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What is the American Community Survey?
- The American Community Survey, or ACS, is an ongoing survey sent to a rolling and random sample of the US population every year (about 250,000 per month, 3 million per year).
- In addition to basic demographic data, the ACS collects information regarding disabilities, health insurance, education, income, and family, among others.
- The Census Bureau uses this data to make 1-year, 3-year, and 5-year estimates.
The ACS Process
- The Census Bureau maintains an archive of questionnaires. It also provides rationales for each question.
- Individual questionnaires go to traditional residences (homes, apartments, mobile homes).
- Group quarters questionnaires go to nontraditional residences, including prisons, mental hospitals, nursing homes, college dormitories, military barracks, group homes, etc.).
- 1-year estimates available for states as well as cities, counties, metro areas, and population groups greater than 65,000.
- 3-year estimates available for areas of 20,000 to 65,000. (Note that 3-year estimates have been discontinued.)
- 5-year estimates available for areas of fewer than 20,000.
Which Estimates Should You Use?
ACS data is incorporated into American FactFinder, the Census Bureau's primary data tool, with a variety of access points:
- search the FactFinder database
- browse available ACS data tables
- get ACS data by topic
University of Puget Sound students, staff and faculty can access selected datasets from the ACS via the Data-Planet database.
The Census Bureau's ACS Data & Documentation page includes options to download data via FTP; summary files; and Public Use Microdata Samples.
Not sure which data tool to use? Consult this data tool chart.