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Comparing 2008-2012 ACS 5-year and 2013-2017 ACS 5-year

When comparing the 2008-2012 ACS 5-year estimates with the 2013-2017 ACS 5-year estimates, there are several issues to consider:

  1. Change in geographic boundaries - The 2008-2012 ACS 5-year estimates used legal boundaries as of January 1, 2012. The 2013-2017 ACS 5-year estimates use legal boundaries as of January 1, 2017. Most statistical areas for both datasets use 2010 Census vintage geographies. For more information on geographic concepts used in the ACS, visit Geography and the ACS.
  2. Change in the questionnaire or coding - The list below provides details by subject for major questionnaire or coding changes.

Data from 2013-2017 are comparable to 2008-2012. The ACS question on race was revised in 2008 to make it consistent with the 2010 Census race question. For more information, see the questionnaire changes document.

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Data from 2013-2017 are comparable to 2008-2012. The ACS question on Hispanic origin was revised in 2008 to make it consistent with the 2010 Census Hispanic origin question. For more information, see the questionnaire changes document.

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Data from 2013-2017 are comparable to 2008-2012 as long as some caution is used. In 2010, there were two major changes to the coding rules. If up to two ancestries were listed, both were coded, even if one was the specific of the other or if one was American. Also, race groups and Hispanic groups were coded with the same priority as non-race and non-Hispanic groups. For example, "Haitian Black French" would previously have been coded Haitian and French, but now would be coded Haitian and Black.

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Modest changes have been made to the region and country groupings. Specifically, in 2009 Macau (code 225) is now included under the definition of China, and Jan Mayen (code 121) and Svalbard (code 135) are included under the definition of Norway, please see 2009 ACS Code List.  On October 10, 2010 the Netherlands Antilles were dissolved, and for the 2011 ACS place of birth codes, Netherlands Antilles remains as code 336. Bonaire has been assigned new POB code 344, Curacao is 345, Saba is 346, Sint Eustatius is 347, and Sint Maarten is 348; please see the 2011 ACS Code List. For the 2014 ACS South Sudan (code 463) was added as an eligible place of birth, please see the 2014 ACS Code List. These changes do not limit comparing most 2007-2011 ACS 5-year and 2012-2016 ACS 5-year estimates.

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Use caution when making comparisons between the 2008-2012 ACS 5-year estimates and 2013-2017 ACS 5-year estimates of spoken languages and English-speaking ability.  Some languages need additional steps for comparison. Please refer to the 2016 Language Data User Note for comparability guidance.

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The 2008 ACS disability questions are different from the Census 2000 and prior disability questions, thus a comparison cannot be made. For information about definitions of disability in the ACS, Census 2000 and other Census Bureau surveys, visit the Disability website.

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Income and earnings estimates in the 2008-2012 ACS 5-year data set are inflation-adjusted to 2012 dollars.  Income and earnings estimates in the 2013-2017 ACS 5-year data set are inflation-adjusted to 2017 dollars.  To compare income estimates between the two, multiply the 2008-2012 dollar estimates by 1.06962963 (CPI-U-RS) in order to inflation-adjust 2012 dollars to 2017 dollars. The exception is the Comparative Economic Characteristics Profile (CP03) where all income and earnings dollar values are presented in 2017 inflation-adjusted dollars. Note that the Census Bureau inflation-adjusts microdata to arrive at the adjusted dollar values in CP03.  Data users will not be able to exactly replicate the CP03 2008-2012 inflation-adjusted values.

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Income and earnings estimates in the 2008-2012 ACS 5-year data set are inflation-adjusted to 2012 dollars.  Income and earnings estimates in the 2013-2017 ACS 5-year data set are inflation-adjusted to 2017 dollars.  To compare income estimates between the two, multiply the 2008-2012 dollar estimates by 1.06962963 (CPI-U-RS) in order to inflation-adjust 2012 dollars to 2017 dollars. The exception is the Comparative Economic Characteristics Profile (CP03) where all income and earnings dollar values are presented in 2017 inflation-adjusted dollars. Note that the Census Bureau inflation-adjusts microdata to arrive at the adjusted dollar values in CP03.  Data users will not be able to exactly replicate the CP03 2008-2012 inflation-adjusted values.


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In 2013, the veteran status question was modified. As a result, the 2013–2017 ACS 5-year is the first 5-year data that uses only this modified question for estimates of the veteran population. Accordingly, we recommend using caution when comparing estimates of the veteran population from this ACS 5-year with any earlier ACS 5-year data. For more information, visit the Veterans Statistics webpage.

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In 2010, we added an instruction to the food stamp question incorporating the new program name - Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). The wording of the food stamp question was revised in the 2008 ACS to ask respondents if they received "food stamps or a food stamp benefit card."

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The 2008 to 2012 ACS industry data was coded using the 2007 North American Industry Classification System (NAICS).

The ACS industry data for 2013 and later years are based on the 2012 revision of the NAICS codes. Because of the Census industry code changes, we recommend using caution when comparing 2013-2017 industry data with 2008-2012 industry data. For more information on Census industry code changes, please visit the Industry and Occupation website.

The Census occupation codes for 2010 and later years are based on the 2010 revision of the Standard Occupational Classification (SOC). To allow for the creation of 2008-2012 tables, occupation data in the 2008-2012 multiyear file was recoded to 2010 Census occupation codes. The 2008-2012 and 2013-2017 occupation codes are both based on 2010 revision of the SOC, and therefore are comparable. For more information on the Census occupation code changes, please visit Industry and Occupation website.

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Data was not available prior to 2013.  Therefore, the 2008-2012 ACS 5-year estimates were not available.  For more information about computer and internet use questions in the ACS and other Census Bureau surveys, visit the Computer and Internet Use website.

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