Using American FactFinder: About Census Bureau Surveys

This guide provides information on using American FactFinder to find, retrieve and map Census data. It includes information on the various types of data available through American FactFinder based on surveys done by the U.S. Census Bureau.

About Census Bureau Surveys

The Census Bureau collects data on a number of different topics, including people and the economy. This data is delivered through several different Census reports, including the Decennial Census, which provides population and housing data collected every 10 years, Economic and Government censuses, which are done every 5 years, and the American Community Survey, which is a survey of a sample of the population conducted every year. More information on the data available through American FactFinder is available on the box below. Data from the Census of Agriculture is available from the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The primary Census Bureau surveys are:

Decennial Census – a survey of the entire population of the United States that is taken every 10 years (in years ending with 0).

American Community Survey (ACS) – a survey of a sample of the population that is conducted continuously. This survey provides data that is more current than the Decennial Census, but may not provide data for all areas. The American Community Survey is based on a survey of a percentage of the the population rather than a survey of the entire population, thus the data reported is an estimate, not a complete count. American Community Survey data is released in 1-year and and 5-year estimates, depending on the population of the area. A 3-year estimate was available until 2013, but has been discontinued. To retrieve data for an entire state (both urban & rural areas) use the 5-year estimates.

Features of American Community Survey Data

Features 1-Year Estimates

3-Year Estimates

5-Year Estimates
Time Period 1 Year 3 Years (36 months) 5 Years (60 months)
Population Threshold ≥ 65,000 ≥ 20,000 All Areas
Sample Size Smallest Intermediate Larger
Reliability Least Reliable Somewhat reliable Most reliable
Currency Most current Somewhat current Least current
Uses To analyze areas with large poulations when current data is needed To analyze areas with smaller populations when current data is needed and 1-year data is not available To analyze areas with very small populations (rural areas), when current data is needed and 1 and 3 year data is not available

Based on US Census Bureau’s When to Use 1-year, 3-year, or 5-year Estimates, US Census Bureau

Economic Census – a survey of business establishments conducted every 5 years. Data is grouped by NAICS (North American Industry Classification System) code and provided for local areas, counties, states, regions and the entire country.

Census of Governments – a survey of government entities conducted every 5 years. It provides information on the number and type of government agencies, how the government is organized and government employment and payroll.

Datasets Available in American Factfinder

The datasets available in American Factfinder are listed below in alphabetical order (users will have to browse to find the dataset of interest).

2010 & 2000 Decennial Census - includes data for population, age, race, ancestry, income, education, employment, language, occupation, poverty, housing and other topics for all people. Data can be retrieved for a variety of geographic area types.

2010 & 2000 Redistricting Data – the first set of data released after each Decennial Census. It includes population totals and summaries by race, Hispanic or Latino, and voting age for all geographic areas. The 2010 Census Redistricting data also included data on housing and housing occupancy.

American Community Survey (ACS) – American Community Survey data is available from 2005 to the Present. ACS data is available for 1 and 5-year estimates. The ACS surveys a sample of the population, not the entire population. See the table on page 1 to learn more about the data released with each estimate. To retrieve data for both rural and urban areas, use the 5-year estimates.

American Housing Survey – a biennial survey that provides information on a variety of housing subjects, including the size and composition of the nation's housing inventory, vacancies, fuel usage, condition, occupant characteristics, home improvements, mortgages and other housing costs, persons eligible for and beneficiaries of assisted housing and home values. Additional questions may be added to collect other information.

Annual Survey of Entrepreneurs – an annual survey (introduced in 2014) that provides information on economic and demographic characteristics of businesses and business owners by gender, ethnicity, race, and veteran status.

Annual Survey of Manufactures – an annual survey (except during Economic Census years) that collects data on manufacturing employment, payroll, supplemental labor costs, materials costs, operating expenses, value of shipments, value added by manufacturing, capital expenditures, fuels and electric energy used, and inventories of manufacturing establishments.

Annual Survey of State Government Finances - provides a survey of state Revenue by source, expenditures by object and function of expenditure, indebtedness including long or short-term debt, and assets by purpose and type. Data is available for 2012 and 2013.

Annual Survey of State Government Tax Collections -  provides data on taxes collected by state in 5 tax categories and 25 tax subcategories, including the tax collections by type of tax and taxes collected by state governments. Available from 2012 to 2014.

Business Patterns – data on economic activity for counties, zip codes and metropolitan areas. Business Pattern data includes the number of businesses, employees, and payroll by industry. Data is available for the years 2011 to 2014.
Census of Governments - reports data on the scope and nature of the nation's state and local government sector, including data on public finance and employment, type of local government organizations, powers, and activities and measures the fiscal relationship between federal, state, and local governments.

Commodity Flow Survey - provides data on the movement of goods in the United States, including commodities shipped, their value, weight, and mode of transportation, and the origin and destination locations of commodity shipments from manufacturing, mining, wholesale, and selected retail and services establishments.

Disability Employment, 2010-2010 – a special tabulation of Census data that was produced from 3-year American Community Survey data covering the time period from 2008-2010 for several US government agencies. Conducted every 5 years with the Economic Census.

Economic Census - a survey of business establishments conducted every 5 years. Data is grouped by NAICS (North American Industry Classification System) code and provided for local areas, counties, states, regions and the entire country.

EEO Tabulation - a custom tabulation of American Community Survey data for the time period from 2006-2010 that can be used by employers to benchmark the racial, ethnic, and sexual composition of their work force to the external labor market in a geographic area and occupation.

Nonemployer Statistics - data about businesses without paid employees (businesses operated by people who are self-employed) for the years 2004 to 2012.

Population Estimates - population by age, sex, race, and Hispanic origin for the nation, states and counties. Data is available from 2011 to 2014.

Redistricting Data – basic population data for the voting age population that is used to divide up representation in Congress, state legislatures and other areas with representative government.

Survey of Business Owners - provides data on characteristics of the businesses and their owners, including gender, ethnicity, race, and veteran status of business owners, Industry (by NAICS code), firm receipts and number of employees. It is reported for a variety of geographies, including the United States, states, metropolitan areas, counties, and places.

Survey of Public Employment & Payroll – provides estimates of state and local government employment and payrolls for 2012 and 2013.

Survey of Public Pensions - provides revenues, expenditures, financial assets, and membership data for the public pension systems. It includes data for individual pension systems as well as national, state, and local pension systems for the years 2012 and 2013.

Survey of School System Finances – provides data on revenues, expenditures, debt, and assets of elementary and secondary public school systems for school systems in all states and the District of Columbia for 2012 and can be viewed online or and downloaded.