Blog Post

Insight: 2020 5-Year ACS Data Released

By: Mallory Bateman

COVID-19 created challenges for data collection

Unlike the 1-Year Estimates, which only provide insights for populations of 65,000 or more, the 5-Year Estimates provide coverage for every geography throughout the entire United States. This type of data is incredibly important for small communities, counties, and for diving deeper into the neighborhood level in larger cities. After the Census Bureau released 1-Year 2020 American Community Survey (ACS) data as a limited and experimental product, many data users were curious and concerned about what that might mean for the 5-Year Estimates.

Thankfully, the Census Bureau employed some new approaches to address the data collection issues created by the COVID-19 pandemic. In mid-March, the Census Bureau published new 5-year estimates for all geographies. While margins of error are higher than in prior 5-year estimates, we’re still able to gain an understanding of the characteristics of the population between 2016 and 2020.

The 5-year ACS produces period estimates, reflecting the results of a survey sample of the population taken across, well, five years. This is different from point estimates, like the decennial census, indicating what was happening on a single day.

40 D