Making The Most of 2017 ACS 5 Year Data

Greetings Colleagues,

I have been trying to find a time efficient way of sourcing census data for all block groups in a State. The AFF site only allows this for one county at a time. Data Ferrett looks like it is no longer maintained. Whether or not that is true, our network security will not allow the use of Java to enable that site's functionality. PUMS appears to not offer the option we need.

I imagine someone might now suggest I use the Summary files to create what we need. Although I am of intermediate level in Excel and GIS, I find the instructions to do so obscure and incomplete.

What is the best way to achieve assembly of census data for all block groups in a State, particularly the relatively simple data set of total population and total households (occupied  housing units)?

Should be simple, no? This data need does not seem like it should rise to the level of a special data request.


Thank You,


  • If you know any R, you could use the tidycensus package to do this:  I wrote up some examples for how to pull all block groups and other geographies on my blog:

  • IPUMS NHGIS ( supplies all 5-year ACS Summary File data at all levels for the entire nation. For block group tables, you can get data files for the entire nation or whole states. The site is free to use.
  • we have all the ACS summary files for Arizona on our SQL server and in MS Access for those who find that easier to use. However, I also use NHGIS often to get at Census data - so a second vote for that! Especially if you're familiar with writing queries or programming.

    @Matt - that's an awesome resource! I'm just now jumping into R so wanted to say thank you for posting the link to your blog.