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CensusDocs2010

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Suggested Citation 
U.S. Census Bureau, Compass for Understanding and Using American Community Survey Data: What Federal Agencies Need Know 
U.S. Government Printing Office, 
Washington, DC, 2008.
ECONOMICS

AND STATISTICS 
ADMfNISTRATION 

Economics and Statistics Administration 
Cynthia Glassman, 
Under Secretary for Economic Affairs 
U.S. CENSUS BUREAU 
Steve Murdock, 
Director 
Thomas Mesenbourg, 
Deputy Director and 
Chief Operating Officer 
Arnold Jackson 
Associate Director for Decennial Census 
Daniel Weinberg 
Assistant Director for ACS and Decennial Census 
Susan Schechter 
Chief, American Community rvey Office 

Contents 

Foreword...................................................................................................... What the American Community Survey (ACS)? ...................................... Purpose This Handbook ....................................................................... How Does the ACS Compare With the Decennial Census Long Form? ....... How Interpret and Use ACS Data ........................................... ............... 

Time and ACS Data ...................... .... ... ...... .............. ............... ...... ........ .....
More Than One Estimate for the Same Measurement .......... ..... ...... ... ............. Technical Issues Involving ACS Data ...................................................... 
Household Population and the Group Quarters (GQ) Population ....................... 
Dollar-Valued Data and Adjustments for Inflation ............................................ 
Geographic Boundary Changes ........................................................................ 
Rules Used Determine Residency ................................................................ 
Sample Size and Statistical Precision ....................................... ..... ...... .....
Combining Comparing ACS Estimates ......................................................... 
Nonsampling Error .......................................................................................... 
Sample Size and Suppression Data ..............................................................
Issues With Specific Variables .......................................................................... 
Evaluations the ACS .................................................................................... Making the Transition the ACS ........................................................... Statutory Basis for Using ACS Data .............. ...... ....... ... ..........................
Initial Choices Using ACS Data for Federal Purposes ................................... 
Changes the ACS ............ ................... ... .................. .... ............. ..... .... ...
Examples the Use ACS Data Federal Agencies .................. ............... How Obtain ACS Data ......................................................................... 

The American FactFinder (AFF) ........................................................................ 
Summary Files ................................................................................................ 
Custom Tabulations ........................................................................................ 
Public Use Microdata Sample (PUMS) Files ....................................................... Future the ACS .................................................................................... 

ACS Data Become Available for All Geographies 2010 ................................. 
Future Evolution the ACS the Census Bureau ........................................... 
Future Evolution the ACS Outside the Census Bureau .................................. 

Glossary ...................................................................................................... 

Appendixes ......................................... ....................................................... A-1 
Appendix Understanding and Using Single-Year and Multiyear Estimates ....... A-1 
Appendix Differences Between ACS and Decennial Census Sample Data ........ A-8 
Appendix Measures Sampling Error .......................................................... A 
Appendix Making Comparisons ................................................................... A-1 
Appendix Using Dollar-Denominated Data ................................................... A-22 
Appendix Measures Nonsampling Error ................................................... A-24 
Appendix Implications Population Controls ACS Estimates .................. A-26 
Appendix Other ACS Resources ................................................................... A-27 

What Federal Agencies Need Know iii 
U.S. Census Bureau, Corn pass for Understanding and Using Ametican Community Survey Data 
The American Community Survey (ACS) nationwide survey designed 
Foreword 
provide communities with reliable and timely demographic, social, economic, and housing data every year. The U.S. Census Bureau will release data from the ACS the form both single-year and multiyear estimates. These estimates represent concepts that are fundamentally different from those associated with sample data from the decennial census long form. recognition the need provide guidance these new concepts and the challenges they bring users ACS data, the Census Bureau has developed set educational handbooks part 
The ACS Compass Products. recognize that users ACS data have varied backgrounds, educations, and experiences. They need different kinds explanations and guidance understand ACS data products. address this diversity, the Census Bureau worked closely with group experts develop series handbooks, each which designed instruct and provide guidance particular audience. The audiences that chose are not expected cover every type data user, but they cover major stakeholder groups familiar the Census Bureau. 
General data users Congress 
High school teachers Puerto Rico Community Survey data users (in Spanish) 
Business community Public Use Microdata Sample (PUMS) data users 
Researchers Users data for rural areas 
Federal agencies State and local governments 
Media Users data for American Indians and Alaska Natives 
The handbooks differ intentionally from each other language and style. Some information, including set technical appendixes, common all them. However, there are notable differences from one handbook the next the style the presentation, well some the topics that are included. hope that these differences allow each handbook speak more directly its target audience. The Census Bureau developed additional ACS Compass Products materials complement these handbooks. These materials, like the handbooks, are posted the Census Bureau's ACS Web site: . 
These handbooks are not expected cover all aspects the ACS provide direction every issue. They represent starting point for educational process which hope you will participate. encourage you review these handbooks and suggest ways that they can improved. The Census Bureau committed updating these handbooks address emerging user interests well concerns and questions that will arise. compass can important tool for finding one's way. hope The ACS Compass Products give direction and guidance you using ACS data and that you, turn, will serve scout pathfinder leading others share what you have learned. What Federal Agencies Need Know 
U.S. Census Bureau, Compass for Understanding and Using American Community Survey Data What the American Community Survey (ACS)? 

