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Finding and Using GIS Data

The AGS Library's Guide to Finding GIS data and working with it for your specific project needs

American Fact Finder Tutorial

Downloading Data Tables from American Fact Finder

This is just one way to get data from the Census Bureau and one of many ways to download data from American Fact Finder.  If you want to download census data for use in GIS software, we strongly recommend the National Historic Geographic Information System (

This tutorial shows you the steps to download Median Household Income data from the 2015 American Community Survey 5-year estimates at the Census Tract geography for Milwaukee County, Wisconsin. Follow along or choose different data if you wish.

1.  Go to

2. Click "Download Center"

3. Choose "I know the dataset or table(s) that I want to download."  Click "Next"

4. Click the combo box for "Select a program" and choose "American Community Survey"

5. From the list, choose "2015 ACS 5-year estimates" and click "Add to your selections"

Notice how many options are available in the "Your Selections" box to the right.  We're going to add more filters.

6. Click "Next"

7. For "Select a geographic type" choose "Census Tract - 140", then Select "Wisconsin", Then "Milwaukee", then select "All Census Tracts within Wisconsin".  Click "Add to your selections."

Watch the tables filter down further

8. Search for "Median Household Income" and either select "B19013-Median Household Income in the past 12 months..." from the autofill drop down or click "GO" and check the box next to the same table in the list.

Watch as the number of tables in your selection filter down to a much more reasonable number.  Click "Next."

9. Look at the options available.  We will choose to "Include descriptive data element names" and click "OK."

10. Click "Download" and watch the progress.  For such a small extract it should go very quickly.

11.Click download.  A .zip archive will be downloaded to your downloads folder C:\users\<YOU>\Downloads.  Find it and unzip it (Right click > 7zip > Extract Here).

12. Open both excel files.

Take a look at the data structure.  The "Metadata" file tells you what the header codes mean.  Since we chose to include descriptive elements, the table containing the data actually has two header rows.  This is useful for analyzing the table in excel, but will quickly cause a problem when importing to ArcGIS or statistical software such as SPSS.  Notice the three "geo" columns.  You could use this to "join" the data to a TIGER shapefile, but if this is your plan, you are going to like using data from NHGIS a lot better.