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Surveys and Programs Contributing to Commuting

Listed below are the two surveys and one census that provide Census Bureau’s statistics on Commuting (Journey to Work). Following a general description of each program are specifics related to this topic.

American Community Survey (ACS)

The American Community Survey (ACS) is an annual, nationwide survey of more than 3.5 million households in the U.S. The ACS is part of the Decennial Census Program and replaces the long form, which the Census Bureau last used during Census 2000. The survey produces statistics on demographic, social, economic, and other characteristics about our nation's population and housing. We release ACS 1-year estimates in September for the pervious calendar year and 5-year estimates in December for the previous five calendar years.

Among other questions related to the work commute, the American Community Survey (ACS) asks respondents about their primary workplace location. Workplace information is crucial for understanding the degree of interconnectedness among our nation's communities and it shapes the contours of metropolitan and micropolitan statistical areas. The U.S. Census Bureau's publicly available ACS tables present information about where people work by both residence-based and workplace-based data products, but information about the residence/workplace relationship is not provided as an origin-destination combination. A more complex story about commuting patterns emerges when residence location and workplace location are coupled, generating a "commuting flow."

The American Community Survey includes a question on means of transportation to work asked of those ages 16 and over who were employed and at work in the previous week. Individuals working at home are those who reported ‘‘work at home’’ on this question. More information, including a copy of the ACS questionnaire is available on the ACS home page.

Decennial Census

The decennial census counts every resident in the U.S. once every ten years, in years ending in zero. The Constitution of the United States mandates the head count to make sure each state can fairly represent its population in the U.S. House of Representatives. States use the numbers to draw their legislative districts. The federal government uses them to distribute funds and assistance to states and localities.

Survey of Income and Program Participation (SIPP)

The Survey of Income and Program Participation (SIPP) provides information on the distribution of income and the success of government assistance programs. SIPP data provide the most extensive information available on how the nation’s economic well-being changes over time. The sample survey is a continuous series of national panels, each ranging from approximately 14,000 to 53,000 interviewed households. The duration of each panel ranges from 2 ½ years to 4 years.

The Survey of Income and Program Participation (SIPP) includes a Work Schedule topical module that is asked of employed respondents who are least 15 years old. The topical module contains a variety of detailed questions related to respondents’ employment history and job details, including whether respondents worked at home during a typical week in the previous month and whether there were any days when the respondent worked entirely at home. More information, including a data dictionary containing the exact questions contained within the topical module, is available from the SIPP home page.


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