Some of the information in this post may be out of date. Please speak to a librarian for more up to date information.
Putting together a business plan and having problems locating demographics? You might be surprised at how much you can find out about a location and its population without having to spend a dime. A rich amount of government sources are available for locating metropolitan, county, state and national demographics if you know how to find them.
Start with American Factfinder at http://factfinder.census.gov/. This product from the Census Bureau provides easy access by neighborhood to data collected from the Decennial Census and the American Community Survey (collected every year from approximately 3 million households). Data scope includes number of households, income and education level, home ownership and more. National data is provided side by side for the sake of comparison. More interested in county level data? Take a look at U.S. Counties in Profile at http://www.stats.indiana.edu/uspr/a/us_profile_frame.html. This product from StatsIndiana provides access to demographic and economic indicators broken into the categories of population, housing, income, and labor. The data is very timely, as it is updated periodically throughout the year. For more demographic profiles of counties, see USA Counties at https://www.census.gov/support/USACdata.html.
Two popular print sources for locating demographics on cities and metropolitan areas are now available via the web. The State and Metropolitan Area Data Book 2006 at https://www.census.gov/library/publications/2006/compendia/smadb06.html provides data on states, counties and metropolitan areas. The latest population data for metropolitan areas is for 2005 and all data provided includes at least one historical data set comparison, with some data reported back to 1990. Data includes, but is not limited to, total population, age, race, sex, educational attainment, and personal earnings. As indicated by the title, there is also plenty of state and county data to explore. The County and City Data Book 2007 at https://www.census.gov/library/publications/2010/compendia/databooks/ccdb07.html a companion volume, “includes data for all U.S. states, counties, and cities with a population of 25,000 or more”.
FFIEC Census Reports at http://www.ffiec.gov/Geocode/default.aspx can be searched by street and zip code and will return census tract data, including current year estimated family income. Last, but not least, demographic data at the town, city and state level is frequently posted on state economic development sites such as the Rhode Island Economic Development Corporation(RIEDC) site at http://www.riedc.com/ which has data for 2000-20008 for each town in Rhode Island posted under their Data and Publications link.