How does a beginner with just a browser and a spreadsheet keep from drowning in oceans of census data? One way is American FactFinder, the Census Bureau’s data dissemination site. After a long, clumsy development stage, it has steadily improved. It offers so much -- and several ways of finding it -- that it takes a little work to learn the navigation. But it’s now pretty simple to drill down to a small area, extract just a little data and download or print it.
Here’s a step-by-step guide to getting just one county worth of neighborhood-level data on one subject, a typical task for many newsrooms. The example uses Census 2000 public and private school enrollment for Bucks County, Pa., but you can adapt as needed: