Statistical Abstract and Print Mashups in a Digital Age


Since 1878, the Statistical Abstract of the United States has been printed by the Government Printing Office on behalf of the Census Bureau.

The “Stat Abstract” is considered “the authoritative and comprehensive summary of statistics on the social, political, and economic organization of the United States,” and compiles data from multiple sources, including: the Census Bureau, Bureau of Labor Statistics, Bureau of Economic Analysis, and many other Federal agencies and private organizations. Each year, new tables and analyses are added to keep up with the issues and interests of the day.

As Jim Cameron mentioned in his February post about the 2011 edition,

“Family debt, manufacturing, national security, international statistics – there doesn’t seem to be anything that the Statistical Abstract doesn’t cover. At more than 1,000 pages, it’s an America watcher’s dream.”

This important publication has fulfilled a unique niche for over a century for students, educators, researchers and librarians throughout the country as the definitive source of US statistics. As one librarian put it, “The print edition is THE most used reference book in my collection.”

Why is having all this information in a single, compiled, cited, and referenced edition important to its users? Michael Fry, Senior Map Librarian for the National Geographic Society Library and Archives says:

“[W]hile the Census Bureau may be correct that the data is “available elsewhere,” the beauty of the Stat Abstract is that it obviated users’ need to know where “elsewhere” was. And that, as librarians know, can be (at least) half the battle.”

After fifteen years in the Internet industry, I am highly aware of how important it is to your intended audience to be able to quickly and easily find the information they are looking for, and how difficult this search task is made for the users by most web sites.

This has led to an entire field of search engine optimization also called SEO. Unfortunately, all the SEO in the world can’t overcome the amount of time and effort necessary to find all the content and data you need if it is scattered across many web pages and web sites.

In a world where time is money and convenience is king, the time savings in both finding the necessary data and knowing immediately the official source that produced that data are key benefits of a book like the Statistical Abstract. In a sense, this book is the ultimate printed “mashup” that blends data from multiple sources into a cohesive whole that is greater than the sum of its parts.

Who would have thought that a 134 year-old publication tradition would have such relevance in a digital age?  Unfortunately, compiling all this data and obtaining publication rights is increasingly expensive,  as many experts and a lot of effort are needed to pull together a work of this complexity. Thus, this may be the last year in its compiled format, since in its Fiscal Year 2012 budget submission to Congress, the Census Bureau requested “a decrease to terminate the Statistical Abstract program.

So, you may want to get what may be the last print edition of the Statistical Abstract of the United States at the US Government Bookstore in paperback or hardcover or find it in a library. Or you can see the tables online here.

Some interesting facts from the 2012 edition:

  • Increase in US Population: Between April 1, 2000 and April 1, 2010 there was a 9.7 percent increase in the resident population of the United States. The state with the highest percentage increase in resident population during the same time period was Nevada (35.1), while the only state that experienced a decrease was Michigan (-0.6). (Table 14)
  • Retail profits up: For retail trade corporations with assets of 50 billion dollars or more, net profit increased from 54.0 billion in 2008 to 84.1 billion in 2009. Profits per dollar of sales before taxes also increased from 2.6 cents per dollar of sales in 2008 up to 4.1 cents per dollar of sales in 2009. (Table 1052)
  • 80% has Internet access: In 2010, approximately 20 percent of households did not use the Internet…[, and] 80 percent of households had an Internet connection anywhere (at home or mobile etc). (Table 1155)


About the Author:  Michele Bartram is Promotions Manager for GPO’s Publication and Information Sales Division and is responsible for marketing the US Government Online Bookstore ( and promoting Federal government content to the public.

23 Responses to Statistical Abstract and Print Mashups in a Digital Age

  1. […] Finally, the Statistical Abstract of the United States, the last official edition published in 2012 by the U.S. Census Bureau, contains a standardized summary of all official key statistics on the social, political, and economic organization of the United States (Read our post: “Statistical Abstract and Print Mashups in a Digital Age”). […]


  2. Akhilesh - Sydney Australia says:

    Really interesting facts from the 2012 edition.


  3. Antonio Gutierrez says:

    Es muy difícil encontrar un artículo de tanta calidad mis felicitaciones gran trabajo gracias por su post


  4. Katie says:

    Superb post however , I was wanting to know if you could write a litte more on this subject? I’d be very grateful if you could elaborate a little bit more. Thank you!


  5. […] Michele Bartram is promotions manager at U.S. Government Printing Office responsible for marketing and e-commerce for the US Government Online Bookstore and promoting Federal government content to the public. Comments to this article can also be found on GovBookTalk. […]


  6. red leather jacket says:

    very good artilce in goverment book talk..


