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American Community Survey

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Which Data Table or Tool Should I Use?

Unfamiliar with the many ways you can obtain statistics from the American Community Survey (ACS)? 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 latest 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 link to the tool

CheckedWhy this tool may be right for you:

  • It contains statistics for every district.
  • It includes statistics on popular topics such as 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.

Go to My Congressional District now!

Tribal Planner

Persona representing a tribal planner

Chava is a tribal planner looking for information about the people and housing in her tribal area to plan future improvements. She is working on a tight deadline, and needs a way to quickly access tribal statistics on a variety of topics.

Recommendation: My Tribal Area

Find out why and link to the tool

CheckedWhy this tool may be right for you:

  • It contains statistics for American Indian and Alaska Native areas.
  • It includes statistics on popular topics, such as employment status, income, education, and more.
  • The results page can be embedded on your website.

CheckedWhy you may want to consider another tool:

  • It contains only a subset of all ACS topics.
  • The geography selection is limited to tribal areas.
  • Data are not available for detailed tribal groups--only tribal areas.

Go to My Tribal Area now!

Mayor

Mayor Garcia

Mayor Garcia is looking for key facts about the people and businesses in her town before heading to the statewide 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, county, city, or town.
  • It combines statistics from American Community Survey with other surveys to give a broader view of a particular geography in table, map, and chart formats.
  • Results can be downloaded or shared.

CheckedWhy you may want to consider another tool:

  • The geography selection is limited to state, county, city, and town.
  • It contains only a subset of all ACS topics.
  • The ACS data shown in this tool are only for the most recent 5-year estimates.

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

Go to QuickFacts!

Emergency Planner

Student persona

Chief Ryan, a county emergency planner, needs an easy way to access selected statistics, such as language spoken at home, age of housing units, and vehicle availability, to help his community recover from disasters, natural hazards, and weather events.

Recommendation: OnTheMap for Emergency Management

Learn more about OnTheMap for Emergency Management

CheckedWhy this tool may be right for you:

  • You need to access statistics for event areas in real time.
  • It combines statistics from American Community Survey with data from other surveys to give a broader view of an event area.
  • It has linkable maps and reports to share.

CheckedWhy you may want to consider another tool:

  • The geographic selection is limited to event areas.
  • It contains only a subset of all ACS topics.

Visit OnTheMap for Emergency Management!

Business Owner

Business Owner

Faraj wants information about potential customers, similar businesses, and consumer spending to figure out where to locate his gas station. He's looking for key data that is relevant to small business owners, and he may decide to insert a report or map in a business plan for his investors.

Recommendation: Census Business Builder

Find out more about Census Business Builder

CheckedWhy this tool may be right for you:

  • You want to open a new business or expand an existing business.
  • It combines statistics from the American Community Survey with economic data to guide your research.
  • The interactive map allows you to select areas and compare their results to those of neighboring areas.
  • Reports are downloadable and printable.

CheckedWhy you may want to consider another tool:

  • The geographic selection is limited to counties, places, ZIP codes, and census tracts.
  • It contains only a subset of all ACS topics.

Learn more about Census Business Builder!

Student

Student

Justin is a student preparing to give a presentation about his local community. He is searching for a credible report that contains high level statistics to describe the community and visual aids that can be used in the presentation.

Recommendation: Narrative Profiles

Learn more about Narrative Profiles

CheckedWhy these profiles may be right for you:

  • The Narrative Profiles provide not only summary text, but also colorful tables and charts to illuminate key highlights.
  • They include popular topics, such as income, jobs, housing, age, and education.
  • They contain statistics for many geographies, such as states, counties, places/cities, and more.

CheckedWhy you may want to consider another tool:

  • You prefer to view information in tables.
  • Narrative Profiles may not contain enough detail for your topic of interest.
  • The profiles contain only a subset of all ACS topics.

Go to Narrative Profiles!

Educator

Educator

Jocelyn wants 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 is also interested in seeing if these characteristics changed over time, and if these changes are statistically significant. Jocelyn wants this high-level information in separate fact sheets on social, economic, demographic, and housing characteristics for her area.

