Excel COUNTIF Function to Clean ACS Data

I’ve been preparing a GIS workshop for the New York Census Research Data Center’s 2nd Annual Workshop series, and have dug up some useful tips as I’ve assembled my materials. Here’s one of them:

I have a data table from the Census Bureau’s 2006 Annual Community Survey (ACS) in Excel which contains some data for Metropolitan and Micropolitan Areas. Now, I have a shapefile of Metropolitan Areas that I would like to join this data table to, but I would like to get rid of the records for the Micropolitan Areas in the data table. Unfortunately, the data table does not have a field that indicates whether an area is a Metro or Micro. Instead, this information is embedded in the name field, like “Akron, OH Metro Area” which means there is no way to sort the table to weed out the Micro Areas.

COUNTIF function to the rescue! I inserted a new column and typed in the formula:

=COUNTIF(D3, “*Metro*”)

If the formula sees the word Metro anywhere in the GEO_NAME, it counts it as a one in the new column, otherwise it counts it as zero (by default, the zeros will be the Micro areas). Copied and pasted the formula all the way down, then copied and pasted the formula column over top of itself using Paste Special (to replace the formulas with the actual values), and voila! Sorted by this column, and deleted all the records with a zero in the field (the Micro areas).


I’ve done something like this before in Microsoft Access using LIKE, but Excel doesn’t include this function. I knew about COUNTIF but didn’t connect the dots. I discovered I could apply it after stumbling across this useful post at Daily Dose of Excel.

Lastly, before you can bring this table into GIS, you have to delete that second header row (you can only have one column heading – the rest of the rows are assumed to be data). While the codes in the first row are cryptic, they are concise. The headings in the second row are too long and contain spaces, which will cause problems when you import the table into GIS.

NOTE – If you’re using Open Office’s Calc instead of Excel, and you have enabled regular expressions under the Tools – Options – OpenOffice.org Calc – Calculate menu, the same function would look like this:


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