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Three Tips for Using ACS Data

Three tips for using American Community Survey (ACS) data

  1. The 2010 Census shows the number of people who live in the U.S. and the American Community Survey shows how people live.

    Use data from the American Community Survey to obtain demographic, social, economic, and housing characteristics.

    Use numbers from the 2010 Census to obtain counts of the population and their basic characteristics (sex, age, race, Hispanic origin, and homeowner status).

    Use data from the Census Bureau's Population Estimates Program in the years between censuses. The Census Bureau's Population Estimates Program produces official population estimates for the nation, states, counties, cities and towns, plus housing unit estimates for states and counties.

  2. All American Community Survey data are estimates.

    The Census Bureau collects American Community Survey data from a sample of the population in the United States and Puerto Rico--rather than from the whole population. All ACS data are survey estimates. To help you interpret the reliability of the estimate, the Census Bureau publishes a margin of error (MOE) for every ACS estimate.

  3. American Community Survey collects and releases data by the calendar year for geographic areas that meet specific population thresholds.
    Data collected between... Data pooled to produce Data published for areas with
    January 1, 2013 and December 31, 2013 2013 ACS 1-year estimates populations of 65,000+
    January 1, 2011 and December 31, 2013 2011-2013 ACS 3-year estimates populations of 20,000+
    January 1, 2009 and December 31, 2013 2009-2013 ACS 5-year estimates populations of almost any size

    American Community Survey 1-, 3-, and 5-year estimates are period estimates, which means they represent the characteristics of the population and housing over a specific data collection period. Data are combined to produce 12 months, 36 months or 60 months of data. These are called 1-year, 3-year and 5-year data.

Hospital icon representing ways decision makers use ACS data

Decision-makers use ACS estimates

The ACS enables decision-makers to appropriately fund school-lunch programs, place new hospitals, build new businesses and take other actions that lead to healthy towns and cites. Learn how decision-makers use ACS statistics to help your community: An American Community infographic.

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Source: U.S. Census Bureau | American Community Survey Office | Email ACS | Last Revised: December 04, 2014
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