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Census and ACS

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Esri provides demographics data from the Census and the American Community Survey (ACS).

Census 2010 data categories offered by Esri include the following:

  • Population
  • Household
  • Housing
  • Mortgage status
  • Tenure
  • Family
  • Age
  • Race and ethnicity
  • And more

Census demographics are point estimates, representing April 1 of the census year.

Esri's ACS data provides much of the information previously available through the decennial census. ACS uses a continuous measurement or "rolling" sample, in which a small percent of the population is sampled every month. The ACS is updated and released more frequently than the decennial census—every year instead of every ten years. Smaller sample sizes and variable collection times have introduced a margin of error into their estimates. ACS data categories offered by Esri include the following:

  • Population—Total population, language, poverty
  • School and work—School enrollment, travel time and means of transportation to work
  • Households—Total households, tenure, families, poverty status, rent, vehicles available, mortgage status
  • Housing—Total housing units, number of units in structure, year built
  • Health Insurance, public assistance income

Read about Understanding Margin of Error.


  • Census 2010
  • ACS: 2010–2014

Available geographies

See Available geographies.

Update frequency

  • Census—Decennially (Plus annual updates to geographies that are updated annually such as ZIP Codes)
  • ACS—Annually


Esri uses the following methodology:

Variable lists

Understanding Margin of Error

The Census 2000 sample, with data collected using the "long form", represented approximately 1-in-6 households and one point in time, April 1, 2000. ACS represents approximately 1-in-40 households on a rolling sample basis, but the smaller sample sizes can produce larger sampling errors.

With each ACS estimate, the Census Bureau reports a Margin of Error (MOE), or measure of the variability of the estimate due to sampling error. The MOE enables data users to measure the range of uncertainty around each estimate. The larger the MOE, the lower the accuracy of the estimate-and the less confidence one should have that the estimate is close to the true value.

Esri Improves Confidence in Using ACS

Decisions about the quality of an estimate based on the MOE are difficult to make. Esri has simplified this process by adding symbols to flag reliability of data based on sample size. Symbols are based on thresholds of reliability Esri established using an estimate's Coefficient of Variation (CV).

green flagHigh Reliability: Small CVs, less than or equal to 12 percent, are flagged green to indicate that the sampling error is small relative to the estimate and the estimate is reasonably reliable.

yellow flagMedium Reliability: Estimates with CVs between 12 and 40 are flagged yellow—use with caution.

red flagLow Reliability: Large CVs, over 40 percent, are flagged red to indicate that the sampling error is large relative to the estimate. The estimate is considered very unreliable.

The CV is a measure of relative error in the estimate, calculated as the ratio of the standard error to the estimate itself.

Read an in-depth explanation of Margin of Error from Esri's Data Team.