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Census Business Builder Basics

Census Business Builder Basics

The Census Bureau put together the Census Business Builder site to offer U.S. demographic and economic data for researchers exploring business issues.

To get help

From Pfau Library's home page:

The "Ask a Librarian" button opens a chat session with a librarian. (24/7)

The "Research Appointments" button opens a scheduler so that you can make an appointment to work with a librarian on your research.

Under "Contact Us" you can find today's in-person research assistance desk hours, you can use the phone number listed there to call the library for assistance while that desk is open.

Step 1: Place

The Census Bureau gathers data across the United States. Find the data you need by identifying the place you need to research. Are you interested in the number of people that fit your customer profile in the United States? In California? In San Bernardino County? In the City of San Bernardino? In a specific zip code? In your neighborhood? 

Not all data is available for every level of geography. One tip is to start exploring your question at the county level. After you've seen the possibilities, try your search for narrower geographies until the data peters out.

To begin, go to the Census Business Builder site :

In the "Search for Location" blank, type San Bernardino County. It will take you to the list of places, select San Bernardino County, California. (If you are interested in a different county, then search for that county instead.)

A Dashboard will open up with the basic data variables for the county you selected.




Customizing the Data Dashboard

At this point, you have opened the Census Business Builder site, you have searched for the geography of interest (right now you are at a county level) and you have brought up the basic data dashboard. It includes elements like home-ownership rate, median household income, high school graduates, etc.

Suppose you are interested in opening an upscale restaurant. First, you need to find your customers. Alter your data table's primary and secondary variables.

Under the "Establishments" menus, you can search for the customer demographics of interest. For Primary variable, I'm going to select "Average Weekly Wages" (Under Businesses (Quarterly)). For my secondary variable, I'm going to choose "Consumer Expenditures Per Household on Dining Out" (Under Consumer Spending).

If you close your data table, the map behind it is now color coded with the data. The Primary Variable is color coded, the secondary variable shows up as red dots on the map, the size of the dot indicates the data variable. Mouse-over the dots for explicit data.


To find information about the competition

Create an industry profile for your geography.

Begin by selecting your industry. You can use "Custom Industries" from the top banner.

For instance, one way to choose "restaurants" is to click the "Add Industry" button here:

Then, select Food Service, and then select Restaurants.

(You can also try just typing in your industry, or using the North American Industrial Classification number for your industry.)

Click the "Create Report" button in the lower left of your dashboard:

This report includes a wealth of data, including a Business Summary for your geography:

Moving to more focused geographies

So, now that you know the process. It's time to move to a more narrow geography. 

The Census of Population and Housing (and the American Community Survey) publish information at the county, city (place), zip code, and neighborhood levels. So you can find demographic information the fits your customer profile for those levels of geography. The business data in the Census Business Builder comes from the Economic Census, County Business Patterns, and the Nonemployer Statistics, and is only published on the county and city(place) levels to protect the privacy of individual companies.