Skip to content

Cartographic Boundary File Description

Component ID: #ti1230238444

The cartographic boundary files are simplified representations of selected geographic areas from the Census Bureau’s MAF/TIGER geographic database.  These boundary files are specifically designed for small scale thematic mapping.

When possible, generalization is performed with intent to maintain the hierarchical relationships among geographies and to maintain the alignment of geographies within a file set for a given year.

To improve the appearance of shapes, areas are represented with fewer vertices than detailed TIGER/Line equivalents.  Some small holes or discontiguous parts of areas are not included in generalized files.

Generalized boundary files are clipped to a simplified version of the U.S. outline.  As a result, some off-shore areas may be excluded from the generalized files.

Component ID: #ti1143135291

Advantages

  • Simplified shapes improve the appearance of geographic areas when displayed at small scales.
  • These boundary files take up less disk space than their ungeneralized equivalents.
  • Cartographic boundary files take less time to render on screen.

Component ID: #ti1143135290

Limitations

  • These files should not be used for:
    • geographic analysis including area or perimeter calculation.
    • geocoding addresses.
    • determining precise geographic area relationships.
  • Some small geographic areas are excluded from these files.
  • Geographic areas may not align with the same areas from another year.

Component ID: #ti691820422

File Naming Convention

Component ID: #ti1859841775

2013 to Present Files

The cartographic boundary files are named cb_yyyy_ss_<entity>_rr.zip where:

  • yyyy = 4 digit year
  • ss = state FIPS code or 'us' for a national level file
  • entity = the entity name
  • rr = resolution level
    • 500k = 1:500,000
    • 5m = 1:5,000,000
    • 20m = 1:20,000,000

For a list of entity names and their descriptions for the cartographic boundary files, please see the Entity Name Description files below:

Component ID: #ti1143135285

2010 Files

The 2010 cartographic boundary files are named gz_2010_ss_lll_vv_rr.zip where:

  • ss = state FIPS code or 'us' for a national level file
  • lll = summary level code
  • vv = 2-digit version code
  • rr = resolution level
    • 500k = 1:500,000
    • 5m = 1:5,000,000
    • 20m = 1:20,000,000

For a complete list of summary level codes for the cartographic boundary files, please see our Summary Level Codes Page.

Component ID: #ti1143135284

Pre-2010 Files

abss_vvv_shp.zip

where:

  • ab = geographic area abbreviation
  • ss = state FIPS code
  • vvv = 2 or 3 character file vintage

After files have been downloaded and unzipped, the .zip extension and the file format abbreviation are dropped and the proper file format extension is appended. An unzipped Arcview Shapefile is composed of a .shp file, a .shx file, and a .dbf file.

The table below provides a complete list of the file name components and gives examples of complete file names. You can access the FTP directories to download the shapefiles by clicking on the Geographic Area name.

Component ID: #ti1222802464

Geographic Area Abbreviation FIPS Codes1 Vintage
(Last 2 Digits of Year)2
Example ZIP
File Name
Alaska Native Regional Corporations
an
02
d00
an02_d00_shp.zip
American Indian Areas/Alaska Native Areas/Hawaiian Home Lands (No Hawaiian Home Lands for 1990)
na for 2000 files
ir for 1990 files
02,99
d00,d90
na99_d00_shp.zip
Tribal Subdivisions
ts
99
d00
ts99_d00_shp.zip
Census Block Groups
bg
01-78
d00,d90
bg06_d90_shp.zip
Census Divisions
dv
99
d00
dv99_d00_shp.zip
Census Regions
rg
99
d00
rg99_d00_shp.zip
Census Tracts
tr
01-78
d00,d90
tr42_d90_shp.zip
Congressional Districts
cd
01-78,99
108th,107th,106th,105th,
104th,103rd Congresses
cd24_107_shp.zip
Consolidated Cities
cc
99
d00
cc99_d00_shp.zip
County & County Equivalent Areas
co
01-78,99
d00,d90
co15_d90_shp.zip
County Subdivisions
(MCDs/CCDs/Barrios)
cs
01-78
d00,d90
cs32_d00_shp.zip
Incorporated Places/Census Designated Places
pl
01-78
d00,d98,d90
pl72_d90_shp.zip
Metropolitan Statistical Areas
ma
99
99,90
ma99_99_shp.zip
Consolidated Metropolitan Statistical Areas
cm for 1999 files
cmsa for 1998 and 1996 files
99
99,98,96,90
cm99_99_shp.zip
cmsa_98_shp.zip
Primary Metropolitan Statistical Areas
pm
99
99,90
pm99_99_shp.zip
Central Cities
ce
99
d00
ce99_d00_shp.zip
Consolidated Metropolitan Statistical Areas and Metropolitan Statistical Areas
cm_sa
99
98,96
cm_sa_96_shp.zip
Primary Metropolitan Statistical Areas and Metropolitan Statistical Areas
pm_sa
99
98,96
pm_sa_98_shp.zip
New England County Metropolitan Areas
ne
99
(New England States)
d00
ne99_d00_shp.zip
Oregon Urban Growth Areas
ou
99
d00
ou99_d00_shp.zip
Public Use Microdata Areas
1 Percent
p1
01-56, 72
d00
p101_d00_shp.zip
Public Use Microdata Areas
5 Percent
p5
01-56, 72
d00
p501_d00_shp.zip
School Districts - Elementary
se
01-56
(26 States Total)
d00
se25_d00_shp.zip
ss
01-56
(18 States Total)
d00
ss29_d00_shp.zip
sn
01-72
d00
sn32_d00_shp.zip
State & State Equivalent Areas
st
01-78,99
d00,d90
st66_d90_shp.zip
State Legislative Districts -
Lower/House
sl
01-56
(39 States Total)
d00
sl37_d00.shp
sl37_d00_shp.zip
State Legislative Districts -
Upper/Senate
su
01-56
(40 States Total)
d00
su17_d00.shp
su17_d00_shp.zip
Subbarrios
(Puerto Rico only)
sb
72
d00
sb72_d00_shp.zip
Traffic Analysis Zones
tz
01-56
(48 States Total)
d00
tz34_d00_shp.zip
Tribal Block Groups
tb
99
d00
tb99_d00_shp.zip
Tribal Census Tracts
tt
99
d00
tt99_d00_shp.zip
Urbanized Areas
ua
02,15,72,99
d00,d90
ua02_d90_shp.zip
Voting Districts
vt
01-72
(Not All States)
d00
vt34_d00_shp.zip
5-Digit ZIP Code Tabulation Areas
zt
01-72
d00
zt36_d00_shp.zip
3-Digit ZIP Code Tabulation Areas
z3
01-72,99
d00
z399_d00_shp.zip

 

Component ID: #ti1093629874

1  State FIPS Codes = 01-78, National File=99
2  d Indicates a Decennial Census Activity

X
  Is this page helpful?
Thumbs Up Image Yes    Thumbs Down Image No
X
No, thanks
255 characters remaining
X
Thank you for your feedback.
Comments or suggestions?