The U.S. Census Bureau’s American Community Survey (ACS), launched in 2005, was designed to keep pace with the nation’s increasing demand for timely and relevant data about the U.S. population and housing characteristics.
Today, the release of the 2015-2019 ACS 5-year estimates marks an important milestone. We now have three sets of 5-year estimates (2005-2009, 2010-2014, and 2015-2019) that do not overlap, which provide even more data for examining trends at the local level.
We now have three sets of 5-year estimates (2005-2009, 2010-2014, and 2015-2019) that do not overlap, which provide even more data for examining trends at the local level.
This is another step in fulfilling the vision for the ACS to provide government, businesses and the general public with more frequent data than the once-a-decade decennial census.
The ACS is an annual survey of about 3.5 million addresses that provides the United States and Puerto Rico with critical information on a wide range of over 40 topics every year.
The ACS data cover social, economic, housing and demographic characteristics. They allow federal and state government, businesses, researchers, communities and others to understand changes in specific geographies and population groups.
That, in turn, helps them plan for the future using current, reliable, and comparable data.
On their own, each set of ACS 5-year estimates is a valuable tool for comparing differences between geographies and population groups.
Comparing 5-year estimates over time is a little trickier. Consecutive 5-year estimates contain four years of overlapping coverage, so data users may not see much change between them. For example, 2014-2018 and 2015-2019 ACS 5-year estimates share sample data from 2015 through 2018.
Data users are encouraged to compare 5-year ACS data over time based on nonoverlapping estimates. Today’s release expands the nonoverlapping data available for analyzing trends for smaller geographies and population groups.
Users can now explore trends and analyze patterns with new data visualizations that highlight race and Hispanic origin data at the county level over the nonoverlapping 5-year ACS releases. They focus on three topics: education, poverty and income.
Over the next five years, it will be possible to compare three sets of nonoverlapping data each year.
Next year, for example, data users will be able to compare the 5-year estimates from 2006-2010, 2011-2015, and 2016-2020. The following year, they will be able to compare 2007-2011, 2012-2016, and 2017-2021, and so on.
This will continue until the ACS is able to release four nonoverlapping 5-year periods in 2025. The ability to analyze data clearly over time is particularly helpful for researchers examining trends.
To learn more about the ACS and connect with other ACS data users, join the ACS Data Users Group and online community. You can share messages, materials and announcements related to the ACS. Membership is free and open to all interested ACS data users.
Nicole Scanniello is the assistant division chief for program management and communications in the U.S. Census Bureau's American Community Survey Office.
What Can You Learn About Counties from the American Community Survey?
This visualization lets you explore data the Census Bureau provides for popular topics from the 2015-2019 ACS 5-year estimates.
Percentage of People in Poverty by County: 2015-2019
Explore data related to income using the 2019 ACS 5-year estimates through an interactive state map.
Percentage of Owner-Occupied Housing Units: 2015-2019
Explore data related to owner-occupied housing units using ACS 5-year estimates through an interactive state map.
Our email newsletter is sent out on the day we publish a story. Get an alert directly in your inbox to read, share and blog about our newest stories.
America Counts tells the stories behind the numbers in a new inviting way. We feature stories on various topics such as families, housing, employment, business, education, the economy, emergency management, health, population, income and poverty.
Contact our Public Information Office for media inquiries or interviews.
Annual Survey of Public Employment & Payroll Summary Report: 2021
Childless Older Americans Presentation
This is an invited presentation given to the Northwest Neighbors Village about the Childless Older Americans: 2018 report.
U.S. Trade with Puerto Rico and U.S. Possessions, 2021
Presents total quantity and value of commodities shipped between the United States, Puerto Rico, and U.S. possessions for the year 2021.
Understanding Disclosure Avoidance-Related Variability 2020 Census
This research is part of comprehensive efforts after each census to better understand sources of variability—both their scope and potential impacts.
Improving Estimates of Neighborhood Change with Constant Tract Boundaries
Differential privacy (DP) can protect confidentiality while reducing error in tract data over time, facilitating studies of neighborhood change.
The Impact of Manufacturing Credentials on Earnings and the Probability of Employment
We examine the association between industry credential attainment and improved labor market outcomes.
Metropolitan Segregation: No Breakthrough in Sight
2020 Census data show persistent trends in segregation since 1980: high but declining for blacks, lower but unchanging for Hispanics and Asians.