  7. M Umar Zubair says:

    “Appreciate you sharing, great blog post. Awesome.”


  8. M Umer Kahn G says:

    I truly appreciate this blog post.Really thank you! Fantastic.


  9. Qin Lang says:

    love your site..


  10. building UK says:

    The digital age is moving on fast! this is a great book and may more come soon.


  11. social media marketing says:

    I don’t often comment on blogs, but now I felt like saying thanks. Great website you’ve got here.


  12. Daniel_GGI says:

    looking forward to future post


  13. SEO Services says:

    It’s interesting that you mentioned SEO in this article. While you are correct it won’t find everything everywhere on the web it does help us greatly to find what we are looking for.

    Google and the other search engines partnering with webmasters are constantly making the web more relevant and useful while hiding away all the content we really don’t want/need to see.


  14. Robert Somerville says:

    Let’s hope that while they may be discontinuing the print version…they will continue to publish a digital version online.


  15. Jay Spoon says:

    An interesting discussion is worth comment. I think that you should write more on this topic, it might not be a taboo subject but generally people are not enough to speak on such topics. To the next. Cheers


  16. klipperst says:

    The difference between the right word and the almost right word is more than just a fine line


  17. says:

    I think there are other projects which can be scrapped with less undesired impact than this one. Statistical abstract is a great source material, which allows wide range of professionals from all sorts of different industries to check for trends and spot dangerous development in their respective areas of expertise.

    You can find it far fetched, but the results from census which would now be less readily available to the public are very important for the same reason as during the Great depression and then WW2: large scale migration, large number of displaced persons claimed by no one, and young people with no families. I can see there is a danger of creation of population subgroups which can suddenly vanish from sight (and from statistics) and become an easy target for various human trafficking groups, from selling off “undesirables” (homeless victims of the recession, illegal aliens and other unregistered persons, or ethnic minorities) for spare parts (organs), or as not entirely voluntary subjects for clinical trials.
    Helsinki declaration:

    Without proper signal detection, disappearance of these groups in danger won’t be spotted in real time; and they will simply be disposed off in front of everybody’s eyes.

    If you think this can’t happen again, think twice and do some reading first:

    Tim Tzouliadis: The Forsaken. An American tragedy in Stalin’s Russia

    Harvard Law School: The Nuremberg trial:

    Darby’s Rangers: Our 20.000 missing POWs from WW2:

    For these reasons, I believe that scrapping this book equals switching off lights so every rogue group can do whatever it pleases. Believe me, you do not want mass graves out there.


  18. This will be a sad state of affairs, if the Stat Abstract is no longer published by the GPO. It has been on the Ready Reference shelves at Libraries across the nation for its concise format, and excellent index.


    • Ripon says:

      Are you surre the GPO will no longer publish it?

      Ripon #


      • GPOBookstore says:

        GPO publishes books upon request of the authoring Federal agencies who assemble the content. In this case, due to the budget issues facing the U.S. Federal Government, the Census Bureau submitted its proposed budget to Congress for this fiscal year 2012 (which started October 1, 2011) in which they requested “a decrease to terminate the Statistical Abstract program.” If funding were reinstated for the program, at that point, presumably, the Census Bureau would issue a request to GPO to print the next edition once it was assembled.

        As to whether this will be the last edition, only the Census Bureau and Congress can say for certain. However, in an October 4, 2011, Washington Post blog post entitled “Farewell, Statistical Abstract!“, Post opinion writer Robert J.Samuelson said,

        “The Census Bureau has just published the 2012 edition of the “Statistical Abstract of the United States” — which, barring a minor miracle, will be the last. Census didn’t include the Stat Abstract (as it’s known to its many fans) in the 2012 budget, and Congress hasn’t seen fit to overrule the agency. So it’s curtains for the Stat Abstract.


  19. MJW says:

    Perhaps one of the best tributes to Stat Abs was written by Bill Bryson in his book “I’m a Stranger Here Myself”. In his essay “But doctor, I was just trying to lie down” (title a bit vague in my memory), he concluded: that he was “far more likely to be hurt by his ceiling or underpants–to cite just two potentially lethal examples–than by a stranger” (p. 19)


    • GPOBookstore says:

      I love that book. I am a big Bill Bryson fan myself. In fact, my favorite companion for long road trips is the audio book version read by Bryson himself of his “A Short History of Nearly Everything” which is in itself an entertaining mashup of the history behind almost every major scientific discovery in modern memory. It’s one I can listen to or read over and over again… sort of like how I pull out my Stat Abstract over and over again!


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