The American Community Survey (ACS) is a nationwide survey designed to provide communities a fresh look at how they are changing. It is a critical element in the Census Bureau's decennial census program. The ACS collects information such as age, race, income, commute time to work, home value, veteran status, and other important data. As with the 2010 decennial census, information about individuals remains confidential.
The ACS collects and produces population and housing information every year instead of every ten years. Collecting data every year provides more up-to-date information throughout the decade about the U.S. population at the local community level. About 3.5 million housing unit addresses are selected annually, across every county in the nation.
The ACS produces 1-year estimates annually for geographic areas with a population of 65,000 or more. This includes the nation, all states and the District of Columbia, all congressional districts, approximately 800 counties, and 500 metropolitan and micropolitan statistical areas, among others.
The ACS produces 3-year estimates annually for geographic areas with a population of 20,000 or more, including the nation, all states and the District of Columbia, all congressional districts, approximately 1,800 counties, and 900 metropolitan and micropolitan statistical areas, among others.
In 2010, the Census Bureau released the first 5-year estimates for small areas. These 5-year estimates are based on ACS data collected from 2005 through 2009.
In 2006, the ACS sample was expanded to include the population living in group quarters. Group quarters include nursing homes, correctional facilities, military barracks, and college/university housing among others.
The Puerto Rico Community Survey (PRCS) is the equivalent of the ACS for Puerto Rico, and began data collection in 2005. Data results from both the ACS and the PRCS are released together as a unified American Community Survey dataset.