Puget Sound Regional Council

The American Community Survey (ACS) is a nationwide survey from the U.S. Census Bureau that replaces the decennial census “long form” survey. The ACS collects demographic, social, economic and housing information from the U.S. population on a continuous basis, and publishes data annually instead of every 10 years. ACS data are published in three series: 1-year, 3-year, and 5-year estimates.

  • What’s the difference between 1-year, 3-year, and 5-year estimates?
    • ACS estimates describe the average characteristics of an area over a specific time period. In the case of ACS single-year estimates, the period is the calendar year (e.g., the 2007 ACS covers January through December 2007). In the case of ACS multiyear estimates, the period is either 3 or 5 calendar years (e.g., the 2005–2007 ACS estimates cover January 2005 through December 2007, and the 2006–2010 ACS estimates cover January 2006 through December 2010).
    • The ACS multiyear estimates are similar in many ways to the ACS single-year estimates, however they encompass a longer time period. The differences in time periods between single-year and multiyear ACS estimates affect decisions about which set of estimates should be used for a particular analysis.
    • The 3-year and 5-year estimates are based on data collected and averaged over multiple years for a larger sample size, making the dataset more representative and statistically reliable.

Caution: Always use the same estimate series when comparing ACS data for different time periods and geographies.

ACS Demographic Profiles

Profiles of counties, cities and towns, census designated places (CDP), and metropolitan statistical areas (MSA) in the region.

5-Year Estimates: Includes most geographic areas.
  Data Years
3-Year Estimates: For geographic areas with 20,000+ population.
  Data Years
1-Year Estimates: For geographic areas with 65,000+ population.
  Data Year

Frequently Asked Questions

Download the PSRC User’s Guide to the American Community Survey (ACS) for answers to questions such as:

  • How is the ACS different from the decennial census long form survey?
  • Can I compare ACS data with decennial census data?
  • What is a Margin of Error?
  • Which estimate series should I use?

To access all ACS products, visit the Census Bureau’s American FactFinder page.

Puget Sound Regional Council • 1011 Western Ave, Suite 500 • Seattle, WA 98104 • 206-464-7090