Census and American Community Survey data using the R Statistical Programming Language

Toolbox Tuesday


Join us for this special “bootcamp” Toolbox Tuesday presented by Kevin Kane, Ph.D., Program Manager for Demographics and Growth Vision and Adjunct Professor at the USC Sol Price School of Public Policy. R has become the tool of choice for socioeconomic and scientific statistics and is a free, open-source software with thousands of packages and extensions that runs on PC, Mac or Linux. This session will help planners level-up from intermediate Excel data skills to using the R statistical programming language to handle and manipulate spatial data, including use of the Census Application Programming Interface (API).

Since APIs allow users to call data directly from its online source, Census data can be retrieved, processed, and output as tables, figures or even shapefiles in one step to increase accuracy and productivity. This bootcamp is oriented toward Census and American Community Survey data, commonly used by by local and regional planners for demographics, housing, transportation mode choice and employment. This session will cover:

  • Loading and configuring R on your computer (must complete in advance of session)*
  • Basic data skills in R
  • Descriptive statistics and figures
  • Working with multiple data sources
  • Tips and tricks for shapefiles and spatial data handling
  • Using the Census API to extract, analyze and map data through the command line

All course materials can be found here. Click the green “Code” button on the top-right to download the ZIP file and save it to your computer before the session.

* To load R on your computer, install the programming language. Next, install the Graphical User Interface – RStudio. The open-source edition of RStudio Desktop is all you will need. A step-by-step instruction guide can be found here. This tutorial is designed so participants can follow along and execute R commands on their own computers during the session. We recommend participants use a dual-monitor setup and install RStudio in advance to maximize the learning opportunity.

Toolbox Tuesdays provide training on a range of practical skills and knowledge for local planning practitioners including training in the use of technology and education for practical approaches to timely issues. All classes and webinars are COMPLIMENTARY for staff of SCAG-member local governments and other SCAG partners in Imperial, Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside, San Bernardino and Ventura Counties. Private sector planners, non-profit staff, academics and students are welcome to attend.


SCAG, in accordance with the Americans with Disabilities Act and Title VI of the Civil Rights Act, is committed to providing special accommodations and translation services to those who are interested in participating in the events. We ask that you provide your request for special accommodations or translation services at least 72 hours prior to the event so that SCAG has sufficient time to make arrangements. Please contact update@scag.ca.gov.