Obtaining Data


  1. Contemporary Census Data (i.e., 1990-present)
  2. Historical Census Data
  3. DEM, EPA, etc.

Contemporary Census Data

Instructions: Learn a bit about the surveys available and then about the items/tables they contain.

Decennial Census
American Community Survey

Quick Example

Go to the ACS page on American Factfinder.

Stop, Look, and Answer: When was the data posted?

Click on "2012 ACS 1-year estimates are available in American FactFinder."

Topic > People > Income & Earnings > Income/Earnings (Individuals)

Under Geographies select All US Counties.

In the table selection choose DP03 SELECTED ECONOMIC CHARACTERISTICS. Click on the link and examine the metadata and description.

Stop, Look, and Answer: About what percentage of children did not have health insurance in 2012?

Next we'll download some of the data, but first we'll select just some of the variables to keep things simpler. Click on "Modify Table" …


… and then select just one group of variables ….


Census Data

  1. Go to census.gov and under the data tab select American Factfinder
    • Decennial Census more » | get data »
    • Geographies > Census Tract > California > Alameda County > All census tracts
    • Page 2 and back to page 1.

Stop and Think Study the numbers in this summary table. Think about how many different levels of aggregation are presented.


Fill in the table below

Alameda County 2010
Category Population Percentage
One Race
Two Races
Three or More Races

How many two-race combinations are reported for Alameda County in 2010?

Download the file and unzip it. First things first, read the read.me file

Historical Census Data


The 1940 census is online (the actual tabulation forms used by enumerators). We'll locate the sheets for Mills and surrounding areas and create a crowd-sourced data file based on them.

Start with search option one ("Do you know the location where the person lived?") and look for California/Alameda/Oakland. When the page comes up, click on the map link. Note that Oakland comprises enumeration districts ED 61-1 to ED 61-296.


But there's an easier way to zoom in on Mills. We'll just enter it as the street name


Toxic Release Data

Go to TRI Search Page. Look for releases of "methanol" in Alameda County.
Download the csv file.
Import into QGIS. Map the points.


Go to EPA's Cleanup Sites Search Engine. Look for brownfields in Alameda County. Download the csv. Use Batch Geocode if no long/lat, save as CSV, import and map.

Elevation Maps

Read about DEMs.
Check out the The National Map Viewer and Download Platform
Alameda County elevation data here

File nameFile typeSize
counties.zipZip archive data897.49 kBInfo
HeinzSchool_ImportingSpatialAttributeData.pptxNo description5.41 MBInfo