While the first decennial census took place 1790, only since 1940 has the U.S. Census Bureau collected data for the decennial census two ways: set questions administered all housing units order count the population and gather basic demographic information, such age, sex, race, and ethnicity and 
(2) additional set questions administered sample households and housing units order obtain more detailed demographic, housing, social, and economic information. recent censuses, the set questions asked all people has become known the "short form," while the additional questions asked only sample have become known the "long form." What know about households-their incomes, their education, their employment, their housing-at the state, county, city, and census tract levels-has usually come from the long-form sample. 2005, the Census Bureau launched the American Community Survey (ACS) replace the functions performed the long form. Prior 2005, the Census Bureau conducted extensive testing ACS methods specific site tests and series national tests. The ACS collects socioeconomic and housing information continuously from national sample housing units and people living group quarters, and the Census Bureau tabulates these data calendar year basis. August and September 2006, the Census Bureau released the 2005 ACS data for all states, Puerto Rico, the District Columbia, and for specified geographic areas, including counties and cities, with total populations least 65,000. Similar data were released August and September 2007 for the 2006 ACS. 2010, the Census Bureau will begin releasing ACS data annually for areas ranging from states census tracts and block groups. The ACS integral component the decennial census program, eliminating the need for long-form sample the decennial census. There will not long form the Census nor any
future decennial census. 

Federal agencies have used decennial census data, particularly the detailed information collected sample basis, for variety purposes. Several examples include: 
 	
Eligibility determinations. Agencies use census sample data determine the eligibility places for participation federal programs. For example, the Low Income Housing Tax Credit provides extra tax credits selected housing projects certain qualified census tracts. These tracts have been identified based special tabulation household income distributions the census tract level. 

 	
Allocation funds. Federal agencies use longform data allocate funds. For example, the Department Agriculture's Smith Lever Act and the Department Education's Preschool Grants for Children with Disabilities program allocate funds communities using funding formulas that rely decennial census data. 

 	
Program parameters. Federal programs often operate with parameters that vary location. For example, the Department Housing and Urban Development (HUD) uses decennial income data its calculations the income limits that determine the local level the eligibility households for various forms housing assistance. 

 	
Justification for discretionary grants. reviewing applications for discretionary grants, agencies require applicants justify the need for grant, and applicants have often employed decennial census sample data the justification. For instance, the Department Transportation works with states and local governments obtain special tabulation journey-to-work data the census tract level for use applicants models that assess the impact proposed grant. 

 	
Policy analysis and evaluation. Agencies rely decennial sample data gu'tde policy development and facilitate research and evaluation. the past, federal agencies used the data from the long-form sample for these functions; from now on, agencies will rely ACS data carry out these functions. 
What Federal Agencies Need Know 
U.S. Census Bureau. Compass for Understanding and Using American Community Survey Data Purpose This Handbook 

This handbook intended aid analysts, program administrators, and policy makers within federal agencies when they use the ACS carrying out the business their agencies. Because agencies depend the detailed housing and socioeconomic data that have been provided the decennial census longform sample, the advent the ACS great interest and possibly some concern the analysts and policy 
makers agencies that use these data. Data users will want know: 

 	
Whether the ACS will provide the same information the long form. 

 	
Whether ACS data will reliable long-form data. 

