So how many people in the U.S. have/do/are [blank]?

Down here in Government Publications, Maps and Law (GPML) we get a lot of who, what, when and where statistics questions. Some examples include "how many women-owned businesses are there in the United States?" Or, "How many babies were born in the last five years?" And, "how many households are cell-phone only?" All of these questions, and many more, can be answered by one reference publication - The Statistical Abstract of the United States.

The "Stat Abs, "as we librarians call it, has been published by the U.S. Census Bureau since 1878. Here in GPML we have all the editions from the very beginning either in print, microfilm or on CD-ROM. We keep them all on-site because this publication is so essential for finding historical statistics quickly. Through the link above you are able to access scanned PDF copies from 1878, but keep in mind that some proprietary information could not be reproduced in electronic format due to copyright issues. If you can't seem to find something in the online version, take a walk down to GPML on A Level, and venture into the U.S. Document stacks (the ones with the funny call numbers) and go to C3.134.

Incidentally, the  answers to the above questions are:

  • In 2002 (most current info available) there were 6,489,000 women-owned businesses (see Table 768).
  • In 2005 there were 4,138,000 births and in 2007 (most current) there were 4,316,000 births. And if you look at Table 78 you'll see that the birth rate has steadily risen during the time between.
  • As of 2008, 17.5% of American Households are wireless-only (see Table 1131).

If you need help finding or using the "Stat Abs" let one of us in GPML know. We're more than happy to help.

ADDENDUM: As of March, news was released that the Statistical Compendia Branch of the U.S. Census Bureau will be cut in 2012 due to budget constraints (see the full Census Bureau budget estimates). Many librarians are lobbying to save this publication so that teachers, students and the general public do not lose this wonderful tool (as well as a few others like the County and City Data Books).  I have already written Senator Mikulski. We can only hope that they will take the Branch off of the chopping block. Otherwise, it will be happy hunting through the many different government agency websites for hours on end trying to find the same information you could find in five minutes with tools like these.

About Jen Darragh

Jen, the Data Services and Sociology Librarian, is located in MSEL on A Level and is a part of the GIS and Data Services Unit.

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