New Statistics Available: 2016–2020 American Community Survey 5-Year Estimates 

The U.S. Census Bureau released new statistics from the 2016–2020 American Community Survey (ACS) 5-year estimates. Following pandemic-related data collection disruptions, the Census Bureau revised its methodology to reduce nonresponse bias in data collected in 2020. After evaluating the effectiveness of this methodology, the Census Bureau determined the standard, full suite of 2016–2020 ACS 5-year data are fit for public release, government and business uses.

Median Household Income 

  • The newly released 2016–2020 ACS 5-year data shows that Pennsylvania’s median household income increased to $63,627 when compared to the 2011–2015 ACS 5-year data adjusted for inflation.
  • Between the two nonoverlapping periods, median household income increased in 66 of the state’s 67 counties. The largest increase was in Chester County (+$10,205) and the largest decline in Bradford County (-$1,180).


  • From 2011–2015 to 2016–2020, the overall poverty rate for Pennsylvania decreased from 13.5% to 12.0%.
  • From 2011–2015 to 2016–2020, the poverty rate decreased in 59 of the state’s 67 counties, with the largest decrease in Juniata County (-3.8%). The rate increased in 7 counties, with the largest increase in Cameron County (+5.2%). There was no change in Schuylkill County (remained at 13.1%).

The revised methodology improves the 2020 weighted survey responses by comparing characteristics for responding and nonresponding households using administrative, third-party and decennial census data. The resulting 2020 input data were then integrated with the inputs from 2016, 2017, 2018 and 2019 (processed using standard ACS methodology) to produce the 5-year data products. To learn more about changes to the methodology, view the methodology user note.

It is important to note, the ACS 5-year estimates are not designed to measure rapid change during short periods because the data come from a 5-year period. Although the most recent estimates contain data that include the economic shock from the COVID-19 pandemic, they also contain data collected in the final years (2016–2019) of the longest expansion in the history of U.S. business cycles. These data only reflect a small part of the impact of the pandemic on social, economic and housing measures.

Data users should use caution when comparing 2016–2020 5-year estimates to earlier ACS data. For more information, visit comparison guidance. To learn more about the ACS 5-year period estimates, read Period Estimates in the American Community Survey.

Changes to Race and Hispanic Origin 

The findings on race and ethnicity from the 2016–2020 ACS were similar to the 2020 Census results.

  • The White population remained the largest race or ethnicity group in the state, however this population declined by 2.6% between 2011–2015 and 2016–2020. The American Indian and Alaska Native and Native Hawaiian and Other Pacific Islander populations also declined during this period.
  • The multiracial (the Two or More Races) population increased by 58.8% between 2011–2015 and 2016–2020.
  • The Some Other Race population increased 23.6% between 2011–2015 and 2016–2020 while the Asian population increased 14.4% and the Black or African American population increased 1.2% during this period.
  • The Hispanic or Latino population, which includes people of any race, increased by 19.2% between 2011–2015 and 2016–2020.

The 2016–2020 ACS 5-year estimates also reflect planned changes made to the design, processing and coding of the race and Hispanic origin questions.

Beginning in 2020, the Census Bureau implemented changes to the Hispanic origin and race questions based on extensive research and outreach over the past decade. The improvements made to the design, processing and coding of the Hispanic origin and race questions are similar to changes made in the 2020 Census.

The differences in the overall racial distributions relative to 2011–2015 ACS data are largely due to improvements in the design of the two separate questions for Hispanic origin and race data collection and processing as well as some demographic changes.

The Census Bureau is also set to release the ACS 5-year Public Use Microdata Sample (PUMS) and the Variance Replicate Estimates (VRE) on March 31, 2022.