Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Census Bureau Releases American Community Survey Estimates, Most Detailed Portrait of Every U.S. Community

The U.S. Census Bureau released estimates from the American Community Survey (ACS) for the combined years from 2007 to 2011, providing the only statistics down to the neighborhood level on school enrollment, jobs, housing and many other measures. These estimates are ideal for measuring trends for areas with populations of less than 20,000.

Along with the estimates, the Census Bureau is rolling out a series of new tools to make it easier to search, embed on other websites, download and share the survey estimates.

The American Community Survey provides a wide range of important statistics about people and housing for every community across the nation. The results are used by everyone from town and city planners to retailers and homebuilders. The survey is the only source of local estimates for most of the 40 topics it covers, such as education, occupation, language, ancestry and housing costs for even the smallest communities. Ever since Thomas Jefferson directed the first census in 1790, the census has collected detailed characteristics about our nation’s people. Questions about jobs and the economy were added 20 years later under James Madison, who said such information would allow Congress to “adapt the public measures to the particular circumstances of the community,” and over the decades, allow America “an opportunity of marking the progress of the society.”

“By telling the story of our towns and neighborhoods, the American Community Survey helps planners locate schools and firehouses,” said Thomas Mesenbourg, the Census Bureau’s acting director. “Thanks to the cooperation of the public, the Census Bureau produces reliable, quality statistical information for even small communities in the U.S. That’s why it’s so important for households that are selected to participate in the ACS to respond.”

Interactive Tools

The Census Bureau has updated its popular QuickFacts site with the new American Community Survey statistics, making it even easier for people to find information about a town, county or state. The Census Bureau has also launched “Easy Stats,” a tool that allows users to build their own tables by selecting a desired topic and geography. Early next year, the Census Bureau will release “Dwellr,” a mobile app designed to put Census Bureau statistics directly in the hands of new users in an engaging way.

“The Census Bureau is striving like never before to make our statistics easier to find and use,” Mesenbourg said. “We’re innovating with new technology to make statistical information more interactive and relevant to younger and more diverse audiences. As our Founding Fathers recognized, having an informed population is crucial to our nation’s democracy. At the Census Bureau, we are doing our part to empower Americans with statistical information so they have an accurate picture of our nation’s people, places and economy.”

Billions of Estimates

This ACS release consists of about 11 billion individual estimates. These five-year estimates are based on completed interviews with almost 2 million housing units each year from 2007 through 2011. By pooling several years of survey responses, the American Community Survey can generate detailed statistical portraits for small areas. Groupings of five-year estimates are released annually.

The five-year estimates are available for all states, counties, places, congressional districts, census tracts and block groups. Today’s release marks the first time since the 2000 Census that statistics for ZIP Code tabulation areas — a close approximation of the U.S. Postal Service’s ZIP Code areas — have been released on such a wide range of topics.

In addition to detailing housing and commuting, the 2007-2011 estimates permit communities to observe the composition of their population, from preschool to the oldest ages and milestones in between, including college, work and marriage:

Visitors to the Census Bureau website can find their community estimates at American FactFinder.

Beginning in January, the American Community Survey will become more convenient for most participants with the added option of responding online to the survey. That will make it the 61st Census Bureau survey with Internet response. At that time, the survey will also add a series of questions on computer and Internet usage. The data gathered through these questions will become available beginning in 2014.

More About the American Community Survey

The American Community Survey replaces the “long form” that historically produced demographic, housing, social and economic estimates for the nation as part of the once-a-decade census. Many of the questions asked on the American Community Survey have been asked since 1810 on the census form. The decennial census program, which includes the American Community Survey and the 2010 Census, along with the U.S. Census Bureau’s population estimates program, serves as the basis for the allocation of more than $400 billion in federal funds to state, local and tribal governments every year. These vital estimates also guide planning in the private sector as well as the work done by policymakers at all levels of government and in communities of all sizes. All survey responses are strictly confidential and protected by law. The collection of this information has been directed by Congress or the federal courts.

This set of statistics is the third release from the American Community Survey this fall. In September, the Census Bureau released single-year estimates for 2011 for all areas with populations of 65,000 or more. In October, a corresponding set of three-year estimates (2009-2011) was released for areas with populations of 20,000 or more.

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