Introducing Census Explorer
Easy search and analysis for the US CensusMarch 7, 2023 - Dayton and Duber

The US Census Bureau has a wealth of data, available in a variety of formats. However, it still takes a fair amount of technical acuity to answer questions like "Where are people severely rent burdened?" or "What are the most common places where people work from home?".

This is difficult for a few reasons:

  • Context. You must know where to find the data and how to extract it. Even with knowledge of the US Census Bureau's API, the documentation doesn't always work well in your browser. For example, try searching for median income among all the variables available.
  • Analysis. You may need to filter or aggregate data to answer your question. "Where are the incomes higher than the median income in the US?" requires generating that median value in order to answer the question.
  • Visualization. The shape files for the US Census data can be very large, which can make them difficult to visualize them on a map without knowledge of specialized tooling like ArcGIS or QGIS.
  • Storage. The data is a few gigs in size, which can be burdensome depending on your tooling.

Census Explorer solves these problems by taking advantage of developments in natural language processing that we've seen across a number of GPT-inspired products, as well as our custom software for visualizing large data sets.

Real estate developers trying to understand a market, journalists trying to understand the demographics of a neighborhood, or anyone else trying to understand the US Census data can use Census Explorer to answer these questions and more.

Examples from Census Explorer


You can see the echo of the 2000s real estate bubble in the ring of suburbs around Las Vegas. Link

Las Vegas

You can see the shale boom if you ask about housing in the 2010s. In some areas of North Dakota, more than half the homes are from the last decade. Link

North Dakota

Infrastructure planning

Census Explorer can help policymakers determine where to focus investment in public transportation and internet infrastructure. For example, you can identify areas with low-income people who endure punishingly long commutes, such as in the New York City metro area. Link

New York City

You can also see that Native American reservations in Arizona have among the lowest internet access in the country. Link


Notes on the data

Right now Census Explorer is a limited subset of the 2016-2021 5 Year American Community Survey data. It is also only available on the ZIP Code Tabulation Area (ZCTA) level. If you are interested in other geographies, surveys, or variables, let us know by dropping us a line at

Let us know what you think

We invite you to try Census Explorer for yourself and share your favorite results with us on Twitter (@dubo_ai) or LinkedIn (@Mercator). If you have any questions or feedback, reach out to us at Also, don't forget to sign up for our newsletter to receive updates on new features and releases on our homepage.

About us

Mercator is a startup focused on making geospatial data easier to access and work with. We are building a platform that makes it easy to build and deploy geospatial applications.

One of our projects is dubo, a natural language interface for writing SQL queries against data sets. The goal is to be able to share data insights with non-technical people.