Frequently Asked Questions

Data on this site come from multiple sources including the US Census Bureau, the RI Department of Health, RI State Police and Broadband RI. Detailed public school indicators are expected to be added in the near future from the RI Department of Education.

We are actively pursuing new data partnerships and will add additional datasets as they become available.


The U.S. Census is mandated by Article I, Section 2 of the Constitution to count every resident in the United States. The data collected by the decennial (every 10 years) census determines the number of seats each state has in the U.S. House of Representatives and is also used to distribute billions of dollars in federal funds.

For decades, the Census Bureau used two primary questionnaires to collect decennial information: the short form (SF1) and the long form (SF3). The short form was used to collect basic demographic information. The long form collected basic information as well as additional socio-economic data including income, education, employment, etc.

The short form census remains and is mailed to all households every 10 years. However, the 2000 Census was the last decennial census to include the long form. The decennial long form was replaced by the American Community Survey (ACS).

The ACS is a random survey of the population conducted continuously throughout the year. Although many of the Census 2000 long form questions are available on the ACS, they are not necessarily the same as Census 2000 long form data. Some ACS items are comparable to those from the Census 2000 long form, some are not. Users should refer to the Census Bureau guidelines for Comparing ACS Data.

The ACS is available for 3 different time categories that represent different levels of geography: 1-year (areas above 65k population), 3-year (areas above 20k population), and 5-year (tract and block group). The 5-year ACS estimates are the data that replicate SF3; census tract and (some) block group level data are available.

For more information on the U.S. Census see the section Background on Census Data on our About page.


Census tracts are small statistical subdivisions of a county delineated by a local committee of census data users for the purpose of presenting data. Tracts nest within counties, and their boundaries normally follow visible features, but may follow legal geography boundaries and other non-visible features in some instances. Census tracts ideally contain about 4,000 people and 1,600 housing units, but can have a population size between 1,200 and 8,000 people. Tract boundaries are delineated with the intention of being maintained over time so that statistical comparisons can be made from census to census. Tracts are occasionally split due to population growth or merged as a result of substantial population decline.


Block Groups (BGs) are statistical divisions of census tracts, generally defined to contain between 600 and 3,000 people and 240 and 1,200 housing units. BGs are used to present data and control block numbering. A BG consists of clusters of blocks within the same census tract. BGs are the smallest geographic unit for which the Census Bureau tabulates sample data (SF3 and ACS).


The American Community Survey (ACS) is a mandatory, ongoing statistical survey that samples a small percentage of the population every year. ACS questionnaires are mailed out each month to a sample of residences. The monthly survey data are then combined to represent the characteristics of a population over periods of 1, 3, or 5 years. The ACS includes additional questions that the decennial census does not survey about socio-economic and housing characteristics including family and relationships, income, health insurance, education, employment, and disabilities.

See the Background on Census Data on the About page for more information on the ACS.


In the left pane of the site is an Explore section. You can use the navigational dropdowns to select a county, municipality, Census tract, or block group.

If you do not know which geography your address or area of interest is located in you can search by address in the open form box below Find An Address. Once you select the correct address, the search results will display all available geographies for a given address.

Additional geographies such as neighborhoods and school districts will hopefully be added in the future.


Yes, next to each group of indicators you will find a Download button. This can be used to download all of the indicators in a subdomain for your selected geography. If you would like to download all geographies of one indicator simply click the map button from the home page for an indicator and then use the Download All button above the table in the mapview page.

The data is downloaded in CSV (comma separated values) format. This file type can be opened in a spreadsheet program such as Microsoft Excel, Open Office Calc, and Google Docs.


Next to each indicator is an information icon . Click to see the indicator definition, universe, limitations, source, etc. If you need additional information or the definition of a particular term please consult the Census Bureau's complete glossary.


We always welcome feedback and suggestions for improvement. Please use the feedback form located on the right side of the page to make a request. Under the Topic dropdown select Data request and leave a description of the data you would like added to the site. While we cannot always accommodate requests due to time, funding, or data sharing agreements, we encourage submission of data requests since many of our indicators are driven by demand.