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Surveys and Programs Contributing to Migration/Geographic Mobility

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Listed below are the sources that provide Census Bureau statistics on migration and geographic mobility. Following a general description 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 previous calendar year and 5-year estimates in December for the previous five calendar years.

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The ACS asks two questions about migration and geographic mobility. The population question asks about the household’s residence one year ago. The housing question asks for the year that the household moved into the housing unit.

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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 CPS asks about each person living in a household, who has moved out, and each person’s usual place of residence. Beyond these basic questions, a set of supplemental questions collects data for a variety of other studies that keep the nation informed about the economic and social well-being of its people. For example, the Annual Social and Economic Supplement collects data on geographic mobility.

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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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The 2010 Census did not collect data on domestic and international migration. Those questions are now part of the ACS. The 2000 Census and some earlier censuses did collect domestic migration data, specifically the demographic, economic, and housing characteristics of movers. Those censuses also collected international migration data, specifically information on citizenship, country of birth, year of entry, and place of residence five years prior.

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Population Estimates

Each year, the Census Bureau's Population Estimates Program (PEP) utilizes current data on demographic components of population change (births, deaths, and migration) to calculate population change since the most recent decennial census. The program produces a time series of estimates of population, demographic components of change, and housing units.

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The PEP website contains estimates of net international migration (net international migration of the foreign-born + net migration of natives to and from the U.S. + net migration between the U.S. and Puerto Rico + net movement of the Armed Forces population between the U.S. and overseas) at the national and state levels. National-level data are available for the resident population by selected characteristics (race and Hispanic origin). State-level data are released for the total resident population. Estimates of international migration are available in the Components of Change tables.

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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 2½ years to 4 years.

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SIPP measures domestic migration to determine the seasonality of a household move and the length of time (duration) at the current residence. Migration data are available from 1984 to the present.

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