Some examples of excellent data sources from federal agencies with data available at small geographies (i.e., county level, city, census track, or ZIP code) include:

  • The U.S. Census Bureau is the leading source of quality data about the nation’s people and economy. It provides data from the Population and Housing Census, Economic Census, Census of Governments, American Community Survey, and many other demographic and economic surveys.
    • The Census Bureau runs the American FactFinder, which is the main way to access census data. The website also includes training on how to use this powerful tool to access and download tens of thousands of data tables.
  • From ecosystem vulnerability to food security to higher education to housing affordability, contains 14 topic areas, each with many links to data sources of interest. provides descriptions of the Federal data sets, information about how to access the data sets, and tools that leverage government data sets.
  • The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) provide multiple data hubs:
    • The Data and Statistics page includes numerous tools grouped by topic that provide access to credible, reliable health data and statistics. Note that these data are often available at the state or national level, but can be harder to find at smaller geographies.
    • CDC WONDER is short for Wide-ranging OnLine Data for Epidemiologic Research. It offers public-use data sets about mortality, natality and the incidence and rates of many diseases and illnesses as well as other topics .
    • Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance System (YRBSS) monitors six types of health-risk behaviors that contribute to the leading causes of death and disability among youth and adults.
  • The Health Resources and Administration (HRSA) Data Warehouse provides a single point of access to resources, and demographic data for reporting on HRSA activities with focuses on uninsured, underserved, and special needs populations.
  • The Bureau of Justice Statistics publishes data on crime, criminal offenders, victims of crime, and the operation of justice systems at all levels of government.
  • The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), through their Local Area Unemployment Statistics publishes data on the labor force size, unemployment rate, and number of individuals employed/unemployed for most states, counties, and cities.
  • The Home Mortgage Disclosure Act (HMDA) offers access to lending institutions public loan data.
  • The National Center for Educational Statistics (NCES) is the primary federal entity for collecting and analyzing data related to education.
  • The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Food Environment Atlas provides a spatial overview of food environment factors, such as store/restaurant proximity, food prices, food and nutrition assistance programs, and community characteristics.
  • The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency offers data on drinking water.
  • The Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) releases annual reports on the homeless populations in county and state geographies.
  • HUD USER provides access to the American Housing Survey, HUD median family income limits, as well as microdata from research initiatives on topics such as housing discrimination, the HUD-insured multifamily housing stock, and the public housing population.

In addition to those federal resources, a number of interest groups offer free data access to specialized databases:

  • Community Commons offers community-level data and maps on various topics related to equity, the economy, education, food health and the environment.
  • Kids Count Data Center is an expansive source of data on children and families.
  • The annual County Health Rankings measure vital health factors, including high school graduation rates, obesity, smoking, unemployment, access to healthy foods, the quality of air and water, income inequality, and teen births in nearly every county in America.
  • The National Association of Realtors (NAR) has a website for each state’s association of Realtors which will often publish reports on housing values and sometimes release the underlying data sets. Additionally, NAR lists median home price data available by metropolitan area.
  • Feeding America is the nation’s largest domestic hunger-relief organization. In addition their reports on food insecurity in particular populations (rural, children, elderly, etc.), there is an interactive tool for exploring data from Feeding America’s annual Map the Meal Gap project.
  • The Dartmouth Atlas of Health Care uses Medicare data to provide information and analysis about national, regional, and local markets, as well as hospitals and their affiliated physicians.
  • The National Equity Atlas offers an interactive tool for generating graphics at the state, regional, or city level around a number of diverse indicators. Data is split out by racial/ethnic groups to highlight equity issues.
  • The Hispanic Research Center offers several data tools related to children and family and economic indicators.

Finally, here are a few pages that actively compile data sources and may include links to more specialized data for your project or region or new sources that have emerged since the time of this publication.

  • Partners in Information Access for the Public Health Workforce is a collaboration of U.S. government agencies, public health organizations, and health sciences libraries which provides timely, convenient access to selected public health resources on the Internet. Their page includes links for databases in different states as well as the United States as a whole.
  • State of the Cities Data Systems (SOCDS) provides data for individual Metropolitan Areas, Central Cities, and Suburbs.
  • The Institute for Research on Poverty has compiled a list of websites, arranged by topic in alphabetical order, where data on topics ranging from WIC and TANF to health and child wellbeing may be accessed.