Census Data: American Community Survey (ACS)

About the ACS

The American Community Survey (ACS) is an annual survey conducted by the Census Bureau since 2005.  The ACS asks questions on a wide array of social, economic, housing, and demographic characteristics and was designed to replace the Decenniel Census "long form"


Information on annuall, 3-year and 5-year releases.


Resources for ACS estimates

I am in a hurry: Social Explorer

  • What can you get - Social Explorer contains 1,3, and 5 year variable summaries from the ACS (there are other data resources available as well)
  • What works well - Social Explorer has a relatively easy interface and table builder for creating data extracts.  There is also a map based data browse interface for data exploration and simple map making. 
  • What does not work well - Not all variables and crosstabs are avaiabe from the category browser. 

Advanced search from data.census.gov

  • What can you get - Variable summaries and crosstabs for a wide array of ACS geogroahies 
  • What works well - Contains cross tabs and pre-made tables of popular variables.  Free for all to use. 
  • What does not work well - Interface can be difficult to use.


  • What can you get - Variable summaries from every census from 1790 at a wide variety of geographies.
  • What works well - Relatively easy to use table table builder. Can build tables for a variety of years at once.  Free for all to use. 
  • What does not work well - Not all variables and crosstabs are availabe from the category browser. 

Resources for ACS microdata


  • What can you get - samples from every ACS
  • What works well   - the most comprehensive resource for creating microdata samples, free and relativley easy to use
  • What does not work well - this is a strongly reccommended resource, however this process is inherently complex.  Note that there are tutorials available on Youtube

Data.census.gov also has a microdata portal in beta version

  • What can you get 
  • What works well
  • What does not work well