American Community Survey

The American Community Survey (ACS) is an ongoing statistical survey by the U.S. Census Bureau that is intended to provide detailed demographic data on an annual basis. This information was previously included in the Census “long form” only on a decennial basis.   The annual ACS survey was initiated in 2000 as a limited pilot survey and has since expanded to approximately 250,000 addresses monthly, or 3 million households per year, to be expanded to 3.5 million addresses in 2012.  The 2010 decennial Census no longer included a “long form” since it was replaced by the annual American Community Survey.  

The survey provides information on:

The Bureau has made available annual estimates since 2002 by different levels of geography. Since 2005 it has been providing data averages for three-year and five-year periods; the differences in these one, three, and five year reports are as follows:

Distinguishing features of ACS 1-year, 3-year, and 5-year estimates

1-year estimates

3-year estimates

5-year estimates

12 months of collected data

36 months of collected data

60 months of collected data

Data for areas with populations of 65,000+

Data for areas with populations of 20,000+

Data for all areas including Census tracts and block groups

Smallest sample size

Larger sample size than 1-year

Largest sample size

Less reliable than 3-year or 5-year

More reliable than 1-year; less reliable than 5-year

Most reliable

Most current data

Less current than 1-year estimates; more current than 5-year

Least current

Best used when

Best used when

Best used when

Currency is more important than precision

Analyzing large populations

More precise than 1-year, more current than 5-year

Analyzing smaller populations

Examining smaller geographies because 1-year estimates are not available

Precision is more important than currency

Analyzing very small populations

Examining tracts and other smaller geographies because 1-year estimates are not available


More detailed information about ACS

As noted on the American Community Survey’s home page above:

"The American Community Survey is vital to economic development and for wise government and business decision-making. The American Community Survey is an improvement over the census long form because it provides small-area information annually instead of once a decade."   Joan Naymark, Director of Research and Planning for Target

Links to City of Minneapolis data

The ACS web site includes several summary data profiles by broad topic, as well as numerous detailed tables.   As a convenience to those seeking citywide summary data, this site includes the available data profiles from the latest available one year, three year, and five year data releases.   As the table above indicates, sub-city data [Census tracts and block groups] is available only in the five-year period estimates.   

2009-2013 American Community Survey 5-Year Estimates

Latest annual estimate (2011) profiles

Latest three-year period estimate (2009-2011) profiles

Five-year period estimate (2007-2011) profiles

Last updated Nov 1, 2016



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