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Michael Beaghen, Tucker McElroy, Lynn Weidman, Mark Asiala, and Alfredo Navarro


The American Community Survey (ACS) was designed to produce annually updated estimates for detailed demographic, socioeconomic, and housing topics that were formerly available only once-a-decade from the census long-form sample. The first one-year estimates from the full implementation ACS were released in August 2006 for areas with populations of 65,000 or more. The ACS released the first set of multiyear estimates (MYEs) in December 2008, consisting of three-year period estimates for all areas with populations of 20,000 or more, and in December 2010 the ACS released the first five-year period estimates for all standard tabulation areas. The introduction of MYEs has received a great deal of attention among statisticians and the general American public, and concerns over issues of statistical interpretation and usability, particularly the choice between one-, three-, and five-year estimates, have arisen. This paper addresses these concerns, summarizing recently published literature and internal Census Bureau documents.

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