Block-level land area variable?

Trying to download data on LAND AREA at the block-level in 2010. (I ultimately want to calculate population density, but there isn’t a variable for that. Correct? I’m assuming I’ll need to use this land area variable and the variable for the total population counts to calculate this on my end.)

Thanks so much for your help!

Correct, the Census did not include population density in 2010 data, and we have no plans to add that to NHGIS tables. At this time, there’s also no land area data in NHGIS tables for 2010, but the Census did include land areas in the original 2010 summary files, and we have plans to add that in soon, most likely this fall and possibly within a few weeks. In the meantime, you could also get total area values from NHGIS GIS files (e.g., 2010 block boundaries), which at least exclude coastal water areas.

Perfect! Quick follow up –

  1. Could you direct me to the NHGIS GIS file for the total area values in 2010 block boundaries that you mentioned? I’m having trouble locating it.

  2. Is there anything similar available in 2000 or 2020? If so, could you direct me to those files as well?

The 2010 and 2020 census block shapefiles available from NHGIS have ALAND10/ALAND20 and AWATER10/AWATER20 attributes that report the land area and water area (in square meters) for each block in the shapefile. You can use these fields from the shapefiles to calculate a population density based solely on land area.

To find the shapefiles, do the following:

  1. Go to the IPUMS NHGIS data finder
  2. Open the GEOGRAPHIC LEVELS filter
  3. Click the green plus icon next to Block (by State-County-Census tract)
  4. Click SUBMIT to apply the filter
  5. Open the YEARS filter
  6. Click the checkbox next to 2010
  7. Click SUBMIT to apply the filter
  8. In the SELECT DATA grid at the bottom of the page, click the tab that says “104 GIS Files”. You’ll see a list of all census block shapefiles for 2010. Please note that you can get the 2010 vintage census blocks from the 2010 TIGER/Line basis or the 2020 TIGER/Line basis. You’ll have to decide which you want to use.
  9. Click the green plus icons next to the states you’re interested in.
  10. Finish your extract request using the CONTINUE button in the Data Cart (upper right hand corner of website).

To obtain 2000 and/or 2020 census block shapefiles, repeat the above steps but change the year filter as needed.

We only provide census blocks by state, so you’ll have to download and process the states you need. A nationwide block shapefile is massive and not easy to process.

On Friday, October 28, 2022, we released wide-ranging updates to the context fields for NHGIS data tables, including the addition of land area for blocks in 1980, 1990, 2000 & 2010. (The 2020 block data already included land areas.)

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Thank you for the update! Much appreciated.