As the real-time population clock on the U.S. Census Bureau home page illustrates, demographics change by the minute. Behind the dynamic facts and figures are people – people who are being born, aging, dying, marrying, divorcing, immigrating, moving, working, earning, and consuming goods or services. No demographic trend is isolated; each type of population shift – whether local, global, or somewhere in between – carries a potential social and/or economic impact.

What are the best sources for finding current, reliable demographic information? This installment of MuniNet Guide Top Picks highlights our selection of outstanding demographic resources.

The U.S. Census Bureau 

The U.S. Census Bureau, the official source of U.S. demographic information, is in a class of its own, the “royalty” of demographics. Population data is just the tip of the iceberg. The Census Bureau also collects and disseminates information about the economy, labor force, housing markets, and government at various intervals. The Census Bureau has several channels through which it distributes data, including its own website, the American FactFinder, and the American Community Survey.

The 2010 Census has its own dedicated website, which includes interactive maps, detailed state profiles, 2010 apportionment and redistricting data, and Census Briefs, which examine specific segments of the population.

Pew Social & Demographic Trends

Calling itself a “fact tank,” the Pew Research Center provides news, research, and analysis in seven areas, including Demographics. The Pew Social & Demographics Trends Project focuses on family, community, health, finance, work and leisure. Its reports and publications are based on a combination of public opinion survey research and social, economic, and demographic data analysis.

Unrivaled by others in its class for freshness, comprehensiveness, usability, and innovative presentation, the site features articles, charts and graphs, factoids, and downloadable datasets. This website is a shoe-in “favorite” for fans of demographics.

Population Reference Bureau

With a three-pronged mission to inform, empower, and advance policy, the Population Reference Bureau (PRB) is an international research and policy organization.

The DataFinder, PRB’s “hub for U.S. and international data,” is perhaps the centerpiece of its website. This powerful tool allows the user to select a geographic location (from an international region down to a U.S. town) and/or topic (teen pregnancy, literacy, life expectancy, for example) to see results in table, graph, or map form. Great for very specific research inquiries, the results are impressive. Example: We chose to explore the “Age Dependency Ratio,” which returned a state-by-state list of ratios (determined by dividing the combined under 18 years and 65 years and over by the 18-64 years population and multiplying by 100), along with a bar chart and color-coded map depicting the states that fall into various percentage categories. Wow!

The PRB’s “Distilled Demographics” video series examines several population concepts – in ten minutes or less. From population pyramids to population myths, these videos offer succinct, easy-to-understand mini-lessons in demographics.

Administration on Aging 

The Administration on Aging, created by the Older Americans Act, is a division of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, created by the Older Americans Act, focuses on elders, families, and caregivers. Its website includes many helpful practical resources and tips, as well as information about its many programs. In addition, its “Aging Statistics” section offers a comprehensive collection of data and forecasts about older adults. Examples include, “Projected Future Growth of the Older Population” (by state, age and gender), and “Statistical Profiles of Minority Aging.”

The National Center for Children in Poverty

The National Center for Children in Poverty is a public policy center founded as a division of the Mailman School of Public Health at Columbia University. Chock full of research, facts, and data about low-income children and families, the entire website is impressive, but certain features particularly stand out.

The 50 State Demographics Wizard can answer questions such as, “how many low-income children in a selected state live in families with no parent present?” or “what is the racial/ethnic breakdown of low-income children living in this state?” Another data tool, the Young Child Risk Calculator shows the percentage of children in a given state that experiencing certain risk factors (from low parental education to teen mother, for example) and/or economic hardship.