Why the 2020 American Community Survey Is Different and Why It Matters

The COVID pandemic impeded data collection for the United States’ premier survey of local communities. How can we measure a changing America?

September 14, 2021

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September is typically an exciting time for census data users because it signals the release of the U.S. Census Bureau’s American Community Survey (ACS)—the nation’s premier source of social, economic, housing, and demographic statistics for local communities.

Not this year.

It turns out the coronavirus pandemic not only had unprecedented effects on Americans’ health and livelihoods, but it also disrupted America’s data infrastructure—including the ACS.

In July, the Census Bureau announced that it will not be releasing the standard 2020 ACS 1-year data products in September as planned due to the impact of the pandemic on data quality. Instead, in November, it will release experimental estimates for a limited set of tables and geographic areas.