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The American Community Survey – The Big Data Source for Information about your Community

Thu Dec 06 2012
Acting Director Tom Mesenbourg
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For just the third time, today we released the American Community Survey five-year estimates, which are for 2007-2011. These annual five-year estimates, represent a major statistical innovation in that they provide detailed economic, social, demographic, and housing information for over 700,000 communities, information that prior to the ACS was available only once a decade.  There is much media hype about Big Data, but the ACS five-year statistics, containing almost 11 billion estimates, deliver on the Big Data promise. They provide local communities with the information they need to make informed decisions.

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Each year, approximately 2 million survey responses are collected from households. If you participated in the American Community Survey, I thank you. Your response allows us to provide the detailed information that your community uses to decide where to build new hospitals or new schools or to assess the socio-economic condition of residents. Businesses also rely on ACS statistics to identify market opportunities, assess the characteristics of the workforce and the housing stock, and make investment decisions.

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Just last week, we released a data product that shows the power of the American Community Survey in action. Relying on the 2006-2010 ACS five-year estimates, we produced the Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO) Tabulation, sponsored by four federal agencies. With more than 19 billion statistics and requiring more than 1 trillion calculations to complete, it provides a comprehensive profile of the American workforce. Without the ACS, we would not have this important resource available to organizations wishing to compare the diversity of their labor force with the diversity of the areas from which they draw their workers.

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When we look at the American Community Survey five-year estimates released today, they provide new insights about the nation’s communities, including information about age distributions, educational attainment and whether residents rent or own their homes. For example, they tell us that in Sierra County, NM, 23.8 percent of households had a person 65 and older who lived alone, among the highest in the nation.

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I can also look at the statistics to learn more about the community where I live. In my town of La Plata, MD, 6.5 percent of the population age 5 and older speak a language other than English at home. In addition, 28.7 percent of the population age 25 and older have completed a bachelor’s degree or higher.

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I encourage you to explore these statistics and learn more about your local community. Soon it will be even easier for you to use this important data source. We continue to look for ways to make Census Bureau information more accessible and useful. I am excited to tell you about a new tool that we will be unveiling in the coming weeks and two that are already available.

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Today, we updated QuickFacts with the new American Community Survey statistics, which allows you to find information about a town, county or state with just a few clicks. Today, we also released “Easy Stats,” which will allow users to build tables by selecting a desired topic and a specific geography. Early next year, we will also unveil “Dwellr,” our first mobile app that uses ACS statistics.

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Besides making Census Bureau information more accessible, we are committed to providing respondents with new tools that make it easier to respond to our surveys and censuses. Beginning in mid-December (for the January 2013 panel), American Community Survey sampled households will be able to provide their survey responses online.

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For more information about the American Community Survey and the estimates released today, please visit the ACS page.

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