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American Community Survey (ACS) Estimates
American Community Survey (ACS) Estimates

US Census Bureau

Sarah Byrd avatar
Written by Sarah Byrd
Updated over a week ago

A large number of mySidewalk variables come from the American Community Survey (ACS). The ACS is an ongoing survey conducted by the U.S. Census Bureau, with nearly 3.5 million respondents participating in the survey every calendar year. The Census Bureau uses the ACS survey to annually publish its hallmark data product, the ACS 5-Year Estimates. On December 8, 2022, the U.S. Census Bureau published the 2017-2021 ACS 5-Year Estimates. 

When will the ACS 2017-2021 estimates be available?

The ACS 2017-2021 data are available in all mySidewalk products.

We do the work to acquire, clean, organize, and transform the data. Every indicator must pass through extensive programmatic and manual QA before the over 1.3 Billion ACS data values are updated in mySidewalk products.

mySidewalk apportioned the ACS 2017-2021 data for the non-Census geographic levels of Metropolitan Planning Organizations, City Council Districts and Neighborhoods.

What does this mean for mySidewalk Customers?

All mySidewalk datasets based on ACS 2016-2020 5-year estimates will update with the 2017-2021 estimates. Because the Census Bureau recommends against comparing 5-year estimates of overlapping years, mySidewalk will no longer curate the 2016-2020 ACS estimates. The update affects all saved assets and visualizations in mySidewalk that use ACS data, including all tables, charts, and maps in reports and dashboards. If you have created any reports, maps, or dashboards using ACS 2016-2020 5-year estimates, be sure to update and check any written content associated with the data. The two only pieces that will auto-update are the data itself and the years in the footer).

Understanding ACS 5-Year Estimates

The Census Bureau produces the ACS 5-Year Estimates by pooling together the results of the five previous survey years. Using a pooled data frame, the Census Bureau generates estimates of thousands of economic and demographic characteristics for the entire United States. Through pooling multiple years of data, the Census Bureau trades precision with respect to time for improved estimation accuracy. Because they are generated with five years of survey data (as opposed to a single year), the five year estimates have several interpretative nuances.

  • ACS data are estimates. The Census Bureau collects data from a sample of the population in the United States rather than from the whole population. 

  • ACS 5-year estimates represent the average of characteristics over an interval of time (2017-2021) as opposed to a single point in time.

  • Five-year estimates cannot be compared with previously published five-year estimates consisting of overlapping years.

  • ACS five-year estimates may be compared Decennial Census data (i.e. 1990, 2000, 2010, and 2020).

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