Conduent Healthy Communities Institute

American Community Survey

HCI sites include a number of national indicators at various geographic levels from the American Community Survey. The American Community Survey (ACS) is an ongoing survey that provides vital information on a yearly basis about the nation and its people. It is the premier source for detailed population and housing information, and therefore, provides very robust and relevant data relating to health and factors that affect health.

The American Community Survey data is split up into three sources: 5-year estimates, 1-year estimates, and supplemental estimates. HCI maintains indicators from all three of those sources. Below you can find explanations on the differences between the three types of estimates and releases, which indicators come from which ones, and why various indicators come from them. The overall ACS data release schedule can be found on the source site here.

ACS 5-Year Estimates:

  • Data estimates come from 60 months of collected data
  • Data is available for all areas: State, County, Census Place (City), Zip Code (ZCTA), and Census Tract
  • Largest sample size of the ACS estimates, and therefore, the most reliable data of the three
  • Good for analyzing very small populations, examining smaller geographies, and providing precision
  • Source releases new data annually, usually around the first or second week of December, with data for the five previous years time period (i.e. data released in December 2017 is for the 2012-2016 time period)
  • HCI works to get new data up on live client sites within 2-3 months of data release by source
  • HCI-maintained indicators generally default to 5-Year estimates, so that we can provide data to as many geographies as possible and can provide the most data possible at sub-county levels.

ACS 1-Year Estimates:

  • Data estimates come from 12 months of collected data
  • Data available for geographic areas with populations of 65,000 and over. This includes the state and county level (for larger counties) and even some census places/cities (for large census places/cities).
  • Smallest sample size of all ACS estimates, however, it is the most current data that ACS releases
  • Good for providing most up-to-date data and for analyzing larger population geographies, particularly counties
  • Source releases new data annually, usually around the middle of September, with data from the prior year (i.e. data released in September 2017 is for the 2016 time period)
  • HCI works to get new data up on live client sites within 2-3 months of data release by source
  • HCI-maintained indicators that use the 1-Year estimates are those that we believe benefit the most from having as up-to-date data as possible, and those where seeing trends and changes over single year time periods are most crucial for analysis. These include all health insurance indicators due to the fact that the ever-changing health insurance climate means that there are often big swings in health insurance data estimates from year to year. Additionally, it includes population measurements and figures, such as Total Population, which are best studied by annual changes. Further, disability and difficulty indicators are maintained by HCI using the 1-Year estimates due to the fact that 5-Year estimates did not begin being released by ACS until the 2012 data release. HCI began collecting and displaying the 1-Year data in 2008. Please contact your account manager if you are interested in having disability and difficulty data displayed on your site in 5-Year time periods instead, for all geographies available.

ACS 1-Year Supplemental Estimates:

  • The same factors and attributes as ACS 1-Year estimates, but for geographies with populations of 20,000 or more.
  • Generally released about 1 month after the regular ACS 1-Year estimates (around mid-October of every year); updated data on HCI client sites 2-3 months after that.
  • HCI-maintained indicators that use ACS 1-Year Supplemental estimates are: Adults 65+ with a Disability, Adults with Disability, Children with a Disability, and Persons with a Disability
  • HCI provides data for these indicators from the supplemental estimates to ensure that as many geographies as possible are able to have disability data displayed for them, as a supplement to the disability indicators collected from regular 1-Year estimates.
  • Note: These estimates are not comparable to regular ACS 1-Year estimates

For more information on annual data updates as they are completed, please see the Indicator Update History section of the Help Center for any articles about ACS sources.

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