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This diagram shows the many geographic types for which data are available from the U.S. Census Bureau.

diagram of census geography hierarchy

With connecting lines, the diagram shows the hierarchical relationships between geographic types. For example, a line extends from states to counties because a state is comprised of many counties, and a single county can never cross a state boundary.

If no line joins two geographic types, then an absolute and predictable relationship does not exist between them.

For example, many places are confined to one county. However, some places extend over more than one county, such as New York City. Therefore, an absolute hierarchical relationship does not exist between counties and places, and any tabulation involving both these geographic types may represent only a part of one county or one place.

Notice that many lines radiate from blocks, indicating that most geographic types can be described as a collection of blocks, the smallest geographic unit for which the Census Bureau reports data. However, only two of these lines also describe the path by which a block is uniquely named. That is, the path through the Block Group or through the Tribal Block Group.

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Source: U.S. Census Bureau   |   American FactFinder