I don’t have Esri ArcGIS, can I still map NHGIS data?
There are several options for those who do not have access to Esri ArcGIS. A number of open source GIS programs are available, including GRASS and QGIS. In addition, the Social Explorer website allows online mapping of select NHGIS data. Another option for many students is a free student ArcGIS license, which can often be obtained through college GIS or Geography departments for class purposes, or by purchasing select books from the Esri Press. Student licenses vary in length, but are typically 6 or 12 months.