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HUD Logo The State of the Nation's Cities: A Comprehensive Database on American Cities and Suburbs

Despite the proliferation of high-quality data sets from public and private sources over the past thirty years, the changing nature of American cities often eludes precise measurement. Incomparable variables, inconsistent definitions, and the spatial expansion of metropolitan regions all complicate efforts to analyze recent transformations in American urban life.

As part of a contribution to the United Nations' Habitat II conference in Istanbul in June 1996, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) contracted with the Center for Urban Policy Research to assemble a comprehensive database on 77 American cities and suburbs. As of January 19, 1998 Version 2.2a of the database brings together over 3,000 variables from a wide variety of sources, allowing easy comparability of indicators on employment and economic development, demographic measures, housing and land use, income and poverty, fiscal conditions, and a host of other health, social, and environmental indicators.

If you would like a paper copy of the State of the Nation's Cities Report, please contact HUD USER at 1-800-245-2691.

Accessing the Database

PC Users: The database and associated documentation are available in four PC-compatible formats.

Tab-delimited ASCII file.
SPSS portable file.
Excel file (see note below).
SAS formatted file.

Download the file you want. Once it's on your hard drive, you can double click on the file from the program manager (Windows and Windows 95) or decompress the files by going to the DOS prompt and typing the name of the file. The file will automatically decompress. Consult the documentation files which are included in the all four file formats. ("int_22a.doc" "ref_22a.doc", "nts_22a.doc", and "dict_22a.xls") for detailed specifications on the database layout. The file "dict_22a.xls" contains a complete list of variable definitions.

If you download the SONC_22a in the SPSS portable format, the SAS file format, or the tab-delimited format, the file will contain 77 cases (rows) and approximately 3,000 variables (columns). However the Excel version of the data set has been transposed in order to fit within Excel's limit on columns. The Excel file contains 77 columns corresponding to the 77 cites and approximately 3,100 rows corresponding to the variables. The first row contains the FIPS number--the only unique identification number in the data set--preceded by a "V". Thus Birmingham, AL has the column header "V107000" where "107000" is the unique FIPS number. The first column contains the variable names in alphabetic order.

MAC Users: Since our ftp site resides on a PC, Macintosh downloads are a little complicated. For users familiar with Netscape helper preferences, set helper preferences to recognize and launch a stuffit expander auto-extractor file and then download the MAC Version of the database. You can also try downloading the Mac version from

If you're having problems with the MAC version, try downloading the following five files which are in Mac-compatible formats. DCT_22a.txt contains the data dictionary.

SNC_22a.txt contains the data.
INT_22a.txt contains important information about the data.
Nts_211a.txt contains footnotes on data.
Ref_211a.txt contains the references.

If you download the file "snc22a_t.txt" make sure to read the note above on the Excel file. The "txt" file has also been transposed. In addition, unless your general helper preferences are set to save files with .xls or text extensions, these files will come across as web pages full of text. If this happens, allow the file to load completely, save the file to disk, and then open it with the respective applications. While these files are complete and contain all data and information, they require some work.

Sample Maps Generated From State of the Nation's Cities Database

   Gross Metropolitan Product, 1980-1990

  Suburban Population Change, 1980-1990

   Migration from Abroad, 1980-1990