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Income and Poverty Estimates

Guidance on When to Use Each Survey

When should you use income and poverty estimates from the American Community Survey (ACS) and the Current Population Survey (CPS)?

United States - Use the CPS

For national figures, we recommend using data from the CPS — the source of the official national estimates of poverty as designated by the Office of Management and Budget. It is also the source for widely used estimates of income.

States - Use the ACS

To compare states with each other, we recommend using the ACS. To examine changes between 2005 and 2006, use the ACS (though not all estimates are directly comparable because of the addition of group quarters into the 2006 ACS sample). The CPS has value as a means of examining historical trends by state. Some of the differences between the two sources of data (CPS and ACS) are the length and detail of questions, sample size, geography and reference period.

Local Areas - Use the ACS

The data are available for nearly 7,000 areas, including all congressional districts, and counties, cities and American Indian/Alaska Native areas of 65,000 population or more.

Examples of when to use CPS and ACS

Area Comparison CPS ACS
United States X  
State X
- use for historical trend analysis
United States with state   X
>United States with state/metropolitan area/county/place   X
State with metropolitan area/county/place   X
American Indian/Alaska native areas   X
Congressional districts   X
Metropolitan area with county/place   X
County with place   X
Places (cities)   X

Source: U.S. Census Bureau | Public Information Office | PIO@census.gov | Last Revised: June 14, 2013