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American Community Survey

Census.govAmerican Community Survey › Guidance for Data Users: Which Data Tool Should I Use?
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Which Data Tool Should I Use?

Unfamiliar with the many ways you can obtain statistics from the American Community Survey? Learn more about the tools available to help you access current social, economic, housing, and demographic statistics for the nation's communities.

Congressional Staffer

Persona representing a congressional staffer

Mariam, in Congressman Underwood's office, needs updated information about the congressman's constituents with the new 113th Congressional District boundaries. She would also like to post this information on the congressman's website to share with interested parties.

Recommendation: My Congressional District

Learn more about My Congressional District and try the tool here

CheckedWhy this tool may be right for you:

  • It contains statistics for every district of the 113th Congress.
  • It includes statistics on popular topics like education, housing, jobs and more.
  • The results page can be embedded on your website.

CheckedWhy you may want to consider another tool:

  • The geography selection is limited to congressional districts.
  • It contains only a subset of all ACS topics.

Tip: For more geographies or topics, try Subject Tables, Data Profiles or other tools below.

Try My Congressional District now!

Emergency Planner

Emergency Planner persona

Chief Ryan, a county emergency planner, needs an easy way to access selected statistics, such as type of housing, so he can better plan for emergencies in his community. He would also like to make this information available on the county's website.

Recommendation: Easy Stats

Learn more about Easy Stats and try the tool here

CheckedWhy this tool may be right for you:

  • It's the easiest tool for state, county, and place statistics.
  • It includes statistics on popular financial, jobs, housing, people and education topics.
  • This tool can be embedded on your website.

CheckedWhy you may want to consider another tool:

  • The geography selection is limited to state, county, and place.
  • It contains only a subset of all ACS topics.

Tip: For more geographies or topics, try Subject Tables, Data Profiles or other tools below.

Try Easy Stats now!

Mayor

Mayor Gooding

Mayor Gooding is looking for key facts about the people and businesses in her town before heading to the state-wide conference of mayors. She wants to be able to quickly compare facts from her town to other towns in her state.

Recommendation: QuickFacts

Find out why and link to the tool

CheckedWhy this tool may be right for you:

  • It's easy to use -- just choose your state, city, or place.
  • It combines statistics from American Community Survey with other surveys to give a broader view of a particular geography.
  • You can view characteristics of selected geographies side-by-side.

CheckedWhy you may want to consider another tool:

  • The geography selection is limited to state, county, and city.
  • It contains only a subset of all ACS topics.

Tip: For more geographies or topics, try Subject Tables, Data Profiles or other tools below.

Go to QuickFacts!

Educator

Educator

Jocelyn wants the most recent information about a variety of topics, such as language spoken at home, disability, and age, to help figure out what kinds of services and staff they will need in her school district. She wants this high level information in separate fact sheets on social, economic, demographic, and housing characteristics for her area.

Recommendation: Data Profiles (on American FactFinder)

Learn more about Data Profiles

CheckedWhy this tool may be right for you:

  • It's a good tool for novice users to get acquainted with ACS data tables.
  • It provides broad social, economic, housing and demographic statistics.
  • Tables are available for areas down to census tract level.

CheckedWhy you may want to consider another tool:

  • There is no block group data.
  • Tables may not contain enough detail for your topics of interest.

Tip: For block group data, look at the Summary File tool below.

Link to Data Profiles and choose your geography.

Veterans Coordinator

Persona representing someone looking for veterans data

Carlos is interested in veterans, including veterans status, period of service, employment status, and educational attainment, to help his organization provide information on VA medical services and job training programs. He would like the information on his topic in one table with numbers and percentages.

Recommendation: Subject Tables (on American FactFinder)

Find out more about the Subject Tables

CheckedWhy this tool may be right for you:

  • Tables are available for most of the subjects in the ACS.
  • It has more in-depth statistics on a particular subject than Data Profiles.
  • It provides estimates and percentages.

CheckedWhy you may want to consider another tool:

  • Not all topics have a corresponding Subject Table.
  • It may not contain enough detail for your topics of interest (see Detailed Tables).
  • It does not provide block group data (see Summary File Retrieval Tool).

Browse subjects below and link to the Subject Tables.

Note: Links to Subject Tables default to the national level on American FactFinder.
Choose your geography on the results page.

Housing

Market Analyst

Market Analyst

Justin wants to compare characteristics of an area, such as household type, median family income, and language spoken at home, over time to determine needs for a new grocery store. He is interested in seeing if these characteristics have changed over time, and if these changes are statistically significant.

