The American Community Survey (ACS) is an ongoing statistical survey administered by the Census Bureau that samples a small percentage of the population every year, providing communities the information they need to plan for public investments and services.
The ACS replaced the “long form” of the decennial census after the year 2000, and is one of the best sources of local data.
ACS data are primarily available through the Census Bureau’s American FactFinder resource, which will connect you with prepared data tables.
Other methods to obtain ACS data are the publications called “ACS Data Briefs” and “ACS Reports,” both of which are available on the Census Bureau website along with other manuals and guidance to data users.
The Census Bureau also offers a data tool to extract raw ACS data, called DataFerrett.
Tips for Using ACS Resources and Search Tools
Start with the “Advanced Search” option and click on “Topics.” All topics except housing are included under the “People” subheading. The Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO) Occupation Codes are a special tabulation of ACS data.
ACS tables are denoted both by a combination letter-number code, and by a title. The letter codes offer useful clues about the contents of the tables. For example, one especially useful table for employment-related data is a Comparison Profile - CP03, which includes historical economic characteristics data.
“Economic Characteristics” and “Social Characteristics” tables each include a variety of data, but on different topics.
Under the “Product Type” heading are the following resources.
1. “Comparison Profiles” show 5 years of ACS historical data, which has data available from 2006. 2005 ACS data can be obtained through a search of the “Dataset” option.
2. “Narrative Profiles” are automatically-generated reports for the geographic locale you select. The profiles include text, tables, and charts, and supply a wealth of basic data on: population, employment, occupations, industries, income, poverty, education, geographic mobility, commuting patterns, disability, family types, immigration, language use, and housing.
3. “Ranking Tables” automatically rank your data by geographic area from the highest to the lowest rank, such as the high school completion table under “educational attainment” that ranks states on their proportion of high school-educated individuals.