sample. With the advent of the ACS, the long-form sample will be dropped from the 2010 and successive censuses; consequently, the decennial census will now include only a short form with basic questions on age, race, sex, ethnicity, household relationship, and housing tenure (owner or renter).

Each summer and fall from 2006 forward, the Census Bureau will release ACS statistics for the previous calendar year for areas with 65,000 or more people. In addition, by 2008, enough responses will have accumulated over the 3-year period 2005–2007 for the Census Bureau to release statistics in the fall for areas with at least 20,000 people. Finally, by 2010, enough responses will have accumulated over the 5-year period 2005–2009 for the Census Bureau to release statistics in the fall for all areas, including very small places and neighborhoods. Each year, the 1-year, 3-year, and 5-year estimates will be updated to reflect newer data.1

The implementation of the ACS represents a seismic shift in the landscape of small-area data on the U.S. population. This shift promises important benefits to users in terms of much more timely and up-to-date information than the long-form sample could provide. However, there will inevitably be a learning curve and costs in time and other resources of users to make the transition from the once-a-decade long-form sample to the continuous ACS.


Recognizing the need to assist users in the transition from the long-form sample to the ACS, in 2004 the Census Bureau asked the Committee on National Statistics of the National Academies to convene a Panel on the Functionality and Usability of Data from the American Community Survey. The charge to the panel was to study the effects of using small-area ACS estimates that are based on multiyear measurements released every year for applications that previously used static, one-time estimates from the long-form sample. The major goals of the panel’s work are to provide a base of information to ease the transition from the long-form sample to the ACS for a wide variety of data uses and to explore methodological issues raised by the use of this survey.

The panel undertook a range of activities to respond to this charge. We listened to groups of small-area data users on several occasions, including at meetings we organized with major federal agency users and experienced state and local government users and at a special session of the October 2004 conference of the Association of Public Data Users. The panel also commissioned papers on the properties of different types of multiyear


Similar data products will be available for areas in Puerto Rico from the Puerto Rico Community Survey (see Box 2-1).

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