U.S. Department of Commerce

American Community Survey

Frequently Asked Questions

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FAQ

By Group American Community Survey


Do I have to respond to the American Community Survey (ACS)?
Yes. You are legally obligated to answer all the questions, as accurately as you can. The relevant laws are ... (more)

Someone came to my home to interview me for the ACS. Is this legitimate?
If someone has contacted you about the ... (more)

I am using the American Community Survey (ACS) Public Use Microdata Sample (PUMS) data, and I see a geograp...
Public Use Microdata Areas (PUMAs) are non-overlapping areas that partition each state into areas containing about 10... (more)

Why am I receiving phone calls from the U.S. Census Bureau about the ACS?
Our telephone representatives attempt to call households to collect important survey information. If someone has cont... (more)

Can I complete the ACS online?
In most instances, yes. If you received a letter or postcard inviting you to complete the American Community Survey o... (more)

Why does the ACS ask for my name and my telephone number?
The American Community Survey (ACS) asks for individuals' names for two reasons.  First, we have found over many... (more)

What if I don't know the exact answer to an ACS question?
On the American Community Survey (ACS), if no one in your household knows the answer to a question, and the informati... (more)

Why was my address selected for the ACS?
Addresses selected for the American Community Survey (ACS) come from the Census Bureau’s Master Address File (MAF). T... (more)

I forgot my ACS PIN.
When you access the American Community Survey onl... (more)

What is the American Community Survey (ACS)?
The ACS is a legitimate survey that is part of the Decennial Census Program.  It is a survey sent to a small per... (more)

Where can I get block group level estimates for the American Community Survey (ACS)?
Block group level estimates are available in the American Community Survey (ACS) Summary File 5-year datasets.  Lea... (more)

I am concerned about identity theft. How does the Census Bureau protect my ACS information?
We understand concerns about identity theft and privacy. We will ensure that only authorized persons with a work-rela... (more)

Why does the ACS ask such detailed questions?
We ask these questions because federal and state government require the data that we collect to manage or evaluate pr... (more)

How can I be sure my information is really going to the Census Bureau and not some third party?
Our secure server uses a digital certificate (digital ID) issued by a Certificate Authority (CA) as proof of identity... (more)

Can you explain how American Community Survey (ACS) tables are numbered? For example, what do the letters a...
Since the release of the 2005 American Community Survey (ACS) data, detailed tables, as well as other tables and maps... (more)

Why is the ACS information addressed to resident and not to me?
The American Community Survey (ACS) information is mailed to addresses, rather than to individuals, throughout the count... (more)

Does the U.S. Census Bureau provide data on poverty?
Our web site on Poverty provides data links to... (more)

 In the United States Constitution, the census is required for the apportionment of representatives; w...
The United States Constitution states that "[An] Enumeration shall be made within three Years after the first Meeting... (more)

My living room and kitchen are in one big room. How do I count the number of rooms on the ACS?
When counting the number of rooms in a home for the American Community Survey (ACS), please count rooms separated by ... (more)

Can you tell me more about group quarters (GQ) or group housing facilities in the American Community Survey...
Group Quarters (GQ) are places where people live or stay, in a group living arrangement, which is owned or managed by... (more)

How can I get data from the American Community Survey (ACS)?
The Census Bureau publishes ACS data in tables on the ... (more)

When is it best to use American Community Survey (ACS) 1-year, 3-year, or 5-year estimates?
You must think about the balance between currency and sample size/reliability/precision. The 1-year and 3-year e... (more)

Doesn't the government already have the information requested on the ACS?
The Census Bureau does use statistics from other government agencies for research and evaluations to improve our surv... (more)

I lost my American Community Survey / Puerto Rico Community Survey reply envelope. How do I return the form?
If you are returning a completed paper questionnaire, please send it to: DirectorU.S. Ce... (more)

Where do I find information on the number of people in my area surveyed by the American Community Survey (A...
Information on sample size, response rates, coverage rates, and item allocation rates is available on the ... (more)

I'm using the American Community Survey (ACS) Public Use Microdata Sample (PUMS) files. Why don't my estima...
... (more)

Is it safe to provide my ACS information over the Internet?
Yes.  American Community Survey information is encrypted at all times.  Our secure servers use "HT... (more)

I received an American Community Survey (ACS) questionnaire in the mail. Do I use a pencil or pen?
If you are completing a paper questionnaire, use a pen with blue or black ink, or a #2 pencil. For more information o... (more)

I cannot use the Internet to complete the survey. Is there another way to complete the survey?
If you cannot complete the survey online, there is no need to contact us. The Census Bureau will send you a paper... (more)

What geographic areas are identified in the American Community Survey (ACS) Public Use Microdata Sample (PU...
States, Puerto Rico, and ... (more)

I completed the ACS. Why did I receive an additional reminder?
Due to the large volume of American Community Survey (ACS) forms that we process, there may have been a delay between... (more)