Recommendation: Comparison Profiles (on American FactFinder)

Find out more about Comparison Profiles

CheckedWhy this tool may be right for you:

  • It shows yearly data side-by-side, indicating statistical significance between sets of estimates.
  • It includes last 5 years of estimates.
  • It provides broad social, economic, housing, and demographic statistics.

CheckedWhy you may want to consider another tool:

  • It's only available for 1-year estimates.
  • It may not contain enough detail for your topics of interest.
  • You are not interested in making comparisons over time.

Go to Comparison Profiles and choose your geography.

Business Owner

Business Owner

Thomas wants in-depth information about commuting patterns to figure out where to locate his service station and plan operating hours around busy commute times. He's looking for the most detailed information the ACS provides on this topic.

Recommendation: Detailed Tables (on American FactFinder)

Find out more about Detailed Tables

CheckedWhy this tool may be right for you:

  • It's the best source for the most comprehensive ACS tables.
  • It covers all subjects in the ACS.
  • Statistics are available for areas down to census tract level.

CheckedWhy you may want to consider another tool:

  • It may contain more detail than needed for topic.
  • It does not provide percentages (see Subject Tables above).
  • It does not provide block group level data (see Summary File below).

Browse the subjects covered by Detailed Tables and get links to the tables on American FactFinder.

Non-profit Administrator

grant writer at a non-profit

Allison is looking for community information at the block group level to apply for funding. She has looked at the other ACS tools, and learned that block groups are only available in the ACS Summary File. She's not confident about downloading and interpreting the raw files from the FTP site, so she wants a tool that pieces the various parts of the ACS Summary File together.

Recommendation: Summary File Retrieval Tool

Find out more about the Summary File Retrieval Tool

CheckedWhy this tool may be right for you:

  • It includes estimates and margin of error down to the block group level.
  • It provides access to all tracts and block groups per state per table.
  • You are unfamiliar with the FTP site.

CheckedWhy you may want to consider another tool:

  • Summary File only includes Detailed Tables (no Data Profiles, Subject Tables, etc).
  • You want to download many tables for many different states.
  • You prefer to access files using the FTP site.

Download the Summary File Retrieval Tool now!

Note: Supporting documentation also available.

Health Administrator

Health Administrator

Benjamin wants to create his own tables of interest using PUMS files, but he does not have access to statistical software. He needs a free tool to create custom tabulations to plan for health care needs in his state.

Recommendation: DataFerrett

Learn more about PUMS on DataFerrett

CheckedWhy this tool may be right for you:

  • You don't have access to statistical software.
  • You need to create a custom table that's not available on American FactFinder.
  • You want to download a subset of the variables or geographic areas available in the PUMS files.

CheckedWhy you may want to consider another tool:

  • Your table of interest is already pretabulated in American FactFinder.
  • You are Interested in doing more complex statistical analysis.
  • PUMS geography selection is limited to nation, region, division, state, and PUMAs.

Go to DataFerrett!

Regional Planner

Regional Planner

Vanessa wants to do regional planning analysis using PUMS files, and she has expertise using statistical software. Vanessa is an advanced data user who is comfortable working with untabulated records to do research projects.

Recommendation: Public Use Microdata Sample files on FTP

Learn more about the FTP site

CheckedWhy this tool may be right for you:

  • You have access to statistical software to do analysis.
  • You need to create a custom table that's not available on American FactFinder.
  • You want the entire person or housing file per state or for the nation.

CheckedWhy you may want to consider another tool:

  • Your table of interest is already pretabulated in American FactFinder.
  • PUMS geography selection is limited to nation, region, division, state, and PUMAs.

Get the PUMS downloads and supporting information in the PUMS section.

Developer

Entrepeneur

Karen wants to create a smartphone app that draws from the rich data collected by the ACS. She wants to retrieve estimates through an application programming interface so she can easily locate her variables of interest.

Recommendation: API

Find out more about the Application Programming Interface

CheckedWhy this tool may be right for you:

  • You are a skilled programmer.
  • You wish to create a data retrieval app for use on your own website or as a mobile app.

CheckedWhy you may want to consider another tool:

  • You just want to download data not create an app.
  • There are limited datasets available.

Learn more about the Census Bureau's API on the API Developers site.


Source: U.S. Census Bureau | American Community Survey Office | Email ACS | Last Revised: September 18, 2014
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