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Python for Accessing Census Demographic Data Online

An introduction to the use of Python to query Census data through the API in order to faciliate easier access and use of Census data for analysis.



  • Describe the basic syntax and usage of Python 3 for data analysis
  • Introduce key packages for Python to perform data analysis, including pandas, requests, and the census
  • Introduce application programming interfaces (APIs) and their use in data analysis
  • Discuss the various products released by the US Census Bureau and how to use them in analysis, with particularly focus on the American Community Survey
  • Introduce the Census APIs and practice accessing ACS data via the API to perform simple analysis
  • Practice using the Census APIs to reproduce the affordability index methodology in Python
  • Discuss key needs for a Census API wrapper to support the work of the GovEx team
  • Provide key resources for setting up Python and learning data analysis in Python

Key Outcomes

  • You will be familiar with basic syntax, data structures, and commonly used packages for data analysis in Python 3
  • You will be familiar with application programming interfaces (APIs) and how to work with them using Python
  • You will be familiar with the Census API for accessing ACS data with Python
  • You will be familiar with key resources to help further your understanding of Python for data analysis


  • Getting started (10:00 - 10:50)
    • Python overview
    • Python 3 syntax
    • Key data structures in Python 3
    • Performing mathematical operations in Python
    • Introduction to packages in Python
    • Introduction to pandas package for data analysis
  • Morning break (10:50 - 11:00)
  • API overview (11:00 - 12:00)
    • What is an API?
    • Accessing APIs in Python
    • API example (Socrata API)
    • Simple query of Census ACS API with requests package
    • Simple query of Census ACS API with census package
  • Lunch (with lecture)
  • Census overview and affordability index practical (12:00 - 12:50)
    • Overview of Census products
    • Background on ACS
    • Variable universes
    • Looking up variables and universes
    • Recreate affordability index
  • Afternoon break (12:50 - 1:00)
  • Practice and Wrap-up (1:00 - 2:00)
    • Continue with affordability recreation
    • Discussion on common metrics and necessary variables
    • Setting up Python 3 locally
    • Online resources
    • Questions and wrap-up