ACS Data Updated to 2016-2020

collage of photos representing the diversity of Americans

Once every ten years, the Census Bureau releases updates to thousands of indicators and makes major changes to geographic boundaries representing neighborhoods, cities, and counties, to name a few. All of this updated information is vital for making decisions. But deriving meaningful insights is challenging without expertise on how to compare current and historic data to evaluate changes over time. PolicyMap takes the guesswork out of the analysis so that assessing changing conditions over the past twenty years is simple to do.

PolicyMap now provides 2020 Decennial Census and 2016-2020 Census American Community Survey (ACS) data through our maps, charts, reports, and download feature. Because the Census data represents a cornerstone of the PolicyMap platform, these 2020 updates can be found in every single menu on our maps.

For a quick insight into community change, users can load a Census indicator from any one of our menus and enter a location in the Location search bar. For example, in the map, below, after loading income data from the Incomes & Spending menu and entering a location (New Brunswick, NJ in this case), an interactive trend chart immediately appears in a bubble after the location is selected, revealing income fluctuations in New Brunswick, NJ over the past twenty years:

For context on the changes that have occurred in this area, users can click the “Trends” icon in the bubble. In the “Trends” sidebar, users can choose to “See Chart” to compare how trends in the location compare to trends in the surrounding areas, allowing for benchmarking. In this example, incomes in New Brunswick, NJ tracked closely to the county (Middlesex, NJ), state (New Jersey), and nation.

Guidance on Making Comparisons Using Historic Data

For places that experienced substantial boundary changes or newly incorporated in the past ten years, trends on the map and charts are prohibited due to incomparability to historic data. The bubble signals to the user that a mapped or charted trend isn’t recommended. See the map, below, for an example of Basking Ridge, NJ, which was not historically a Census Place and doesn’t provide a trend chart:

For users wishing to approximate historic information for places like Basking Ridge, the PolicyMap Community Profile provides historic estimates to show trends over time.

The Community Profile is runnable through the “Reports” icon in the bubble, shown below.

In this example, the Community Profile shows population shifts in Basking Ridge, NJ across the past twenty years by approximating historic data from underlying Census tracts. Basking Ridge, NJ has pronounced growth, particularly compared to the more modest increases in the county (Somerset) and state (New Jersey) in which it sits:

Nationwide Data Availability and Source Information

Users can create maps, visualize trend charts, generate Community Profiles, and download Census and ACS data for every neighborhood, city, county, and region across the U.S. Contact us with any questions about the Census ACS update, or refer to our blog for questions about Census 2020 and Census Data Quality.

And stay tuned to PolicyMap’s end-of-June email newsletter for forthcoming content about newly released Census ACS indicators, including new information about access to digital devices (laptops, tablets, etc) by student grade level. Those indicators will be crucial to understanding pandemic-era challenges and intervention needs of schools and school districts across the country. For the most up-to-date information, sign up for our newsletter notifications below and follow us on Twitter.