusses the undercount of the undocumented and how they make estimates.  

Counting the Homeless 

NYC Department of Homeless Services
Provides statistics and reports on shelter populations.

Coalition for the Homeless
Authored the 2020 State of the Homeless Report.

HOPE (Homeless Outreach Population Estimate) NYC
Each year, this volunteers from this group count unsheltered people in parks, subways, and other public spaces. This is a helpful parallel to the shelter population statistics (above).