The American Community Survey (ACS) is an ongoing survey that provides data every year -- giving communities the current information they need to plan investments and services. The ACS covers a broad range of topics about social, economic, demographic, and housing characteristics of the U.S. population.
The 5-year estimates from the ACS are "period" estimates that represent data collected over a period of time. The primary advantage of using multiyear estimates is the increased statistical reliability of the data for less populated areas and small population subgroups.
The 5-year estimates are available for all geographies down to the block group level. See Supported Geography for details on each product’s published summary levels. In total, there are 87 different summary levels available with over 578,000 geographic areas. Unlike the 1-year estimates, geographies do not have to meet a particular population threshold in order to be published. Detail Tables, Subject Tables, Data Profiles, and Comparison Profiles include the following geographies: nation, all states (including DC and Puerto Rico), all metropolitan areas, all congressional districts (116th congress), all counties, all places, all tracts and block groups.
For more information about the data available in the ACS, please visit the Guidance for Data Users page.
ACS has non-overlapping datasets that allow comparisons of current ACS data to past ACS data. The 2016-2020 ACS 5-Year estimates can be compared with 2011-2015 ACS 5-Year estimates. For information on comparability of the 2016-2020 ACS 5-Year estimates to the 2011-2015 estimates by topic, please visit the Comparing 2020 American Community Survey Data page.
Variables, and the values they represent, may change over time. If you have used variables in prior year releases, check the ACS product changes webpage for source table changes. If the variable you have been using comes from a table that has changed from the prior year, check the variables list (variables.html) and compare the variable concept and label to be sure you are requesting the correct estimate.
In September 2016, ACS released annotation variables that return character representations of each estimate. Many annotations return as null. However, if an annotation variable returns a value, it provides important information about the estimate or margin of error. For example, if an estimate variable (variable ending in “E”) returns “-888888888”, the annotation variable will return “(X)”. Looking at the Notes on ACS Estimates and Annotation Values, this means the estimate is not applicable or not available. For a complete list of return values and their annotations, see Notes on ACS Estimates and Annotation Values.
Using the Census API with the American Community Survey Webinar
Discover how to access ACS datasets through the U.S. Census Bureau's Application Programming Interface (API) to create custom apps.
Need help? Check out our Developer Forum to submit questions, share your apps, and provide feedback.