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The nationwide American Community Survey (ACS) is a critical element of the Census Bureau's reengineered decennial census program. During previous decennial censuses, most households received a short-form questionnaire, while one household in six received a long form that contained additional questions and provided more detailed socioeconomic information about the population.
The 2010 Census will be a short-form only census and will count all residents living in the United States as well as ask for name, sex, age, date of birth, race, ethnicity, relationship and housing tenure - taking just minutes to complete.
The more detailed socioeconomic information once collected via the long-form questionnaire is now collected by the American Community Survey. The survey provides current data about all communities every year, rather than once every 10 years. It is sent to a small percentage of the population on a rotating basis throughout the decade. No household will receive the survey more often than once every five years.
In 2008, the Census Bureau released its first multiyear estimates based on ACS data collected from 2005 through 2007. These 3-year estimates of demographic, social, economic and housing characteristics will be available for geographic areas with a population of 20,000 or more, including the nation, all states and the District of Columbia, all congressional districts, approximately 1,800 counties, and 900 metropolitan and micropolitan statistical areas, among others. For areas with a population less than 20,000, 5-year estimates will be available. The first 5-year estimates, based on ACS data collected from 2005 through 2009, will be released in 2010.
For more information on the history and methodology of the ACS, see American Community Survey: Design and Methodology [PDF 7.4MB].