Census Bureau Announces Changes for 2020 American Community Survey 1-Year Estimates

Census Bureau plans to release experimental estimates developed from 2020 ACS 1-year data.

The U.S. Census Bureau announced that it will not release its standard 1-year estimates from the 2020 American Community Survey (ACS) because of the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on data collection. The Census Bureau will release experimental estimates developed from 2020 ACS 1-year data.

The standard 2020 ACS 1-year estimates do not meet the Census Bureau’s Statistical Data Quality Standards designed to ensure the utility, objectivity and integrity of the statistical information. Unlike the ACS, the 2020 Census was able to postpone their Nonresponse Followup to a time when they could carry out the full operation, limiting the impact of the pandemic on data quality in ways the ACS could not.

The COVID-19 pandemic posed numerous challenges to collecting ACS data in 2020, as described in our recent Adapting the American Community Survey Amid COVID-19 blog. As a result, the ACS collected only two-thirds of the responses it usually collects in a survey year and the people who did respond to the survey had significantly different social, economic and housing characteristics from those who did not. This is called “nonresponse bias.”

Specifically, Census Bureau staff found high nonresponse from people with lower income, lower educational attainment, and who were less likely to own their home. Nonresponse bias is a natural part of sample surveys, and often statisticians can adjust for nonresponse bias by giving more weight to responses from underrepresented groups. However, Census Bureau staff found that standard nonresponse adjustments to the ACS 1-year estimates could not fully address the differences in a way that meets Census Bureau quality standards.

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