Every 10 years since 1790, Congress has authorized funds to conduct a national census of the U.S. population, as required by the U.S. Constitution. Recent censuses have consisted of a “short form,” which included basic questions about demographic and housing topics, and a “long form” used for only a sample of households that included not only the basic “short-form” questions but also detailed questions about socioeconomic and housing characteristics. The American Community Survey, a relatively new survey conducted by the Census Bureau, is ushering in the most substantial change in the decennial census in more than 60 years. The ACS is a nationwide, continuous survey designed to provide communities with reliable and timely demographic, housing, social, economic, and financial data every year.
The ACS will replace the decennial census long form in 2010 and thereafter by collecting long-form-type information throughout the decade rather than only once every 10 years. The ACS data will provide, for the ﬁrst time, a continuous stream of updated information for states and local areas, and will revolutionize the way we use data to understand our communities.