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SOSC 2710 : City Lives and City Forms: An Introduction to Urban Studies   Tags: c:all, c:ap/sosc2710  

Last Updated: Sep 27, 2016 URL: Print Guide RSS UpdatesEmail Alerts
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The following guide provides an overview of the topics covered in the library tutorial for SOCI 2710


What are census tracts?

Census tracts are defined in the 2006 Census Dictionary as an "area that is small and relatively stable. Census tracts usually have a population of 2,500 to 8,000. They are located in large urban centres that must have an urban core population of 50,000 or more."

Each census tract has a number (or CT name); for example, the census tract in which York University is located is known as 311.06 (sometimes written with a leading 0, i.e., 0311.06). The CT name is not unique all by itself; it must be combined with the code of the census metropolitan area (CMA) or census agglomeration (CA) in which it is located. The code for the Toronto CMA is 535; therefore, a unique identifier for York's CT would be 5350311.06. Depending on how you look the information up, you will need to know at least one and possibly both numbers.



Locating or identifying a census tract of interest

There are a number of different ways to locate a census tract (if you already have the number), or identify a census tract (if you know the location).

  1. Use one of the following resources to identify the census tract(s) for the neighbourhood you've been assigned. Because of quality issues surrounding the data from the 2011 National Household Survey, for this assignment you will be using the cumulative profiel data from the 2006 Census of Population; for this, you need the census tract number for the area of interest.

    • By postal code or intersection, using GeoPortal
      NOTE: Use of Geoportal on a tablet or other mobile device is a bit tricky, but it does work; I will discuss this in class if need be.
      1. Go to GeoPortal
      2. Change the search type from 'data' to 'Place or address'; input a postal code (if you have one) or an intersection (e.g., steeles and keele, toronto) and click on 'Search'
      3. You MAY get more than one search result; choose the most likely one (click on 'zoom' to verify it).
      4. Click on 'Find data'; under 'Refine: topics' on the left, then search for 'census tracts 2006'; find 'Census Tracts - Cartographic Boundary File (CT-CBF), 2006 Census'
      5. Click on the 'Add' button under 'Census Tracts - Cartographic Boundary File (CT-CBF), 2006 Census'. You'll be taken to a menu of different boundary layers; find 'Census Tracts' and click on the 'Add' button next to it.The map will now display census tract boundaries in red. To make the boundaries more obvious, change the base map (by clicking on 'base map' in the top right menu) to one of the grayscale alternatives (Esri Light Grey Canvas or Light Gray Canvas) to make the red boundaries stand out more clearly.
      6. Click on the map. The census tract you clicked on will be displayed in yellow, and a box will pop up, giving you the CTUID (Census Tract Unique Identifier) -- a 7.2 digit number (e.g., 5350311.06 would be the CTUID for the census tract York U is in). Pick the census tract that appears to represent your neighbourhood best (e.g., mostly within the neighbourhood boundaries, the largest population of the CTs within the neighbourhood, etc.)
    • Online maps:
      • Census tract reference maps by CMA or CA provide large-scale maps of the CMA/CA to allow you to identify the CT of interest. Clicking on the CT number in these large-scale maps will retrieve a map of the census tract itself.

    • Print sources:
      • You can find your census tract on a printed index map. All available census tract maps are found in the Map Library on the first floor of the Scott Library building.

Getting information about census tracts

Once you know which census tract(s) you're after, where is the information? Once again, you can find this information in a variety of places. One tool you can use is the Canadian Census Analyzer ; it has census tract level profile data available for 1961, 1971, 1981, 1986, 1991, 1996, 2001, 2006.


Map & airphoto resources

This is a guide to maps, air photos, city directories, and resources that will be useful in your assignment.

Data Librarian

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Walter Giesbrecht
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102F Scott
(in the Map Library)
phone: 416-736-2100 ext. 77551
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Subject Librarian

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Rosa Orlandini
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Phone: 416-736-2100 x88863
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