Recommendation: Data Profiles or Comparison Profiles (on American FactFinder)

Learn more about Data Profiles and Comparison Profiles

CheckedWhy these profiles may be right for you:

  • Profiles help novice users get acquainted with ACS data tables.
  • They provide broad social, economic, housing, and demographic statistics for many levels of geography.
  • The Comparison Profiles show yearly data side-by-side, indicating statistical significance between sets of estimates.

CheckedWhy you may want to consider another tool:

  • Tables may not contain enough detail for your topics of interest.
  • Data is not available for block groups.

Link to Data Profiles/Comparison 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 Veterans Affairs 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 these tables may be right for you:

  • Tables are available for most of the subjects in the ACS.
  • Subject Tables have more in-depth statistics on a particular subject than Data Profiles or Comparison Profiles.
  • They provide estimates and percentages for many levels of geography.

CheckedWhy you may want to consider another tool:

  • Not all topics have a corresponding Subject Table.
  • These tables may not contain enough detail for your topics of interest (see Detailed Tables).
  • Subject Tables are not available for block groups (see Detailed Tables).

Browse available topics on our Subject Tables page. Use the search/filter box to find your topic quickly.

Market Analyst

Market Analyst

Thomas wants in-depth information about topics such as income, educational attainment, and household size, for his report on where to locate a large retail store. He's looking for the most detailed information the ACS provides on these topics.

Recommendation: Detailed Tables (on American FactFinder)

Find out more about Detailed Tables

CheckedWhy these tables may be right for you:

  • Detailed Tables are the most comprehensive ACS tables.
  • They cover all subjects in the ACS.
  • They are now available for areas down to block group level (since the 2009-2013 ACS 5-year release).

CheckedWhy you may want to consider another tool:

  • Detailed Tables may contain more detail than needed for your topic.
  • They do not provide percentages (see Subject Tables above).
  • They do not contain block group level data prior to 2009-2013 ACS 5-year release. (See ACS Summary File for block group data prior to 2013.)

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

Media

Student persona

Tyson, a reporter for a local newspaper, is looking for a visual way to show trends in his community. He has some topics in mind that will be of interest to his readers, and hopes to be able to use available maps directly in his news reports.

Recommendation: Census Mapping Tools

Find out why and link to the tools

CheckedWhy these tools may be right for you:

  • You wish to display American Community Survey data visually.
  • Tools are interactive and allow users to zoom in and select topics of interest.
  • Most of the maps can be shared.

CheckedWhy you may want to consider other tools:

  • You prefer information in tabular format.
  • Geography selection is limited depending on the mapping tool.
  • They contain only a subset of ACS topics.

Census Flows Mapper - provides maps showing county-to-county migration flows maps by various ACS characteristics.

TIGER/Line Shapefiles with Selected Demographic and Economic Data - provides files in geodatabase format for GIS users to map selected ACS data.

Thematic Maps - create maps from data tables (Subject Tables, Data Profiles, Comparison Profiles, Detailed Tables) in American FactFinder. To activate the "create a map" icon, you must have more than one geography selected and be in table view (as opposed to table results list).

Health Administrator

Health Administrator

Benjamin wants to create his own tables of interest using Public Use Microdata Sample (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 do not have access to statistical software.
  • You need to create a custom table that is not available in 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.
  • The PUMS geography selection is limited to nation, region, division, state, and Public Use Microdata Areas (PUMAs).

Go to DataFerrett!

Regional Planner

Regional Planner

Marisa wants to do regional planning analysis using Public Use Microdata Sample (PUMS) files, and she has expertise using statistical software. Marisa is an advanced data user who is comfortable working with untabulated records to do research projects.

Recommendation: Public Use Microdata Sample files via FTP

Learn more about the FTP site

CheckedWhy this tool may be right for you:

  • You are a skilled programmer with access to statistical software to do analysis (e.g. SAS, SPSS, STATA.
  • You need to create a custom table that is not available in American FactFinder.
  • You want to access a sample of actual ACS responses for the nation, a state, or a PUMA.

CheckedWhy you may want to consider another tool:

  • Your table of interest is already pretabulated in American FactFinder.
  • The PUMS geography selection is limited to the nation, region, division, state, and Public Use Microdata Areas (PUMAs).

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

Developer

Entrepeneur

Karen wants to create mobile apps and custom widgets for her customers across a variety of topics. She is an experienced programmer, but appreciates the support that can be found in a community of developers and a well-documented dataset.

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.


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