Esri Data Resource Center

The Census 2010 release from the Census Bureau includes not only updated demographic data but also updated geographic boundaries.

Change is inevitable with any geographic area. Statistical areas, like block groups and census tracts, are defined by the Census Bureau to collect and report data. These areas change every ten years, with each new census.

Political areas like cities or townships change whenever local governments elect to revise their boundaries. Larger political areas like counties change less often than places, but boundary revisions are not uncommon. ZIP Codes, which are defined solely to expedite mail delivery, can change monthly or whenever the U.S. Postal Service sees fit to revise delivery routes. Metropolitan areas are usually revised annually, although the Office of Management and Budget overhauls the definitions decennially, with data from the census.

Even if boundaries do not change, the Census Bureau can renumber geographic codes for areas. It is essential users be cognizant of geographic differences between 2000 and 2010 when analyzing trends.

Census 2010 Geographies and Changes

A census block is a component of a block group, identified by a four-digit code. Blocks are small in area, in general, especially in cities. However, blocks in rural or remote areas may cover hundreds of square miles. A block code that starts with a zero indicates a water-only block. There are 11,078,297 blocks in Census 2010 geography, as opposed to 8.2 million in Census 2000.

Block Groups (BGs)
A block group is a collection of one or more blocks and a statistical division of a census tract, identified by a one-digit code. Block groups do not cross census tract, county, or state boundaries. In general, a block group is comprised of 600 to 3,000 residents. A zero block group code indicates a water-only BG. Boundary changes and code restructuring are reflected in the Census 2010 release. There are 217,740 block groups in Census 2010 geography.

Census tracts
Census tracts are small statistical subdivisions of a county, with 1,200 to 8,000 residents typically. The boundaries are usually delineated by local committees, and do not cross county or state lines. Tracts are identified by a six-digit code, with an implied decimal between the fourth and fifth digit. Boundary changes and code restructuring are reflected in the Census 2010 release. There are 73,057 tracts in Census 2010 geography.

Counties are the primary legal divisions of a state, identified by a two-digit state FIPS code and a three-digit county FIPS code. Boundary changes, as well as code and name changes, occurred in Alaska. Specifically, 3 codes were dropped and 5 new codes and names were added. There was also a slight change to a county name in Illinois and New Mexico. There are 3,143 counties in Census 2010 geography.

County Subdivisions (CSDs)
County subdivisions are the primary divisions of counties, and include census county divisions (CCDs), minor civil divisions (MCDs), census subareas, and unorganized territories. CCDs exist in 20 states, MCDs are in 29 states, census subareas exist only in Alaska, and unorganized territories are in 9 states. CSDs can be uniquely identified using a two-digit state FIPS code, three-digit county FIPS code, and five-digit CSD FIPS code. Boundary changes, as well as code and name changes, are reflected in the Census 2010 release. There are 35,703 county subdivisions in Census 2010 geography.

Places (Cities and Towns)
Places include incorporated places (usually cities, towns, villages or boroughs), census designated places, and balance portions of consolidated cities. Places are uniquely identified using a two-digit state FIPS code and five-digit place FIPS code. Boundary changes, as well as code and name changes, are reflected in the Census 2010 release. There are 29,261 places in Census 2010 geography, compared to 25,150 in Census 2000.

Core Based Statistical Areas (CBSAs)
Core Based Statistical Areas, which include metropolitan and micropolitan statistical areas, are comprised of one or more counties and are defined by the U.S. Office of Management and Budget (OMB). A metropolitan statistical area is affiliated with at least one urbanized area of 50,000 or more inhabitants. A micropolitan statistical area is associated with at least one urban cluster of at least 10,000 people, but less than 50,000. There were no boundary, code or name changes made to CBSAs since the last release. The total number of CBSAs stands at 942, each identified by a five-digit code.

Designated Market Areas (DMAs)
Designated Market Areas are television markets defined by The Nielsen Company, revised on an annual basis. The current vintage is the 2010-2011 DMA definitions. The majority of DMAs are comprised of one or more whole counties, although a few include parts of counties. Boundary changes, but no name or code changes, are reflected in this release. There are 210 DMAs, each identified by a three-digit code.