How do I know who counts as a "resident" for the American Community Survey (ACS)?
The ACS uses the concept of "current residence" to determine who should be considered residents of sa... (more)

Do you provide any programs to help import American Community Survey (ACS) data into SAS?
Yes, the American Community Survey Office provides programs for users to load Summary Files into a SAS dataset. ... (more)

Do I have to complete my questionnaire if I have completed the ACS online?
No. The Census Bureau receives your responses once you have submitted your completed American Community Survey online... (more)

Can you remove my address from the ACS sample?
No. An address may not be removed from the American Community Survey (ACS) sample as the validity of sample data woul... (more)

I am a caretaker for a vacant property that received the ACS. What should I do?
The American Community Survey (ACS) samples addresses, not individuals, throughout the country.  If the housing uni... (more)

Do the elderly, disabled, or those in poor health, have to respond to the ACS?
Yes. However, if you are unable to complete the American Community Survey (ACS), a trusted individual or relative cou... (more)

What are some general guidelines for using the American Community Survey (ACS), including how to use multiy...
The ... (more)

How do I find data on specific occupations?
The Census Bureau has multiple sources of data on occupation. The chart below lists these sources. The first three are c... (more)

I just moved in. Should I complete the ACS or give it to someone else?
The American Community Survey (ACS) is designed to measure characteristics of persons who live or stay in each commun... (more)

What American Community Survey (ACS) estimates are available for my area? When will they be available?
New American Community Survey (ACS) estimates are released every year. The type of estimates available varies dependi... (more)

How do I know the personal information I provide on the ACS will be kept confidential?
We can assure you that American Community Survey (ACS) respondents’ confidentiality is protected. Title 13, Unit... (more)

How do I receive or discontinue receiving American Community Survey (ACS) email updates?
Subscribe To sign up for updates, select the "Get Email U... (more)

Are the American Community Survey (ACS) 5-year estimates as reliable as the Census 2000 long form data?
The American Community Survey sample over a 5-year period is smaller than the Census 2000 long form sample. &nbs... (more)

Who should complete the ACS?
A knowledgeable adult at least 15 years old or older should complete the American Community Survey (ACS). This person... (more)

Does the U.S. Census Bureau produce data on educational attainment?
The Census Bureau provides data on educational attainment from the following sources:American C... (more)

Do you have data on Hispanic subgroups other than Mexican, Puerto Rican, and Cuban?
The American Community Survey (ACS) has data on these groups. In the survey questionnaire, the Hispanic-origin questi... (more)

Why don't I see an American Community Survey (ACS) Selected Population Profile (SPP) table for a specific g...
There are two thresholds used for Selected Population Profiles (SPPs). First, we look at the total population... (more)

I am using the American Community Survey (ACS) Public Use Microdata Sample (PUMS) files. Is it possible to ...
There is no variable in the PUMS files to identify the month (or season, school year, etc) when the respondent answered ... (more)

Does the U.S. Census Bureau provide data on health insurance?
The U.S. Census Bureau releases an annual report from the Current Population Survey, ... (more)

For American Community Survey (ACS) tables listing place of birth, how do I find out which countries are in...
The ... (more)

Are Zip Code Tabulation Area (ZCTA) level data available in the American Community Survey (ACS)?
Yes. Zip Code Tab... (more)

I have many vehicles. How do I answer the number of vehicles question on the ACS?
On the American Community Survey (ACS), please include only working vehicles. In addition to passenger vehicles, plea... (more)

On the ACS, who should be included on the list of people living or staying in my home?
On the American Community Survey (ACS), please include all persons who are living or staying at this address at the t... (more)

How important is it for me to consider the margins of error (MOE) when comparing American Community Survey ...
It is very important to consider the margins of error (MOE). This is why the American Community Survey (ACS) publishes t... (more)

Is it accurate to think of the American Community Survey (ACS) 5-year estimates as an average for the ...
The ACS 5-year estimates are constructed as period estimate and reflect the average characteristics over the entire... (more)

How will the U.S. Census Bureau use the information collected by the ACS?
The Census Bureau uses the information you provide to the American Community Survey (ACS) for statistical purpos... (more)

Where can I find 2010 PUMA maps used in the American Community Survey?
... (more)

Where can I find the American Community Survey (ACS) 5-year estimates?
You can find all the available data products through ... (more)

Can I compare American Community Survey (ACS) estimates to ACS data from other time periods? How about comp...
Generally, you can compare American Community Survey (ACS) estimates with data from Census 2000 or the 2010 Census.... (more)

Why does the ACS take longer than the estimate?
Our estimate is that for the average household, the American Community Survey (ACS) will take about 40 minutes to com... (more)

How do I submit comments about the ACS?
To submit questions or comments about the American Community Survey (ACS), you may simply click submit a request ... (more)

Why can't I find a certain detailed table in American FactFinder for the American Community Survey (ACS) 5-...
There are a number of reasons why any particular table may not be available for the 5-year estimates. ... (more)

