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American Community Survey

The American Community Survey (ACS) is a large national survey that uses continuous measurement methods to produce detailed demographic, social, economic, and housing data each year.  It was designed to provide timely data for both large and small geographic areas.

The ACS is conducted in the United States and Puerto Rico.  The survey, administered by the U.S. Census Bureau, is sent to approximately 250,000 households each month.  The random selection of households includes the population living in both housing units and group quarters.  The data collected is continuous and there is an annual production of period estimates.

The topics in the survey include (but are not limited to):

  • Age and sex
  • Disability
  • Education
  • Veterans
  • Employment
  • Languages
  • Income
  • Citizenship
  • Poverty
  • Race and ethnicity
  • Relationships
  • Financial characteristics of housing

The methodology used to collect the data is based on best practices from decennial census and demographic surveys.  Monthly samples use three sequential modes of data collection:

  • Mail
  • Telephone
  • Personal visits

The 2006 reauthorization of the federal Voting Rights Act directs the U.S. Census Bureau to use the ACS and other comparable data when determining the language requirements for voting jurisdictions.  Language determinations are made from the 5-year estimates of the ACS data.  If a voting jurisdiction meets the threshold, as stated in Section 203 of the Voting Rights Act, then they must provide translated election materials and bi-lingual support in polling places (such as Orange County).