At A Glance

Noteworthy Characteristics

  • Provides rich contextual information about communities that may be useful in studying childhood obesity
  • Conducted every month by mail, telephone, and visits from Census Bureau field representatives.
  • Federal, state, and local government, use ACS data to help plan for community needs and make funding decisions for a variety of programs and services.
  • The ACS is the largest survey in the U.S. (apart from the U.S. decennial Census) and is the primary source of small-area data on a wide range of social and economic characteristics in the country.



To provide information about demographic, social, economic, and housing characteristics of the United States (U.S.) population, including Puerto Rican households within communities in the U.S. and Puerto Rico.

Target Population

The resident population living in housing units and group quarters facilities in all counties and county equivalents in the U.S., including the District of Columbia, and all municipalities in Puerto Rico.


Full implementation began in 2005. Conducted annually. 2018 data now available.


Census Bureau, U.S. Department of Commerce


Sample Design

Cross-sectional survey.

The sample design includes separate sampling for housing units and group quarters facilities. Each sample frame is divided into sub-frames so that no housing unit or facility is selected more than once in any 5-year period.

Sample Size

Each year, about 3 million housing unit addresses are selected and about 2 million complete interviews. Over a 5-year period, the ACS samples about 15 million addresses and completes interviews for about 11 million. Learn more.

Special Note(s)

Learn more about the American Community Survey design and methodology.

Key Variables


NameMethods of Assessment
Disability (ADL/IADL*; cognitive; hearing; movement/physical; vision)Interview/questionnaire
Educational attainment and school enrollmentInterview/questionnaire
Hispanic originInterview/questionnaire
Industry, occupation, and class of workerInterview/questionnaire
Labor force status and work status last yearInterview/questionnaire
Marital status and historyInterview/questionnaire
Place of birth, citizenship, and year of entryInterview/questionnaire

Physical Activity-Related

NameMethods of Assessment
Active transportation to work (walking or cycling)Interview/questionnaire
Public transportation to workInterview/questionnaire


NameMethods of Assessment
State, congressional district, county, metropolitan and micropolitan statistical areaNA


NameMethods of Assessment
Health insurance coverageInterview/questionnaire
Housing characteristicsInterview/questionnaire
Place of work and journey to workInterview/questionnaire

Special Note(s)

*ADL: Activities of Daily Living / IADL: Instrumental Activities of Daily Living

Data Access and Cost

Data Availability

Data are available from Public Use Microdata Subsample (PUMS) and summary data aggregated to census geographic areas (e.g., census tracts). Currently, 1-year, 3-year and 5-year PUMS data are available. 1-year (2016), 3 year (2011-2013), and 5 year (2011-2015) are now available. Download data.

Public Use Microdata Area (PUMA) microdata also can be downloaded.


Free of charge.

Special Note(s)

The smallest geographic unit that is identified within the Public Use Microdata Subsample (PUMS) is the Public Use Microdata Area (PUMA). PUMAs are defined within states based on a minimum population threshold of 100,000.

To access the PUMS data, download the DataFerrett application.


Geocode Variable(s)

The smallest geographic unit that is identified within the Public Use Microdata Subsample (PUMS) is the Public Use Microdata Area (PUMA). PUMAs are defined within states based on a minimum population threshold of 100,000. The smallest geographic unit for aggregated data is the census block group.

Existing Linkages

None noted.

Selected Publications

Click here for a full list of publications.


Alexander CH. Still rolling: Leslie Kish’s “rolling samples” and the American Community Survey. Proceedings of Statistics Canada Symposium 2001.

Webster BH, Jr., Bishaw A. Income, Earnings, and Poverty Data From the 2006 American Community Survey. U.S. Census Bureau, American Community Survey Reports, ACS-08, Washington (DC): U.S. Government Printing Office, 2007.


Learn more about using ACS data.

Data Query System

The American FactFinder provides ready access to data from the American Community Survey and allows for online preparation of tabulations.


What general data users need to know


State and County Quick Facts