Census Bureau releases new American Community Survey 5-year estimates

On Dec. 10, 2020, the U.S. Census Bureau released new 5-year statistics. For the first time, data from the 2015-2019 American Community Survey (ACS) will allow users to compare three nonoverlapping sets of 5-year data: 2005-2009, 2010-2014 and 2015-2019. The ability to analyze separate datasets is important for identifying trends for small communities and geographies which is critical for planning future investments and services.

“This release marks an important milestone for the ACS program, which has provided communities with detailed information about people, places and the economy for the last 15 years,” said Donna Daily, Chief, American Community Survey Office. “Having three sets of nonoverlapping data allows researchers and leaders across the country to analyze long-term trends, creating a powerful image of communities across the nation.”

The ACS is the nation’s leading source of large and small area socioeconomic and demographic statistics for all levels of geography for every community in the U.S. and Puerto Rico. ACS data provides public officials, community leaders, business owners, researchers and others with detailed information helping them to plan for the future. Below are highlights from this release on the topics of education, homeownership, income and poverty.



Education

The percentage of the total population with a bachelor’s degree or higher increased by about 1.8 percentage points between 2005-2009 and 2010-2014, and 2.8 percentage points between 2010-2014 and 2015-2019.

From 2005-2009 to 2015-2019, the percentage of people with a bachelor’s degree increased for all race groups.

For 2015-2019, Asian alone had the highest rate of bachelor’s degree attainment (54.3%), followed by White alone, non-Hispanic.

57.7% of counties in the United States saw increases in the percentage of people with bachelor’s degrees from 2005-2009 to 2015-2019.

Counties in the Northeast region of the United States had a higher percentage of people with bachelor’s degrees than all other regions in the country for 2015-2019 as well as the highest percentage point increase in bachelor’s degree attainment from 2005-2009 to 2015-2019 among census regions.



Homeownership

Twelve states and the District of Columbia had a decrease in homeownership rates in 50.0% or more of their counties between 2005-2009 and 2010-2014. These states include Arizona, California, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Oregon and Rhode Island.

Between 2010-2014 and 2015-2019, 18 states had more counties that had an increase in homeownership compared to a decline.

Between 2010-2014 and 2015-2019, 2,447 counties saw no statistically significant change in homeownership rates.



Income

The U.S. median household income for 2015-2019 was $62,843. Real median household income in the United States increased 2.3% between 2005-2009 and 2015-2019. Overall, between 2005-2009 and 2015-2019, most counties (2,094) did not have a statistically significant change in median household income while 303 counties experienced a decrease and 741 had an increase.

Non-Hispanic White householders experienced an increase of 3% in median household income between 2005-2009 and 2015-2019, from $66,767 to $68,785. Most counties (2,174) did not have a statistically significant change between 2005-2009 and 2015-2019 for non-Hispanic White households. Median household income increased in 735 counties and decreased in 223 counties.

Median household income for Black householders increased 1.9% between 2005-2009 and 2015-2019, from $41,144 to $41,935. Over the same period, the change in median income for Black households was not statistically significant in 1,475 counties. There was an increase in 217 counties and a decrease in 148 counties.

Households with Asian householders had an increase of 7.9% in median income between 2005-2009 and 2015-2019, from $81,772 to $88,204. Median income for Asian households was not statistically different between 2005-2009 and 2015-2019 in 1,024 counties, while it increased in 165 counties and decreased in 62 counties.

Median household income for Hispanic or Latino householders increased 5.9% between 2005-2009 and 2015-2019, from $48,909 to $51,811.

There was no statistically significant change in median income between 2005-2009 and 2015-2019 for Hispanic households in 1,860 counties. Hispanic households experienced an increase in 369 counties and a decrease in 142 counties.



Poverty

The overall U.S. 5-year ACS poverty rate from 2015-2019 was 13.4%. From 2005-2009 to 2015-2019, the change in the overall poverty rate in the United States was not statistically significant but poverty rates increased in 429 counties, decreased in 409 counties, and did not change significantly in 2,300 counties.

From 2005-2009 to 2010-2014, the overall poverty rate in the United States increased from 13.5% to 15.6%. During this time, the poverty rate increased in 1,051 counties, decreased in 136 counties, and did not change significantly in 1,951 counties.

From 2010-2014 to 2015-2019, the overall poverty rate decreased from 15.6% to 13.4%.

During this time period, the poverty rate increased in 99 counties, decreased in 1,072 counties, and did not change significantly in 1,967 counties.

Overall, from 2005-2009 to 2015-2019, the percentage of people in the United States living in poverty areas, which are defined as census tracts with poverty rates of 20 percent or higher, decreased by 0.2 percentage points. The percentage of people living in poverty areas increased in 25 states, decreased in 23 states and the District of Columbia, and did not change significantly in two states.



Data Visualization Tools

and Publications

The interactive data visualization, What can you learn about counties from the American Community Survey? allows users to explore key statistics about the nation’s counties. Interactive maps on income, poverty and education are also available, which allow users to explore trends and analyze patterns by race and ethnicity at the county level over the nonoverlapping 5-year ACS releases.

In addition to the new visualizations, the briefs Household Income by Race and Hispanic Origin: 2005-2009 and 2015-2019 and Changes in Poverty Rates and Poverty Areas Over Time: 2005 to 2019 explore changes in income and poverty over the 15-year period. “Homeownership in the United States: 2005 to 2019” and “Bachelor’s Degree Attainment in the United States: 2005 to 2019” will be released in the near future.

The ACS is the premier source for detailed population and housing information about our nation, allowing for more frequent data on America’s communities than the decennial census. It has an annual sample size of about 3.5 million addresses across the U.S. and Puerto Rico and includes both housing units and group quarters.

Beginning in 2006, ACS 1-year estimates have been released annually for geographic areas with populations of 65,000 and greater. Beginning in 2010, ACS 5-year estimates have been released annually for all geographies down to the block-group level. ACS 1-year and 5-year estimates are period estimates that represent data collected within particular intervals of time — 12 months and 60 months, respectively. These statistics would not be possible without the participation of the randomly selected households in the survey.

Because it is a survey based on a sample of the population rather than a census of the entire population, the ACS produces estimates with sampling error. To aid data users, the Census Bureau calculates and publishes a measure of the sampling error ­­— the margin of error — for every estimate.

The 2015-2019 ACS 5-year estimates are available on data.census.gov, the Census Bureau’s primary data dissemination platform. For more information on how to use data.census.gov, visit the resources page.

For guidance on comparing 2015-2019 ACS statistics with previous years and other surveys, visit census.gov.

For information on the ACS, visit www.census.gov/acs.