US Census API Makes Giant Data Dumps Optional

Adam DuVander
Jun. 07 2012, 09:36AM EDT

There's still government hoops to jump through, but the US Census is making much of its recent data available by the slice, rather than the whole pie. The US Census Bureau API provides access to 2010 Census data, including demographics, income and how many women in New York take public transportation to work (and that's excluding taxi cabs).

The government department has certainly moved on to advanced computer hardware since the photo above was taken in the 1950s. But it's been slow to embrace the new open data movement. In a way, it was far ahead of its time, providing data long before Data.gov aimed to open up goverment. However, one of the issues as a developer I've always had with government data is that it demands a hefty download and a lot of learning arcane methods for relating data.

This agency's first foray into API-land is not without obscure government codes. For example, California is state number 06, and each county has a unique code, too. For those who have been pouring over the data for years, it makes sense. For others, there's a learning curve.

And heck, for the first time we can get directly at US Census data for the tiny trickle of information we care about. And it's a REST and JSON API, even supporting JSONP. There's a lot here for a developer to like. Goodbye downloads, goodbye spreadsheets.

Adam DuVander Hi! I'm Developer Communications Director for SendGrid and former Executive Editor of ProgrammableWeb. I currently serve as a Contributing Editor. If you have API news, or are interested in writing for ProgrammableWeb, please contact editor@programmableweb.com Though I'm a fan of anything API-related, my particular interest is in mapping. I've published a how-to book, Map Scripting 101, to get anyone started making maps on websites. In a not-so-distant past life I wrote for Wired and Webmonkey.

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