Skip to Main Content

Interdisciplinary Studies 242: The Arts and Democracy

Research and Instruction Librarian for Music & Fine Arts

Profile Photo
Karen Olson
Christiansen Hall of Music 147 (Music Library)
& Rolvaag Library 306

Social Explorer

The easiest way to access historical census data is through Social Explorer. Social Explorer is a powerful mapping and demographic dataset resource.

Alt-Text for Social Explorer Slides

Title Slide: Finding Census Data with Social Explorer

(updated October 2021)

[Image: St Olaf Libraries & IT Logo]

Slide 1: Access Social Explorer

Click the Databases tab at the library home page,, to see the A-Z database list.

In the search box on the upper right, search for Social Explorer and click the "Go" button.

Click the Social Explorer hyperlink to enter the database.

Slide 2: Getting to Census Data in Social Explorer

Choose "Tables" from the menu on the left, then choose "U.S. Decennial Census" on the right.

Select the decade you want and click "Begin Report."

Slide 3: Setting Geographic Parameters

Use the drop-down menus to set your geographic parameters.

Use the "Add" and "Remove" buttons to build your list of places.

When your list is ready, click "Proceed To Tables."

Slide 4: Setting Demographic Parameters

Choose the demogrpahic parameters you want using the "Add" and "Remove" buttons.

Useful categories include "sex," "race," and "nativity" (birthplace.) Note that the T number assigned to the category will vary depending on which decade of the census you chose.

When your list is complete, click "Show Results."

Slide 5: Results Report

Your result report will looks something like this. [Image of a census result table, with the button to download an Excel spreadsheet marked.]

You can also download it as an Excel spreadsheet.

If you want to import the file to Google Sheets, use the Excel 2003 option, which converts more cleanly.

Slide 6: The Report in Google Sheets

Here's what an Excel 2003 export looks like in Google Sheets. [Image of the Google Sheet version of a Social Explorer Excel file. The headings and tabs have imported cleanly.]