The American Community Survey in our Data Tools

Headwaters Economics continuously updates all of its data tools with the latest demographic and economic data available. The U.S. Census Bureau’s American Community Survey (ACS) appears in many of our data tools and is the leading source of socioeconomic statistics for every level of geography  in the nation.

Our tools currently use the latest ACS data released in December 2023.

About the American Community Survey

Unlike the decennial census that counts every person every 10 years, the ACS is an ongoing survey sent monthly to a sample of households. The survey collects information about topics that aren’t included in the census, such as educational attainment, housing, language, commuting distance, and employment. The Census Bureau then uses the surveys to estimate average characteristics over a five-year period. The ACS is the most comprehensive resource for understanding socioeconomic characteristics in the nation.

The latest ACS data comprise statistics from 2018 to 2022. They were released by the Census Bureau in December of 2023 and added to Headwaters Economics’ tools in January of 2024.

“Our team is determined to be the first to roll out American Community Survey updates throughout our free data tools. This year we accomplished the full suite of updates in only one month.”

Patty Hernandez
Headwaters Economics Executive Director

New and Noteworthy

  • In the 2022 data release, the Census Bureau abandoned the original, sequential-based file format that had been in use from 2005 to 2021, publishing only the newer table-based format. Headwaters Economics was able to rewrite our ACS processing scripts to guarantee availability of ACS data in our tools within one month of the Census Bureau’s data release.
  • In the 2022 data release, the Census Bureau adopted Connecticut’s nine planning regions as county-equivalent geographic units for purpose of collecting statistical data, replacing the eight counties which ceased to function as governmental entities in 1960. As a result, certain Headwaters Economics’ Economic Profile System (EPS) reports are not currently available for the new Connecticut planning regions. These Connecticut EPS reports will come back online once three years of data become available.
  • The 2022 data release for the 5-year ACS estimate used in Headwaters Economics’ tools includes the COVID-19 pandemic, during which data collection was disrupted and response rates to the survey were substantially lower than in previous years. As a result, the Census Bureau revised its methodology to reduce nonresponse bias, and accuracy for some measures declined. Response rates have recovered but have not reached pre-pandemic levels. Margins of error are reported in all of Headwaters Economics’ reports.

Find ACS Data in Our Tools

Economic Profile System

The Economic Profile System displays ACS data for any U.S. community, county, or state in the Quick Facts section. You can also find ACS data in several downloadable reports, including the Demographics, Populations at Risk, Wildfire Risk, Living Near Public Lands, and Tourism reports.

Neighborhoods at Risk

Neighborhoods at Risk displays ACS data by census tract along with information about climate vulnerability.

Agency Tools

Our tools designed specifically for federal land management agencies also use ACS data. These include tools for the Bureau of Land Management, the U.S. Forest Service, and the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service.

Wildfire Risk to Communities

Wildfire Risk to Communities displays ACS data for every U.S. community, tribal area, county, and state on the Vulnerable Populations tab. This tool also includes interactive maps and charts about wildfire risk and resources to help communities reduce wildfire risk.

Note: ACS data will be updated in Wildfire Risk to Communities in March 2024 to coincide with wildfire risk data updates.

This post was originally published on May 17, 2022 and updated in January of 2024 to reflect changes to this dataset.

Tara Preston       406.577.6866

Tara collects, updates, and helps analyze the data that feed all of Headwaters Economics’ online socioeconomic tools and products. An insightful data engineer, she knows that good stories can be found in data.