Glossary of Census Terms

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Glossary of Census Terms


Block Group 

The smallest unit at which Census sample data is reported. An average Block Group contains about one thousand people. There are up to nine Block Groups in a Census Tract.

Block Numbering Areas

See 'Census Tract and Block Numbering Areas'.



Acronym for Census County Division. It is created by the Census Bureau and local governments when adequate MCDs do not exist. They are statistical equivalents of MCDs.

Census Block

The smallest Census unit. In cities, a census block is equivalent to one city block. In less populated areas, a census lock is an area containing roughly 70 people. Census Blocks are numbered with a three-digit number. The first digit of this number represents the Block Group.

Census County Division

See 'CCD'.

Census Tract and Block Numbering Areas

A small subcounty area, usually containing about 4,000 people. Census tract boundaries are determined locally, following Census Bureau guidelines. State and Census Bureau officials set Block numbering area boundaries for portions of the state, usually rural counties, for which census tracts have not been established. At the time of designation, Census tracts are relatively homogeneous in terms of population characteristics. Census tract boundaries are relatively stable over time, the homogeneity, therefore can lessen. If a tract's population becomes too large, the tract may be divided. Alternately, if the population shrinks, tracts may be merged. Census tract boundaries do not cross County Lines. Each tract within a County has a four digit number. If a tract has divided, a two digit suffix is added to the tract number (example 11.20). Census tracts may cross political boundaries within a County. These tracts are referred to as Split Tracts. [(pt.) printed after a tract number in a city table, indicates that only data for the part of the tract within the city is included in the table.]

Consolidated Metropolitan Statistical Area (CMSA)

A CMSA is a Metropolitan Statistical Area with a population of one million or more persons that can be divided into Primary Metropolitan Statistical Areas. These PMSAs have strong economic and social ties with the nucleus and with each other.


Large governmental subdivision of a State. County equivalents (Parishes in Louisiana, for example) are considered the same as counties for Census purposes.



Acronym for Data Extraction System. It is very useful for extracting records and fields from very large data files.


The 9 Census Divisions are New England, Middle Atlantic, South Atlantic, East South Central, West South Central, East North Central, West North Central, Mountain, and Pacific.


East North Central States 

Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Michigan, and Wisconsin.

East South Central States

Kentucky, Tennessee, Alabama, and Mississippi.


A general purpose data display and extraction tool that works with Census Bureau CD-ROMs recorded in dBASE format.



Acronym for Federal Information Processing Standards. FIPS codes are the standard geographic coding scheme used by federal government to uniquely identify geographic entities.



Acronym for Integrated Public Use Microdata Series. IPUMS are 25 high-precision samples of the American Population drawn from the thirteen Censuses, compiled by the University of Minnesota.



Acronym for Minor Civil Division, which refers to an unincorporated county subdivision (usually a township). MCD function and authority vary from state to state. In Ohio, if a Place is subordinate to a MCD, the Place name will be indented under the MCD in county subdivision tables. If a Place is autonomous, its name will not be indented.

Metropolitan Area (MA)

A Place (or group of Places) with a population of at least 50,000 people and surrounding counties with strong social and economic ties to the Place.

Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA)

An MSA is a Metropolitan Area with a population of one million or fewer persons.

Middle Atlantic States

New York, Pennsylvania, and New Jersey.

Minor Civil Division

See 'MCD'.

Mountain States

Montana, Idaho, Wyoming, Colorado, New Mexico, Arizona, Utah, and Nevada.



Acronym for North American Industry Classification System. The NAICS is a uniform classification scheme for industries in the U.S., Canada, and Mexico. It was adopted in 1997. In the U.S. the NAICS replaced the SIC.

New England States

Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and Connecticut.


Pacific States 

Washington, Oregon, California, Hawaii, and Alaska.


There are two types of Census Places, Incorporated Places and Census Designated Places. Incorporated Places include cities, towns, and villages, based on the laws of the state. Census designated Places are densely populated, non-incorporated Places that are locally identified by name. The Census Bureau designates these places at the request of the local government. County tables may have (pt.) printed after a Place name. This means that the Place crosses county lines and only data for the part of the Place in the specified county is included in the table.

Primary Metropolitan Statistical Area (PMSA)

See 'Consolidated Metropolitan Statistical Area'.


Acronym for Public Use Microdata Samples. PUMS contain records on individual responses to census questionnaires but no personal identification information.



There are 4 Census Regions, Northeast (New England and Mid Atlantic Divisions), South (South Atlantic, East South Central, and West South Central Divisions), Midwest (East North Central and West North Central Divisions), and West (Mountain and Pacific Divisions).


Rural refers to all territory, population and Housing Units not classified as Urban.



SESTAT stands for scientists and engineers statistics. SESTAT is a comprehensive database on employment, educational and demographic characteristics of scientists and engineers in the U.S.


Acronym for Standard Industrial Classification. The SIC was developed in the 1930s to promote uniformity and comparability of data published by various U.S. government agencies, businesses and other organizations. The SIC has been replaced by the NAICS.

South Atlantic States

Delaware, Maryland, District of Columbia, Virginia, West Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, and Florida.


The 50 United States, and statistical equivalents -- the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, American Samoa, Guam, Northern Mariana Islands, Palau, and U.S. Virgin Islands. The last five are also referred to as Outlying Areas.


Acronym for Summary Tape Files. Different STFs contain different data, from either the short form or the long form of the census questionnaire. For instance, STF1A contains the summarized results from the Census short form given to 100% of the US households, while STF3A is the results from the long form given to 16% of the US households. In 1990, there were about 350 demographics for STF1, and 1,200 demographics for STF3.



Urban refers to all territory, population, and Housing Units in the Urbanized Area, plus those in Places of 2,500 or more persons outside of Urbanized Areas.

Urbanized Area

A Place and densely populated surrounding area with a total population of at least 50,000 people.


West North Central States 

Minnesota, Iowa, Missouri, North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska, and Kansas.

West South Central States

Arkansas, Louisiana, Oklahoma, and Texas.