Congressional Districts (CDs)
Congressional districts are the areas from which individuals are elected to the U.S. House of Representatives, currently the 112th Congress. Once the apportionment of congressional seats is made based on census population counts within a state, then each state will establish CDs to elect representatives. A congressional district is uniquely identified using a two-digit state FIPS code and two-digit CD FIPS code. There are 436 CDs in this release.

Residential ZIP Codes
Created by the U.S. Postal Service to deliver the mail, ZIP Codes do not represent standard census geographic areas for data reporting. Because ZIP Code boundaries are not contiguous with census geographic areas or stable over time, data estimated for ZIP Codes are also subject to change. Residential ZIP Code data are estimated from block group data, using a correspondence file created by assigning Census 2010 block points to ZIP Code boundaries from Navteq. The vintage of the ZIP Code boundaries is December 2010. The total number of residential ZIP Codes in this release is 31,890.


How does the 2010 Geography release affect running reports?

The following reports are available in 2010 geography: the Census 2010 Summary Profile, Demographic and Income Profile, Demographic and Income Comparison Profile, Market Profile, Community Profile, Age by Sex Profile, Age by Sex by Race Profile, Age 50+ Profile, Detailed Age Profile, Housing Profile, Household Income Profile, Disposable Income Profile, Net Worth Profile, Executive Summary, Graphic Profile, Tapestry Segmentation Area Profile, Dominant Tapestry Map, all seven Consumer Spending reports, and all seven Market Potential reports.

You can run these reports for standard geographies, such as counties, tracts and block groups, and non-standard geographies, such as rings, drive times, uploaded shapefiles and hand-drawn areas. These reports are based on 2010 geography with some exceptions. The exceptions include CBSAs which are current as of November 2012, DMAs which are the 2011-2012 markets defined by The Nielsen Company, and ZIP Codes which reflect the USPS's Q4 2011 inventory. Congressional District data represents the 112th Congress. The following reports are currently only available in 2000 based geography: ACS Population Summary, ACS Housing Summary, 1990-2000 Comparison Profile, Census 2000 Detailed Race Profile, Census 2000 Summary Profile, and the Retail MarketPlace Profile.

When creating a standard geography trade area, you can toggle between creating an area based on 2000 geography or Census 2010 geography. There are, however, several possible issues with using Census 2010 data and geography that need to be considered:

  • If you have a standard geography area that was created based on 2000 geography you will still likely be able to run one of the above mentioned reports in 2010 based geography for this area. For example, if you have saved a standard geography area for San Diego County (06073), you will be able to run all reports for this area. This county is present in the 2000 and 2010 Census so you can run reports based on both geography vintages.
  • If you are running one of the above mentioned reports for a standard geography area created with 2000 geography, the area must still be present in the 2010 Census. For example, if you try and run a Census 2010 Summary Profile for Wrangell-Petersburg Census Area (02280) in Alaska, you will receive a warning error that you cannot run this report for this area. This Census 2000 based county is no longer present in the 2010 Census based geography.
  • Take caution when toggling between 2000 and 2010, as boundaries that exist in both vintages may have changed. You will be able to run all reports, including the above mentioned reports, for standard geographies that exist in both rosters. However, the only reports that will provide data for the 2010 boundaries are the reports listed above that are currently available for 2010 based geography. All other reports will be based on 2000 geography, regardless of whether the 2000 or 2010 geography is toggled. For example, the Dothan, Alabama DMA (606) exists in both the 2000 and 2010 Census rosters. However, the boundary has been updated in the 2010 geography roster to include one additional county. If you are using 2000 based geography, you will be able to run all reports for this DMA with the exception of the above mentioned reports. If you are using 2010 geography, you will still be able to run all reports. The above mentioned reports in this case will be based on 2010 geography and all other reports will be based on the older DMA definition.
  • You will receive a warning error if you try to run a report that is based on the 2000 geography if you are using a 2010 Census based area. For example, if you try to run the ACS Population Summary for Block Group 120939101.011, you will receive a warning message that this is not possible. This Block Group is new for the 2010 Census and is not available in the 2000 based geography.