The ACS is important to business for the same reasons that census long-form data have been important. The census collects information for federal program purposes, but businesses have been creative in finding prolific uses for census data—especially data from the long form. Census data have become a foundation for the research, planning, and evaluation work of many businesses.
Business uses of demographic and socioeconomic data fall into two major categories—market/site evaluation and consumer segmentation. These applications often require data for very small areas, and the census has been the most authoritative source of small area data available. And while many businesses now use sophisticated and proprietary site and segmentation products provided by private firms, these products are built largely on a statistical and geographic foundation provided by the census. The Decennial Census Program, now including the American Community Survey, remains a critical resource to the companies that build site and segmentation tools and to the companies that use them.
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