Tuesday, November 09, 2010


The American Community Survey comes from a sample of 3 million addresses. It replaces the old Census "Long Form", but is collected every year instead of 10 years. Data is gathered into 1-year estimates, 3-year estimates and 5-year estimates, and released the next year. The ACS is used to determine how funds are allocated by Federal, State and community programs.

The American Community Survey is found in American Factfinder under "Data sets". The most recent data is set by default, but you can go back to earlier data. If you do multiple searches and need to change the geography and/or table, click on "clear all selections" in the upper-right-hand corner. If you want to view the same data type for other places, there should be a "view this table for other geographies" link on the left.

There are seven data sets:

  • Data Profiles--This is for finding quick answers to the most common questions.
  • Comparison Profiles--These profiles feature data by percent and median.
  • Selected Population Profiles--These profiles give snapshots of different ethnic groups. 3-year estimates are better to use because of the larger sample size.
  • Ranking Tables--These tables rank states by different characteristics, which are grouped by subject. Only 1-year estimates are available.
  • Subject Tables--These tables have popular questions grouped by topic.
  • Detailed Tables--These tables get very specific. For instance, transit to work in Seattle would include separate listings for ferry, streetcar or bus.
  • Geographic Comparison Tables--These tables let you compare places by different categories. For example, percentage of foreign-born residents in each Minnesota county.

This e-tutorial is part of the ACS Compass Products, which are educational materials on the American Community Survey. I encourage everyone to take it themselves if they can. I found the video sample searches and the quiz especially helpful. If you have more questions, the Census has an 800 number and an online question form.

--Andrea @Central

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