New Census ACS Data now Available. How Can MSG Help You Easily Gain Access to the Data?

New 5 Year American Community Survey Estimates Now Available

In mid-December, 2019, the U.S. Census bureau announced the availability of their 2014-2018 5-Year estimates, giving researchers cause to rejoice.  American Community Survey (ACS) is a heavily-used, “go-to” source for current social, economic, housing, and demographic information in the United States. The new 5-Year estimates are available for all geographic areas, reaching down to block-group level and include comparison profiles, subject tables, and narrative profiles.

Here are the ACS data topics that are available: 

How do you get access to ACS data?  It’s not easy!

2019 marks the first year where all ACS data products are released on the Census Bureau’s new web platform  Researchers can ONLY access the new 2019 data at The data is not available through American FactFinder.

Frequent users of American FactFinder know all too well how difficult it was at times to define and extract data.  Unfortunately, the Census Bureau’s new web platform is more cumbersome and difficult to use than its predecessor.  It can take the novice user many hours to extract the simplest of ACS requests.

First, there are thousands of 5 year ACS tables that a user must sort through.  Many of the tables contain redundant information and overlap with other tables.  Unless you’re an experienced user, determining which table(s) to select could be very time consuming and confusing.

Second, defining the geography can be an extremely tedious and time consuming process.  Many users of ACS data want block group estimates.  However, block group information is constrained by county. The Census web interface forces users to select block group level data one county at a time.  So, if a user was looking for ACS block group estimates for the state of PA, they would need to painstakingly define all 67 counties, waiting for each one to process before being able to select the next one.

Third, there is a limit to the size of the data that can be downloaded at a single time.  If the volume of data requested is too large (i.e. individual BG estimates for the state of CA), the user will have to divide up the specs and submit multiple requests.  The user then has to merge the individual download files back together.

Fourth, the data that is downloaded is not in a user-friendly format.  The user will need to have some programming experience in order to reformat the data into a useable format.  This could take hours depending upon the number of tables, variables and geography selected.  If multiple files are downloaded, the user will need to merge and cull the data as needed.

How can MSG Help?

MSG has downloaded all of the ACS datasets including all of the latest Block Group and Census Tract tables.  We have organized the data in such a fashion that single queries using any combination of geographic and demographic criteria now run quickly and completely.  Gone are all of the shortcomings and difficulties mentioned above.  MSG’s staff of experienced geo-demographers can satisfy just about any request in a timely and efficient manner.

If you need to request ACS data or you formerly used American FactFinder and aren’t sure how to proceed, please feel free to contact MSG today for guidance and assistance.

Need ACS data quickly?  Most requests to MSG can be turnaround same-day or generally within 24 hours.

Need your ACS data in a special format?  No worries.  MSG will format your ACS data and only include the information you need and in the format you specify.

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