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Census Data: American Community Survey

Guide to statistical information collected by the U.S. Census Bureau.

About the Data

ACS data are characteristics of the population, not an actual count. About 3 million households are surveyed yearly.

ACS data describes a period of time and published data are based on 12, 36 or 60 months, starting with 2005.

Five-year estimates of data are combined to publish estimates for areas and population groups of less than 20,000.

Data is now available for larger and mid-sized areas. Starting in 2010, data for small geographic areas and population groups will be available.

The ACS is also conducted in Puerto Rico.

Understanding the ACS


The American Community Survey (ACS) is a on-going survey that is designed to replace the census long form in 2010. It is sent to a sample of the population and has replaced the long form for the 2010 Decennial census.

The American Fact Finder is the easiest way to access the data.

The ACS provides estimates of housing, social, and economic characteristics every year for all states, as well as for all cities, counties, metropolitan areas, and population groups of 65,000 persons or more. For smaller areas, it will take two to five years to accumulate enough data to produce information similar to that in the decennial census. Data include demographic characteristics, such as sex, age, and race/ethnicity. Currently, the ACS website contains demographic profiles by county.

Users of American Community Survey data may find this book quite useful: Using the American Community Survey: Benefits and Challenges See full text online or check out the library's print copy.

Types of Estimates

Publication Thresholds 1-year estimates 3-year estimates 5-year estimates
65,000 + people yes yes yes
20,000 + people no yes yes
less than 20,000 people no no yes

Citing Data


Example for using data from the Census Bureau's American Community Survey for 2006-2008:

During the survey period of 2006-2008 there was 1,185 +/- 516 Thais in Oklahoma.

Note: the legal way to cite this data is to report it this way:  "1,185 with a margin of error of  +/- 516". The number of 516 must remain with the data statement, with a citation to the data such as this--

    U.S. Census Bureau; American Community Survey, 2006-2008, Detailed Tables; generated by Jane Doe; using American FactFinder.