 	
How having annual data will affect their programs. 

 	
How program recipients might view the shift from the long-form census sample the ACS. 

This handbook designed help users federal agencies understand the ACS and answer these questions. While this handbook will describe the essential features the ACS detail and will discuss some important statistical and practical considerations, the bottom line that federal agencies should able use ACS data for the same purposes for which they used decennial census sample data. Clearly, the more frequent updating information available the ACS changes the statistical framework which federal agencies have been operating and opens new opportunities for agencies advance their missions and base policy and decision-making more current information. 
The remainder this handbook organized follows: 
Section compares the information the ACS furnishes with the information that agencies obtained the past from the long-form sample the decennial census. 
Sections and explain the essential characteristics the ACS, provide some perspective their importance, and suggest ways deal with problems that might arise from specific features. 
 	
Section discusses how interpret ACS estimates since they are based data collected over periods year, years, and years. 

 
Section introduces some technical issues that
users should aware of. 
 	Section explores some concerns that may arise federal agencies make the transition from using the decennial long-form sample data using the ACS data. 

The Anal two sections furnish information how obtain ACS information and what expect from the ACS the future. 
 	
Section explains how federal users can access ACS data ways that facilitate their use federal programs. 

 	
Section offers some insight into the future the ACS. 

Throughout this handbook, text boxes will contain additional information related the discussion the main text. glossary the back the handbook provides definitions for key terms, and set appendixes offers more in-depth explorations some the issues discussed the text. 
The goal this handbook give the reader the 
basics needed access and use ACS data. The techni
cal appendixes furnish more detailed information 
important subjects. addition, the Census Bureau 
has produced number reports selected topics 
involving the interpretation and quality ACS data. 
The handbook cites the technical appendixes and 
Census Bureau documents appropriate places the 
text, and Appendix lists the most useful references. What Federal Agencies Need Know 

U.S. Census Bureau, Compass for Understanding and Using American Community Survey Data How Does the ACS Compare With the Decennial Census Long Form? 
Most agencies will use ACS data applications that The questionnaires for the ACS and the Census 2000 have-until recently-used data from the decennial long form include many the same questions using census long-form sample. facilitate the transition very similar language. However, there are some differbetween these two data sources, this section provides ences. For example, the Census 2000 long form asked overview comparison the ACS and the decennial whether resident lived the same unit years ago sample. content, design, geographical coverage, while the ACS asks whether resident lived the and products, the ACS closely resembles the decensame unit year ago. Also the Census 2000 long form nial sample. The most important differences involve asked about income 1999 (the previous calendar sample size, the time between data releases, and the year), while the ACS asks about income over the relationship between geography and the timing data months preceding the interview date. 
releases.1 
QUESTIONNAIRES
Content. The content the ACS similar the content the Census 2000 long form. both cases, understand how similar the two surveys are, the Census Bureau worked with federal agencies and users shoul.d line and compare latest the Office Management and Budget ensure that 
questionnaire with the questionnaire used agency legislative requirements were provided for and the Census 2000 long linkto the that the public was not burdened with any question questionnaire being used the 2008 that was not based legislative requirement clear  and the link the Census information collected the ACS. 2000 long-form questionnaire 
.census ,gov /dmd/www OOOquest. html>. 

Table Subjects Included the American Community Survey 
Demographic Characteristics  Social Characteristics  Housing Characteristics  
Age  Marital Status and Marital History*  Year Structure Built  
Sex  Fertility  Units Structure  
Hispanic Origin  Grandparents Caregivers  Year Moved Into Unit  
Race  Ancestry  Rooms  
Relationship Householder (e.g., spouse)  Place Birth, Citizenship, and Year Entry  Bedrooms Kitchen Facilities  
Language Spoken Home  Plumbing Facilities  
Economic Characteristics Income Food Stamps Benefit Labor Force Status Industry, Occupation, and Class Worker Place Work and Journey Work  Educational Attainment and School Enrollment Residence One Year Ago Veteran Status, Period Military Service, and ServiceConnected Disability Rating* Disability  House Heating Fuel Telephone Service Available Farm Residence Financial Characteristics Tenure (Owner/Renter) Housing Value  
Work Status LastYear Vehicles Available  Rent Selected Monthly Owner Costs  
Health Insurance Coverage* Appendix provides more detailed comparison ACS data and decennial census sample data. Users can find comprehensive description the methods and procedures currently used the ACS American Community Survey Design and Methodology Technical Paper . 
What Federal Agencies Need Know 

