I may be missing something here, but it seems like getting usable US Census data into a shapefile or feature class is much harder than it used to be. Downloading the Tiger block group shapefiles is no problem, but getting and joining the data is. It used to be you could just drill down to the table and area you wanted, download, alter an ID field so you could join data, and you'd be done. Now it seems hideously complicated. As a result, I downloaded the Tiger gdb that the census says is

A limited set of TIGER/Line Shapefiles are available pre-joined with data in geodatabase and shapefile format.

Ok, block groups are there, along with a variety of tables with various demographic data. They are not prejoined, but whatever, I can still join them by ID. But the field names in the tables are some kind of census code, e.g. B01001e2.

There is a table that gives a description of what these mean, but how do I translate that into field names for the other tables?

There are relationship classes for the tables, but they don't appear to be actually set.

1 Answer 1


I happen to know of corresponding tables that explain the field names and their demographic meaning. After researching your question, I must agree that they could have done better to outline each field's meaning on the page you linked to. See if these tables are useful for you for the 2012 5YR SF data, and the 2011 5YR SF data. If you concatenate the field "Table ID", the letter 'e', and the "Line" field it should give you the meaning for each field in the block group data.

One thing in particular I like about this file is that it is less cluttered than other files because the universe of each field is implied by indentations. I hope this was helpful.

  • Thanks @Kotebiya, very helpful. The gdb downloaded at the referenced link above does include a table BG_METADATA_2012 that that has the obscure field names in one column with matching descriptions in another. My problem is how to get the descriptions into a row in the demographic data tables. It's some kind of transposition problem. I may have to take the tables out of the database and work on them, then add them back. We don't have Excel, only Libre Office, so am more limited with number of columns.
    – recurvata
    Dec 2, 2014 at 20:47
  • I would still think it'd be highly useful to keep the tables I've linked to handy, they are a great resource for a quick look-up of variable meanings for Summary File statistics.
    – Kotebiya
    Dec 12, 2014 at 18:29

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