Skip Main Navigation Skip To Navigation Content

American Community Survey

Census.govAmerican Community Survey › Guidance for Data Users: Handbooks for Data Users
Skip top of page navigation

Handbooks for Data Users      part of the American Community Survey's Compass Products

You can use American Community Survey (ACS) data in different ways and for different reasons. Each one of our downloadable PDF Compass handbooks helps a particular group with specific how-to instructions and/or case studies.

For an introduction to ACS data, we recommend the compass handbook for General Data Users.

General Handbook

What General Data Users Need to Know
[PDF 1.6MB]

Here are the basics of the American Community Survey, with the opportunities and challenges of using data. Learn to access and use ACS data on the Census Bureau's website. Plus concrete examples of how ACS data can answer real-world questions about our society.

PUMS Handbook

What Public Use Microdata Sample (PUMS) Data Users Need to Know
[PDF 3.5MB]

PUMS files are an extraordinary resource for researchers. Learn how to access PUMS files, create PUMS tables using general statistical software, create tables using DataFerrett, and measure statistical accuracy, margin of error, and confidence intervals.


What Congress Needs to Know
[PDF 1.9MB]

Interpreting American Community Survey data helps you respond to constituent inquiries, draft speeches and press statements, conduct legislative research, understand funding formulas, and compare ACS data with other federal statistics.

Media Handbook

What the Media Need to Know
[PDF 1.3MB]

Writers and editors search American Community Survey data for statistics and trends. Here's how, with step-by-step examples of how journalists have used the ACS to uncover and enhance hard news and feature stories.


What the Business Community Needs to Know
[PDF 2.4MB]

Income and housing statistics by geographical areas can help you gauge the sales potential of products and services. Find out what data products are available and how to access them with step-by-step instructions and examples.


What Federal Agencies Need to Know
[PDF 2.1MB]

Federal agency analysts, program administrators, and policy makers use American Community Survey data. This handbook describes the essential features of ACS in detail, with important statistical and practical considerations.

State Local

What State and Local Governments Need to Know
[PDF 1.2MB]

American Community Survey data can help state and local governments establish priorities, assess needs, develop plans, and implement policies. Several real-life case studies demonstrate how best to use and interpret 1-year and multiyear data.

School Teachers

What High School Teachers Need to Know
[PDF 2.5MB]

Help students grasp statistical ideas and procedures with American Community Survey data that cover their own states and communities. Specific examples illustrate how to incorporate ACS data into lesson plans and activities for social studies, geography, and mathematics.

American Indians and Alaska Native Handbook

What Users of Data for American Indians and Alaska Natives Need to Know
[PDF 1.6MB]

An overview of American Community Survey data produced about American Indian and Alaska Native populations in many geographic areas. Here are the rules on terminology, choice of estimates, and how to measure change. Also describes special survey methods for remote locations.


What Researchers Need to Know
[PDF 1.5MB]

Using continuous measurement approaches and a rolling sample, the American Community Survey is an extraordinary source for detailed demographic, social, economic and housing data. Informative case studies are supplemented by practice exercises in accessing and analyzing ACS data.

Rural Areas Handbook

What Users of Data for Rural Areas Need to Know
[PDF 1.1MB]

See how to find and use American Community Survey data through a single case study about a small rural community updating its social and economic profile as part of a land use planning exercise. Technical and statistical issues are covered in appendices.

Puerto Rico Handbook

What Puerto Rico Community Survey Data Users Need to Know
[PDF 2.0MB]

Here are the basics of the Puerto Rico Community Survey (PRCS) with the opportunities and challenges of using PRCS data. Learn to access and use PRCS data on the Census Bureau's website. Includes specific examples using local data.

[PDF] or PDF denotes a file in Adobe’s Portable Document Format. To view the file, you will need the Adobe® Reader® Off Site available free from Adobe. This symbol Off Site indicates a link to a non-government web site. Our linking to these sites does not constitute an endorsement of any products, services or the information found on them. Once you link to another site you are subject to the policies of the new site.

Source: U.S. Census Bureau | American Community Survey Office | Email ACS | Last Revised: March 17, 2015
Give us your feedback on this website!