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To understand data user needs, and in particular the relevance of the GQ data to users of the American Community Survey, the panel sought input from researchers and stakeholders, attempting to identify data users who may have specific programmatic requirements for information about GQ residents. A workshop was held with a broad spectrum of users of the ACS data on December 13, 2010, in Washington, DC. The goal of the meeting was to gain a thorough understanding not only of what data users’ needs are, but also of how the GQ data are used and to discuss enhancements and alternatives to the current ACS design and methodologies. In reviewing data user needs, the panel was also assisted by consultants who were asked to examine federal as well as state and local uses of the ACS GQ data, including uses for funding allocation and to meet programmatic needs.

This chapter discusses the input received from data users and draws on two papers commissioned by the panel:

  1. “The American Community Survey: A Review of the Universe Requirements in Federal Legislation” by Cynthia M. Taeuber and Rachel Blanchard Carpenter, and
  2. “The Importance of American Community Survey Data on the Group Quarters Population” by Robert Scardamalia.


As discussed, since 2006, the Census Bureau has been publishing annual 1-year ACS estimates for geographic entities with a population of at least 65,000. Three-year ACS estimates for geographic entities with populations of at least 20,000 have been published since 2008. The first release based on 5 years of data collection was published in 2010, with estimates for all statistical, legal, and administrative entities, including areas as small as census block groups. Data from 2005 include only the household population, whereas data beginning with 2006 include both households and group quarters. The 2010 release of 5-year period estimates was based on 1 year of data (2005) that did not include a GQ sample and 4 years of data (2006-2009) that included GQ samples (with the GQ data weighted to reflect a 5-year period estimate window). Beginning with the release of the 2006-2010 estimates in December 2011, all new ACS data products will be based on samples of both households and group quarters for every year included.

ACS data products are expected to evolve on the basis of data needs and feedback from researchers and other data users; Table 3-1 summarizes the current products. Not all releases include all of these products. For example, the 5-year release does not include comparison profiles, state ranking tables, or selected population profiles. Some of the derived data products, such as data and narrative profiles, subject profiles, and geographic comparison tables,

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