Benefits and Challenges of the American Community Survey

Committee on Population Statistics Workshop
Population Association of America Annual Meeting, April 30, 2014, Boston

This workshop was sponsored by the Population Association of America’s Committee on Population Statistics and co-organized by PRB on behalf of the American Community Survey (ACS) Data Users Group. It was designed for novice users and those interested in learning about the latest developments in ACS data, products and resources. The primary objectives of the workshop were to provide an understanding of: the content and different types of estimates available from the ACS; the reliability limitations associated with ACS estimates and options for dealing with these; and the resources available to assist ACS data users, including the new ACS Data Users Group and Online Community. The workshop was divided into six sections and the slides and recording of each presentation are available in the links below.

Section 1: “Overview of the American Community Survey and Benefits and Challenges in Using ACS Data,” by Linda A. Jacobsen, Vice President of U.S. Programs, PRB. This presentation (59 minutes) describes the evolution of the ACS and how the content and data from the ACS differ from the decennial long form. It also provides an overview of ACS products and the key benefits and challenges in using ACS data. PDF of slides 

Section 2: “Using Small-Area Data from the ACS: Issues, Challenges, Solutions,” by Joseph J. Salvo, Director of the Population Division, New York City Department of Planning. This presentation (37 minutes) describes the reliability limitations of small-area data from the ACS and discusses potential solutions through aggregation of geographic areas and collapsing of variable categories. It also discusses the challenges of measuring change over time with ACS multiyear data. PDF of slides

Section 3: “Migration Data and the ACS,” by Rachel Franklin, Associate Director of Spatial Structures in the Social Sciences, Brown University. This presentation (14 minutes) describes the fundamental changes in migration data in the ACS compared with the decennial long form, and illustrates the key sample size and data quality issues in ACS migration data. PDF of slides 

Section 4: “Improving the Accuracy of Block Group Data from the American Community Survey,” by Ken Hodges, Demographer, Nielsen. This presentation (21 minutes) describes the “Touch” method for aggregating block group data from the ACS in order to improve data accuracy and reliability. It also compares the results from this aggregation method with both published ACS and 2010 Census data, and a weighted average of ACS published and “Touch” method estimates. PDF of slides

Section 5: “Accessing ACS Data and User Resources,” by Mark Mather, Associate Vice President of U.S. Programs, PRB.  This presentation (19 minutes) provides an overview of the primary sources for obtaining the major types of ACS data (e.g. Detailed Tables, Summary Files, PUMS, etc.), and the key resources available to assist ACS data users. It also describes the purpose and activities of a new ACS Data Users Group and Online Community. PDF of slides

Section 6: “Summary and Key Takeaways,” by Joseph J. Salvo, Director of the Population Division, New York City Department of Planning. In this presentation (14 minutes), Joseph Salvo summarizes the key workshop takeaways for participants and fields questions from the audience. PDF of slides