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Which Data Source to Use

Component ID: #ti947338692

The CPS ASEC provides the most timely and accurate national data on income and is the source of official national poverty estimates, hence it is the preferred source for national analysis. Because of its large sample size, the ACS is preferred for subnational data on income and poverty by detailed demographic characteristics. The Census Bureau recommends using the ACS for 1-year estimates of income and poverty at the state level. Users looking for consistent, state-level trends should use CPS ASEC 2-year averages and CPS ASEC 3-year averages for state to state comparisons.

For substate areas, like counties, users should consider their specific needs when picking the appropriate data source. The SAIPE program produces overall poverty and household income 1-year estimates with standard errors usually smaller than direct survey estimates. Users looking to compare estimates of the number and percentage of people in poverty for counties or school districts or the median household income for counties should use SAIPE, especially if the population is less than 65,000. Users who need other characteristics such as poverty among Hispanics or median earnings, should use the ACS, where and when available.

The SIPP is the only Census Bureau source of longitudinal poverty data. As SIPP collects monthly income over 2.5 to 5 year panels, it is also a source of poverty estimates for time periods more or less than one year, including monthly poverty rates.

The chart below summarizes the recommendations at various geographic levels:

Component ID: #ti1198749820

Geographic Level Cross-Sectional Estimates Longitudinal Estimates
Income/Poverty Rate Detailed Characteristics Year-to-Year Change

United States

CPS ASEC

CPS ASEC/

ACS 1-year estimates for detailed race groups

CPS ASEC

SIPP

States

ACS 1-year estimates

CPS ASEC 3-year averages

ACS 1-year estimates

ACS 1-year estimates



Substate (areas with populations of 65,000 or more)

ACS 1-year estimates/

SAIPE for counties and school districts

ACS  1-year estimates

ACS 1-year estimates / SAIPE for counties and school districts

None

Substate (areas with populations less than 20,000)

SAIPE for counties and school districts/

ACS using 5-year period estimates for all other geographic entities/

Decennial Census 2000 and prior

ACS  5-year estimates/

Decennial Census 2000 and prior

SAIPE for counties  and school districts/

ACS using 5-year period estimates for all other geographic entities1

None

State-to-Nation comparison

CPS ASEC

CPS ASEC

CPS ASEC


Component ID: #ti947338693

Footnotes

1 Use non-overlapping periods for ACS trend analysis with multiyear estimates. For example, comparing 2006-2010 ACS 5-Year estimates with 2011-2015 ACS 5-Year estimates is preferred for identifying change.

Component ID: #ti947338699

Additional Information

For additional details & links to each survey or program's site, see the Survey & Programs page within this Guidance for Data Users section.

Component ID: #ti947338696

Comparing ACS & CPS ASEC

For a detailed comparison of the differences between the American Community Survey (ACS) and the Annual Social & Economic Supplement of the Current Population Survey (CPS ASEC), refer to the factsheet below.

Component ID: #ti947338695

Comparing ACS & Decennial Census

For more information on comparing the American Community Survey (ACS) & the Decennial Census, refer to the working paper below.

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