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Listed below are the three surveys and one census that provide Census Bureau’s statistics on Families and Households. Following a general description of each program are specifics related to this topic.

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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.

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The ACS asks about the relationship of each person in a household to the person who owns or rents the home to create estimates about families, households, and other groups. To help federal agencies understand marriage trends and measure the effects of policies and programs that focus on the well-being of families, the ACS asks about a person’s marital status, changes in marital status in the past 12 months, and lifetime marital history. To understand more about growing families we ask whether a woman has given birth in the past 12 months. The ACS also reports on the characteristics of same-sex couple households.

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Current Population Survey (CPS)

The Current Population Survey (CPS) is the primary source of labor force statistics for the population of the U.S. The Bureau of Labor Statistics sponsors the survey, and the U.S. Census Bureau conducts the data each month. The CPS involves a sample of about 60,000 occupied households. Households are in the survey for four consecutive months, out for eight, and then return for another four months before leaving the sample permanently.

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The Annual Social and Economic Supplement (ASES) of the CPS collects data on family characteristics, household composition, marital status, health insurance coverage, previous year’s income from all sources, receipt of noncash benefit, poverty, program participation, etc. The CPS collects data on the fertility of American women for the noninstitutionalized population. Data on children ever born and mothers’ age at last birth are collected for women 15 to 44 years old and are the best source for historical trends in fertility. ASES collects data on child support arrangements, visitation rights of absent parent, amount and frequency of actual versus awarded child support, and health insurance coverage.

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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.

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Every 10 years, the census tells us about households by type, that is, by family households and nonfamily households. Family households consist of a householder and one or more other people related to the householder by birth, marriage, or adoption. They do not include same-sex married couples unless there is at least one additional person related to the householder by birth or adoption. We tabulate same-sex couple households with no relatives of the householder present as nonfamily households. Nonfamily households consist of people living alone and households that do not have any members related to the householder.

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.

To create a more complete representation of national well-being, SIPP collects extensive information concerning family dynamics, educational attainment, housing expenditures, asset ownership, health insurance, disability, childcare, and food security. These data put the income and program participation of individuals and households into the family and social context. Thus, researchers may examine the ways in which these factors interact to influence financial well-being and movement into or out of government assistance programs.

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