New 5-year estimates of a wide range of socio-economic characteristics for small areas will be coming out soon from the American Community Survey. These data will cover the period 2006 to 2010 and update last year’s release of 2005 to 2009 data. Data will be available for every community nationwide and even for small statistical areas like census tracts. The information will cover more than 40 topics such as: educational attainment, income, occupation, commuting to work, income, poverty, language spoken and more. The public release will be on Dec. 8.
While annual small data area from the ACS is a huge new resource, it isn’t without it’s caveats. One has to be cautious in using the data for small areas because of the survey nature of the data. Remember, every survey has a measurable margin of error. You hear this all the time when polls results are reported with a +/- margin of error. The same is true for the Census data and users need to pay attention to it, particularly when comparing estimates over time or comparing one community to another. Small differences can be statistically meaningless.