Does the U.S. Census Bureau provide data on school enrollment?
The Census Bureau provides data on school enrollment from the following sources:American Community S... (more)

What information do you have on veterans?
Please see our ... (more)

My home is under renovation. How do I answer the plumbing, kitchen, and telephone service questions on the ...
While most homes will have adequate plumbing and kitchen facilities it is important to know how to record these answe... (more)

I have a reverse mortgage. How do I answer the mortgage questions on the ACS?
In the American Community Survey (ACS), a person with a reverse mortgage should answer that he/she owns the home with... (more)

I am using an American Community Survey (ACS) multiyear table that presents estimates in dollars (i.e. inco...
Dollar-denominated data for the American Community Survey (ACS) multiyear estimates are adjusted for inflation to the... (more)

Where can I find the American Community Survey (ACS) subject definitions?
Subject definitions are descriptions of population and housing variables to help you understand the results of the AC... (more)

Are estimates available in the American Community Survey (ACS) that are comparable to Census 2000 Summary F...
Products similar to Census 2000 Summary File 4 and the American Indian and Alaskan Native Summary File (AIANSF) were ... (more)

What geographic boundaries do you use for your legal areas and statistical areas in the American Community ...
In general, ACS single-year estimates for legal areas are based on legal boundaries available and effective as of Jan... (more)

How can I find Zip Code Tabulation Areas (ZCTAs) in the American Community Survey (ACS) Summary File?
Zip Code Tabulation Areas (... (more)

Why is the ACS information important?
When you complete the ACS, you are helping to ensure that decisions about the future of your community can be made us... (more)

Do you have reports on topics such as commuting to work, poverty, or health insurance using the American Co...
Yes! Published reports on these and other topics are available in the ... (more)

In the American Community Survey (ACS) data products, I see “*****” in the margin of the error column. The ...
Controlled estimates are not subject to sampling variability because they are made to conform to official intercensal... (more)

There are American Community Survey estimates that span more than 1 year (i.e. 2005-2009 ACS 5-year estimat...
A multiyear estimate is an estimate that is based on data collected over more than one calendar year and describes th... (more)

What is the earliest year that I can find American Community Survey (ACS) estimates?
The Census Bureau expanded the American Community Survey (ACS) to full sample size for housing units in 2005 and for ... (more)

Can you tell me more about the controls used in the American Community Survey (ACS)?
The American Community Survey (ACS) uses independent estimates of population and housing units from the ... (more)

When will Public Use Microdata Areas (PUMAs) and Urban Areas switch from Census 2000 geographic boundaries ...
Public Use Microdata Areas (PUMAs) and Urban Areas will use 2010 Census geographic boundaries in the 2012 ACS data produ... (more)

When will the American Community Survey (ACS) use the Metropolitan and Micropolitan Statistical Area defini...
The American Community Survey (ACS) will use the ... (more)

I received the following message related to the American Community Survey (ACS): Data for the following geo...
Even if a geographic area meets the population threshold, very detailed tables might contain too many estimates with ... (more)

When will the American Community Survey (ACS) use 113th Congressional Districts boundaries?
The American Community Survey (ACS) will use the 113th Congressional District boundaries for the 2012 ACS data release i... (more)

In the American Community Survey (ACS) Summary File, some values have a dot ("."), a blank (" "), a zero (0...
Special data values, such as dots, blanks, 0, and -1, appear in the ACS Summary File as an explanation for the absenc... (more)

Are Tribal Tracts and Tribal Block Groups level data available in the American Community Survey (ACS)?
Yes. Tribal Tract and Tribal Block Groups data were released for the first time in 2011 based on the 2006-2010 ACS 5-yea... (more)

Can you explain the difference between Ranking Tables and Geographic Comparison Tables (GCTs) in the Americ...
There are 3 main differences between Ranking Tables and Geographic Comparison Tables (GCTs) in the American Community Su... (more)

When will the American Community Survey (ACS) estimates use the 2010 Standard Occupational Classification (...
The 2010 American Community Survey data products (released in 2011) use the 2010 Standard Occupational Classification (S... (more)

I live in a cooperative. How do I answer the utilities questions on the ACS?
A cooperative is a type of ownership whereby a group of housing units is owned by a corporation of member-owners. Eac... (more)

How do I know if a certain type of data product or data table is available for my geographic area in the Am...
The 2005-2009 ACS ... (more)

The name of the country where I was born has changed. How should I answer the place of birth question on th...
When answering the place of birth question in the American Community Survey (ACS), try to use current boundaries for cou... (more)

I'm taking a class this week. Should that count as attending school on the ACS?
For this question on the American Community Survey (ACS), respondents should include school that leads to an elementa... (more)

In the "Estimate" column for my American Community Survey (ACS) table, I see a value of "0." Does this...
A zero estimate means that no respondent in the survey had that specific characteristic for a particular geographic area... (more)

How do I know if there are any changes to the American Community Survey (ACS) tables since the last data re...
New ACS estimates are released every year. As a part of the documentation available with each data release, we highlight... (more)