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Understanding and Using American Community Survey Data: What Users of Data for American Indians and Alaska Natives Need to Know

Suppose a tribal planner needs current information about the local population to plan for future economic development, a Commission on Indian Affairs in a southeastern state wants to improve access to health services for tribal members, or a policy analyst at a federal agency wants to measure the effectiveness of programs that fund critical health care services to American Indian and Alaska Native populations nationwide. Where could they turn for this information?

The U.S. Census Bureau’s American Community Survey (ACS) provides a detailed portrait of the social, economic, housing, and demographic characteristics of America’s communities, including information about the characteristics of American Indians and Alaska Natives and the areas where they live. ACS data are important to tribal government officials, federal funding agencies, state government agencies, and nongovernmental organizations that provide services to improve the well-being of tribal populations. When American Indian and Alaska Native respondents complete the ACS, they are helping to ensure that the best statistics are available to their communities to inform future decisions.

This handbook provides an overview of the ACS to help tribal data users and others understand the basics of the survey, how the data can be used, how to judge the accuracy of ACS estimates, and how to access ACS data on the Census Bureau’s Web site. It also includes some recent case studies that show how ACS data are being used to help address important policy and program issues facing American Indian and Alaska Native populations. Links to additional ACS resources, including technical documentation for more advanced users, are included throughout this handbook.

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