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Aug 30, 2015 3:39 PM
Datapoint level/hierarchy in raw data downloads
Hi - Does anyone know if the Census has documentation that explains the hierarchy of data for ACS tables? I'm working with raw data and it doesn't include the indentions that the Census uses. I only see that the TableShells Excel file (attached) shows the hierarchy as formatted indentions.
I'm trying to create a system that will allow me to calculate a 3rd-level datapoint as a % of a 2nd-level datapoint. For example (chosen randomly), calculating the % of children under 6 living with 2 parents that are foreign-born for this table (screenshot attached).
Does this exist?
Thanks for any advice you have.
Aug 30, 2015 7:11 PM
I got a version of the table shells from the census website that has the indent info on the first tab (sheet1). is that what you're looking for?
[Updated on 8/30/2015 7:11 PM]
Aug 30, 2015 7:12 PM
sorry.. didn't look at the file you had uploaded.. I think it's probably the same thing. :)
Sep 1, 2015 9:47 AM
As best I can tell, the Census Bureau has no more formal metadata documentation for the ACS. For our CensusReporter.org project, we process that file and use the indents to quantify the "indents."
You can query our API to get our understanding of tables: for the one in your screen shot, you'd use this URL:
the response is JSON formatted. Some more documentation about our API in general is at
I would like to organize some more formal input to the Census Bureau about how we—the data user community, not just Census Reporter—would benefit from formal structured metadata, but I'll admit that I have not found the time to actually take steps towards it.
Maybe with the upcoming 2014 release, we'll be able to document some things more specifically.
Sep 2, 2015 4:35 PM
JamieRae and Joe - Thanks for your reply. I think we figured it out. We're creating the numeric hierarchy using a Visual Basic function that determines the level of indention on a cell. I'll keep you posted on our progress.
Sep 16, 2015 8:26 AM
Chris, we do pretty much the same thing as your solution. It's ridiculous that we have to count characters to determine indent levels -- how hard would it be for the Bureau to add a column with an indent level value?
Sep 16, 2015 4:35 PM
This file isn't even included in the latest ACS release. :-(
(update: it wasn't in the embargo files, but it turned up at
after the embargo was over)
[Updated on 9/17/2015 9:24 AM]