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From Education to Housing Costs, the American Community Survey Provides 10 Years of Local Statistics for Every Community Nationwide

For Immediate Release: Thursday, December 03, 2015

From Education to Housing Costs, the American Community Survey Provides 10 Years of Local Statistics for Every Community Nationwide

Press Release Number CB15-CN.206

Note: Data will be available by 10 a.m. EST.

Dec. 3, 2015 -- For 10 years, the American Community Survey has provided U.S. communities with detailed information critical for making informed decisions about their people, places and economy. Today, the U.S. Census Bureau released the latest American Community Survey five-year statistics, allowing users for the first time to compare two nonoverlapping five-year data sets: 2005-2009 and 2010-2014.

Users can now identify trends for social and economic characteristics for even the smallest communities on a more frequent basis.

Prior to the American Community Survey, these detailed characteristics were only available once a decade from the census. To meet the demand for more current statistics for national and local decision-making, the Census Bureau responded by developing a survey that would provide more timely data. Approval by Congress helped turn the Census Bureau's innovation into the American Community Survey.

"The American Community Survey is how America knows what America needs," Census Bureau Director John H. Thompson said. "From its beginning 10 years ago, it immediately proved to be a vital tool in providing a portrait of Gulf Coast communities recovering from Hurricane Katrina. Today, it is the premier source of statistics for anyone needing detailed local information for small towns, neighborhoods and communities both rural and urban."

As the nation's largest ongoing household survey, the American Community Survey produces statistics annually at all levels of geography, down to the block group level for every community in the nation and Puerto Rico.

In addition to today's release of statistics using data collected between 2010 and 2014, the Census Bureau has produced a series of maps; detailing county-level change for six socio-economic characteristics, highlighted below. Without the American Community Survey, these maps would only be possible every 10 years. The maps highlight just a few of the more than 40 topics available from the American Community Survey that public officials, community leaders, business owners, researchers and many others rely on to plan and make decisions.

Map highlights

College graduates

  • In 130 counties, 40 percent or more of the population 25 or older had a bachelor's degree or higher in 2010-2014, with 40 of these counties located in the South.
  • In 22 counties, 50 percent or more of the population 25 or older had a bachelor's degree or higher in 2005-2009; this increased to 34 counties in 2010-2014.
  • Of the 3,142 counties or county equivalents in the U.S., the percentage of the population 25 or older with a bachelor's degree or more increased in 1,000 counties and decreased in 60 counties between 2005-2009 and 2010-2014.

Median monthly owner costs

  • In 171 counties, owners with a mortgage had a median monthly housing cost greater than $1,750, with 63 (36.8 percent) of these counties located in the Northeast.
  • Between 2005-2009 and 2010-2014, median monthly housing costs for owners with a mortgage increased in 177 counties and decreased in 1,163 counties. In most counties (1,798), the change was not statistically significant. Four counties could not be compared: Kalawao County, Hawaii; Kenedy County, Texas; King County, Texas; and Loving County, Texas.

Homeownership rates

  • In 136 counties, more than 80 percent of the housing units were owner occupied, with 73 of these counties located in the Midwest.
  • Between 2005-2009 and 2010-2014, the percent of housing units that were owner occupied increased in 115 counties and decreased in 931 counties. The change was not statistically significant in 2,096 counties.

Median gross rent

  • 182 counties, or 6 percent, had a median gross rent of more than $1,000, with 65 counties in the South, 62 counties in the West, 49 counties in the Northeast, and six in the Midwest.
  • Between 2005-2009 and 2010-2014, median gross rent increased in 719 counties and decreased in 204 counties. The changes were not significant in 2,217 counties. Changes could not be compared for Kalawao County, Hawaii, and Loving County, Texas.

Median household income

  • 260 counties had median household income greater than $60,000, and 223 had median household income of less than $35,000. Counties surrounding Washington, D.C., and New York City had among the highest median household incomes, along with counties in the San Francisco and Los Angeles metropolitan areas.
  • Between 2005-2009 and 2010-2014, median household income increased in 187 counties and decreased in 991 counties. The change in median income was not statistically significant in 1,964 counties.


  • In 2010-2014, the county poverty rates (the percentage of people with income below the official poverty threshold) ranged from 1 percent to 53 percent.
  • Poverty rates were 30 percent or higher in 119 counties. Of these, 93 counties were in the South.
  • Between 2005-2009 and 2010-2014, poverty rates increased in 1,052 counties and decreased in 136 counties. The change in poverty rates was not statistically significant in 1,954 counties.

In addition to the statistics released today, the 2014 Small Area Income and Poverty Estimates will be released next week. These estimates provide single-year income and poverty statistics for all counties and school districts nationally. Data from the American Community Survey are an important input to these estimates.

Also released today from the American Community Survey

  • Census Business Builder: Small Business Edition, a Web tool that allows business owners and entrepreneurs to easily navigate and use key demographic and economic data, has been updated with the new 2010-2014 American Community Survey statistics.
  • Application programming interface updated with 2010-2014 American Community Survey data.
  • Narrative profiles are available for state, county, place, metropolitan/micropolitan statistical area, ZIP code tabulation area, American Indian Area/Alaska Native area/Hawaiian Home Land and census tract. Narrative profiles summarize many topics using nontechnical text and graphs.
  • Statistics from the Puerto Rico Community Survey are available for geographic levels down to the block group level.

Because it is a survey based on a sample of the population rather than the entire population, the American Community Survey produces estimates. To aid data users, the Census Bureau calculates and publishes a margin of error for every estimate. For guidance on making comparisons, please visit census.gov.

About the American Community Survey

The American Community Survey is the only source of small area estimates for social, economic and demographic characteristics. It gives communities the current information they need to plan investments and services. Retailers, homebuilders, police departments, and town and city planners are among the many private- and public-sector decision makers who count on these annual results. Visit the Stats in Action page to see some examples.

These statistics would not be possible without the participation of the randomly selected households in the survey.  

Citation Guidance

Note to correspondents: When sourcing the data in this release, please use "American Community Survey: 2010-2014." 


Note: Statistics from sample surveys are subject to sampling and nonsampling error. All comparisons made in the reports have been tested and found to be statistically significant at the 90 percent confidence level, unless otherwise noted. Please consult the tables for specific margins of error. For more information, go to www.census.gov/programs-surveys/acs/technical-documentation/code-lists.html.

Changes in survey design from year to year can affect results. See //www.census.gov/programs-surveys/acs/news/data-releases.html  for more information on changes affecting the 2010-2014 statistics. See www.census.gov/programs-surveys/acs/guidance/comparing-acs-data.html for guidance on comparing 2010-2014 American Community Survey statistics with previous years and the 2000 Census.


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