Assessment of Major Federal Data Sets for Analyses of Hispanic and Asian or Pacific Islander Subgroups and Native Americans: Inventory of Selected Existing Federal Databases. American Community Survey (ACS)



Sponsoring agency

Bureau of the Census
Department of Commerce


Reference date



The American Community Survey (ACS) is planned as a continuing sample survey designed to replace the Census long form in 2010. It is intended to provide reliable annual estimates of the detailed social, economic, and housing characteristics for all states, and for cities, counties, metropolitan areas, and population groups of 65,000 persons or more. For smaller areas, multi-year average data covering the most recent 2-to-5 years will be used to generate the estimates. For the most part, the survey will be conducted by mail. The sample will interview about 250,000 households per month, or some 3 million different households per year (some 3 percent of all households). Thus, over a 5-year period, the sample will approximate the decennial long-form sample. Currently in the testing and developmental stage, it is planned for implementation in 2003. As part of the inquiry, extensive demographic detail will be collected, including detailed race and Hispanic origin.


The ACS race/ethnicity questions and response categories follow:

  • Is this person - Spanish/Hispanic/Latino?
    Mark (X) the "NO" box if not Spanish/Hispanic/Latino
    • [ ]No, not Spanish/Hispanic/Latino
      [ ]Yes, Mexican, Mexican-Am., Chicano
      [ ]Yes, Puerto Rican
      [ ]Yes, Cuban
      [ ]Yes, other Spanish/Hispanic/Latino(Print group)

    What is this persons's race? Mark (X) one or more races to indicate what this person considers himself/herself to be

    • [ ] White [ ] Asian Indian [ ] Native Hawaiian
      [ ] Black, African-Am., or Negro [ ] Chinese [ ] Guamanian or Chamorro
      [ ] American Indian, or Alaska Native. Print name of enrolled or principal tribe.


      [ ] Filipino [ ] Samoan
      [ ] Japanese [ ] Other Pacific Islander
      [ ] Korean [ ] Some other race
        [ ] Vietnamese  
        [ ] Other Asian
      Print race



Interviewing policy

As the Nation's oldest data gathering organization, the Census Bureau has long experience in interviewing non-English speaking respondents. The ACS, however, as a continuing, monthly effort to be conducted principally by mail, does raise a number of new issues, which the Bureau is attempting to address as part of its current research and testing program. Given its large sample size and its dispersion across virtually all counties, it is not feasible to have resident interviewers in all locations. To the extent that follow-up is conducted by telephone, using Computer Assisted Personal Interviewing (CAPI), a variety of language skills will be available. Personal follow-up, however, will be accomplished by travelling interviewers, some of whom may lack the necessary language skills. In a large number of instances, bilingual family members will be able to assist in completing the interview, but in some cases it may be necessary for the Bureau to hire or otherwise recruit the necessary language skills.

The ACS will be available in paper form in a limited number of other languages. The exact number is yet to be determined, based both on the experience of Census 2000 and the testing of the ACS.

Sample size

As with the decennial census, the ACS will cover the total resident population, including both the armed forces and the institutionalized. The sample sizes shown in Appendix Tables A-1 to A-3 refer to the Hispanic, Asian and Pacific Islander, and Native American populations included in an annual ACS sample.

Publications of data for Hispanics, Asians, Pacific Islanders, and Native Americans

When fully implemented, the ACS will become a major source of a wide variety of detailed data on the Hispanic population and its subgroups, as well as for each of the API populations, and for American Indians or Alaska Natives. The amount of detail, of course, will be more limited for smaller geographic entities, such as towns or rural areas, because the small sample sizes may preclude obtaining data, either for the group as a whole or for its components, with sufficient reliability. Further, as noted above, information for small demographic groups or for small geographic entities may require the accumulation of from 2-to-5 years of sample, in order to provide acceptable levels of reliability. In sum, however, ACS will provide both timely and extensive national and small area information for the populations of interest.

It is expected that public use files containing micro-records will be made available regularly. Such files undoubtedly will contain the full scope of the race/ethnic information collected on the ACS, including identification of the Hispanic and API subpopulation groups.

Revised race/ethnic definitions

When implemented in 2003, the ACS will utilize the revised race/ethnic definitions and categories, including multiple reporting of race, consistent with the new OMB standards for collecting and presenting race/ethnic data.

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