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Families and Living Arrangements

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Households and Families Fact Sheet

Differences in the Households and Family Estimates from the American Community Survey, Current Population Survey, Survey of Income and Program Participation, and Decennial Census

May, 2009

Comparability Matrix For Families and Households Data:
Data Source American Community Survey (ACS) Current Population Survey (CPS) Survey of Income & Program Participation (SIPP) Decennial Census
Topic        
Geographic scope Annual estimates of the nation, regions, states, congressional districts, and geographies of 65,000 or more. Three-year estimates available for places of 20,000 or more (available starting in 2008). Five-year estimates of areas as small as census tracts (available starting in 2010). National estimates and estimates of selected characteristics for regions and states. National estimates. Estimates at all geographic levels down to the block level.
Periodicity of collection Every year Every year Longitudinal data: Once a panel. Topical module data in wave 2: once every panel: Panels occur 3-4 years Every ten years
Timeliness Released year after collection cycle Released after year of collection cycle No time schedule Released 1-2 years after decennial collection
Sample Size Annual sample of about 3 million addresses. Data are collected from about one-twelfth of the sample each month. The data come from the ASEC supplement, which is based on a sample of about 99,000 households The survey design is a continuous series of national panels. The 2004 panel consists of 46,500 households. Seven item (short form) questionnaire administered to all households. Long form questionnaire with additional items administered to about 1 in 6 households (approximately 19 million in 2000).
Data Collection Method Mail, telephone, and personal-visit interviews for the 50 states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico. About half the responses are obtained by mail. The ACS is a mandatory survey. Telephone and personal-visit interviews for the 50 states and the District of Columbia. The CPS is a voluntary survey. Computer-assisted interview on a laptop computer. All household members 15 years old and over are interviewed by self-response, if possible, proxy response is permitted when household members are not available for interviewing. The SIPP is a voluntary survey. Mail, telephone, and personal-visit interviews for the 50 states and the District of Columbia. Mail and personal interviews for Puerto Rico, and mail surveys for US Territories. Participation in the Census is mandatory.
Questionnaire Items Relationship asked of all people only to the householder. Asked for all persons in households. Relationship asked of all people to the householder. Also asks if both parents are present and if anyone lives with anyone else as a partner/boyfriend/girlfriend. Relationship asked of all people to the householder in each wave. Wave 2 asks relationship of everyone to everyone in the household. Contains the most complete identification of household members of any Census survey. Relationship asked of all people to the householder. Martial status not asked so subfamilies cannot be derived beginning in the 2010 census.
Unique measures/data Can produce estimates of foster children, biological, adopted, and stepchildren. Only survey to produce estimates of unrelated subfamilies and most complete estimate of unmarried partner couples. Produces most detailed estimates of complex families and living arrangements of children. Only survey to tract changes in family composition longitudinally. Produces estimates of unmarried partners for small geographical areas.
Technical Issues None Most reliable survey for identifying children living with unmarried parents. Only survey to contain a complete household identification matrix for everyone in the household. Cannot produce estimates of subfamilies nor estimates of foster children beginning with the 2010 census.
Population Universe The ACS includes the resident population of the United States, including household and group quarters populations. The CPS includes the civilian noninstitutionalized population and Armed Forces personnel living off post or with their families on post. SIPP includes the civilian noninstitutionalized population. The Census includes the resident population of the United States, including household and group quarters populations.
Tables Available/Detail Detailed tables showing a range of socioeconomic characteristics. Detailed tables showing a range of socioeconomic characteristics. Reports produced showing characteristics of children in detailed/complex family living arrangements. Household and family data available in numerous published tables.
Sampling Error Information Only for published tables Can be computed by data user Can be computed by data user 100 percent data-no sampling errors.
Historical Data The ACS began in 1996 in a limited number of test sites and began national implementation in 2000. Household and family data in various detail available since 1947. Data available occasionally since 1984 in files and reports. Decennial data are available in fairly consistent tables beginning in 1950.
Public Use File Yes Yes Yes Yes
Electronic Accessibility Tables--American Fact Finder
Public use files through Data Ferret
Public use files through Data Ferret Public use files through Data Ferret Tables--American Fact Finder
Public use files through Data Ferret

Source: U.S. Census Bureau | Families and Living Arrangements |  Last Revised: 2012-11-13T16:33:47.688-05:00