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Frequently Asked Questions

The Census Bureau only counts people. Right?

Wrong. The Census Bureau certainly does count people, but it also collects data about how we live, ranging from the kind of fuel used to heat your home to the time it takes to commute to work. The Census also collects most of the U.S.’s economic data. The Census also calculates estimates of voter turnout, poverty, home ownership and much more.

The information for my city or county is old. Why is that?

The 2000 decennial census was the last full count of the American population for every level of geography, from the nation to the census block. The Population Estimates Program provides an annual estimate of the U.S. population, including cities and counties. The American Community Survey (ACS) is a survey providing estimates of numerous factors, including poverty, race, household types and more for locations of at least 65,000 people. Unfortunately, if the place you want to know about is relatively small, there may not be current data available on certain subjects.

What’s the American Community Survey?

The American Community Survey (ACS) is a new survey developed by the Census Bureau to provide more timely information about the nation during the intercensal years. The data from the ACS is survey data, and because of the relatively small size of the sample, some care should be used in using the data for decision making.

Can I compare American Community Survey and decennial census data?

Not necessarily. Some of the items you can compare directly, but many you cannot, or should only with caution due to differences in methodology, wording of questions and definitions. For a full list of what can and should not be compared, check here.

Why census data? Why not some other source?

Census data are used as the official numbers for hundreds of federal and state programs.


|     Last modified: May 29, 2012