Need ACS Data? Get it for free on PolicyMap

We’re excited to announce that you’ll start seeing the Census’ American Community Survey (ACS) data next week on PolicyMap! You’ll see a number of key indicators like population, income, and educational attainment first. Then, you’ll have access to the full spectrum of ACS data over the next few months as we roll it all into the platform.

For our free registered and public users, this move to ACS data means you’ll have access to these 2005-2009 estimates, rather than having to rely on the 2000 Census data only in your maps and tables.

For our subscribers, it means your reports will contain these new 2005-2009 estimates, rather than the Nielsen estimates and projections, when possible.

So just what is the Census’ American Community Survey (ACS)?

The American Community Survey has replaced the longer version (“long form”) of the household survey from the Decennial Census. Rather than distributing both a short survey and the long form in 2010, the U.S. Census Bureau instead distributed only the short survey as the Decennial Census. Beginning in 2000, the U.S. Census Bureau also began administering the new ACS Survey, which is comprised of the bulk of the questions from the old Census long form. For the first time ever, the Census’ December 2010 release of the 2005-2009 ACS data included small geographic estimates, which we have chosen to incorporate into PolicyMap. The ACS data provides demographic, social, economic and housing characteristic estimates on a rolling basis (from 2005-2009), whereas the 2010 Decennial Census provides counts of the population and their basic characteristics (sex, age, race, Hispanic origin, and homeowner status) as a snapshot in time (for 2010). The move from the long form on the Decennial Census to the ACS format allows PolicyMap users to enjoy annually updated detailed population characteristics, rather than having to wait for the Decennial Census data release. The ACS differs from the Decennial Census in that it is not an enumeration of the population, however. Instead, the Census Bureau collects ACS data from a sample of the population, and it provides a margin of error for every ACS estimate. Margins of error are not shown on PolicyMap, but users are encouraged to call us or visit the Census’ website with questions about ACS estimates shown on PolicyMap.

And just a note about the Census 2010 data…

Once the Decennial Census 2010 data is available at small geographies, we’ll load it into PolicyMap. The Census reports that this data will be available for us to load sometime this summer.


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