U.S. Census Bureau, Compass for Understanding and Using American Community Survey Data 

Survey design. The Census Bureau maintains nationwide list addresses that uses for mailing questionnaires for the decennial census, the ACS, and other surveys. For Census 2000, every housing unit this list received either short form long form. Since the long form incorporated all the questions from the short form, this meant that all people living every housing unit were asked the questions the short form. Only sample housing units received the Census 2000 long form. Residents group quarters were also surveyed, using both the short form and the long form. Nearly all the Census 2000 forms were mailed delivered March 2000. The Census Bureau kept track responses and used enumerators follow-up all housing units that did not complete and mail back their census questionnaire. contrast, using the nationwide address list, the Census Bureau mails ACS questionnaires sample approximately 250,000 addresses every month and tries obtain completed interviews from these addresses within months. the first month, the Census Bureau mails survey questionnaire the sampled addresses followed second questionnaire the first not returned. the second month, the Census Bureau has received response these questionnaires, attempts collect the information telephone. Finally, the third month, for those addresses from which there still response, the Census Bureau sends highly trained interviewer subsample ranging from one-third one-half the nonresponding addresses area. The sampling rate for the ACS in-person interviews higher census tracts with lower predicted percentage mail and telephone respondents. 
Geographical coverage. Starting 201 the Census Bureau will publish ACS data for the same geographies covered the published long-form data from Census 2000. These geographies include, but are not limited to, the nation, states, counties, places, American Indian reservations, census tracts, and block groups. listing the major geographies for which the Census Bureau will publish ACS data furnished below the discussion the relationship between geography and the timing data release. (See Table 3.) Definitions these geographies are provided the glossary the end the handbook. 
Time between data releases. fundamental distinction between ACS data and data from the decennial long form that new ACS data are released every year, not just once every years. This basic difference has three important implications for federal agencies. 

Agencies will not have wait years between censuses update key information. They will working with the most current data. 	What Federal Agencies Need Know 

 	
Using ACS data may require more resources. Analysis long-form data within agency normally took place once decade. agencies choose take advantage the more frequent availability new ACS data, the agencies will need analyze new data more often, perhaps annually. 

 	
Shortening the time between releases new data will call attention the reliability published estimates. The ACS and its predecessor, the decennial census long form, are sample surveys; therefore, estimates based either source are subject sampling error. (See explanation sampling error later this section.) However, users are more likely blame sampling errors for observed differences the time between observations shorter. For example, percentage point change the poverty rate may not seem unusual over 

10-year period, but the same percentage point change single year may appear questionable even though sampling errors may cause both changes. For this reason, agencies can expect their clients question changes estimates more frequently than when the estimates were years apart. 

Geography and data release. Another important distinction between the ACS and the decennial long-form sample how the Census Bureau reports geographies different sizes. befits once-a-decade survey, the Census Bureau released long-form data collected 2000 for all levels geography down the block group. The ACS continuous survey, and the Census Bureau reports data when believes that the sample for particular location sufficient make the published estimates reasonably reliable. Table summarizes how the Census Bureau will release ACS data three different formats: 1-year estimates, 3-year estimates, and 5-year estimates. 
The 1-year estimates began 2006 with the release ACS data collected 2005. These data were released for geographic areas with populations 65,000 and greater. The release 3-year estimates began 2008 based ACS data collected from 2005 through 2007. Three-year mates are produced for areas with populations 20,000 and greater. The release 5year estimates begins 201 derived from ACS data collected from 2005 through 2009. These 5-year estimates are published for all geographic entities down census tracts and block groups. 
The 3-year and the 5-year estimates are called "period 
estimates" because the way that the Census Bureau 
constructs them. Each year the Census Bureau creates 
new multiyear estimates adding the newest year ACS data and dropping the oldest year ACS data. 
For example, the 5-year estimates released 201 
will based data collected 2005, 2006, 2007, 

U.S. Census Bureau, Compass for Understanding and Using American Community Survey Data , 
Table Collection and Release Dates Data From the ACS (Pattern Repeats After 2010)
R.elease year(late summer . offall 
 . ?006  20Q8 2009 2010 201
2007 	2012 period es.il11



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