(August 2014) From May 29-30, PRB and its partner, Sabre Systems, in conjunction with the U.S. Census Bureau, hosted the first-ever American Community Survey (ACS) Data Users Conference in Washington, D.C. The conference was attended by 284 participants from across the United States and featured more than 40 presentations by ACS data users.

The ACS is an ongoing annual survey of the U.S. Census Bureau that provides data to help communities plan programs and services. The survey gathers data on a range of demographic, socioeconomic, health, education, and housing measures. Information from the survey helps determine how federal and state funds are invested each year.

PRB and Sabre Systems created the ACS Data Users Group in 2013 to increase understanding and use of ACS data and promote information sharing among data users about key ACS data issues and applications. The group now enjoys an Online Community with more than 800 members, maintained by PRB, as well as webinars and special sessions at professional meetings.

The inaugural conference included a plenary session by Census Bureau executive staff and keynote addresses by Mark Doms, undersecretary for Economic Affairs at the U.S. Department of Commerce, and John H. Thompson, director of the U.S. Census Bureau. Presentations were streamed live to the Census Bureau and recorded for those who could not attend. Posting the conference materials online encouraged many conference attendees to become members of the Online Community—more than 100 people joined during the months of April and May. "It was really exciting to see so many ACS data users coming together in one place to share both practical tips and innovative ways to use ACS data, and to see those conference conversations continue in the ACS Online Community," said Linda Jacobsen, vice president of U.S. Programs at PRB and co-organizer of the conference.

Topics covered in conference sessions included:

  • Using ACS in GIS and Data Visualization Applications.
  • Applications of ACS Data for Income and Poverty, Employment and Commuting, Health Insurance and Disability, Housing, and Migration.
  • Using the ACS to Look at Small Population Groups and Trends Over Time.
  • Aggregating ACS Estimates and Calculating Margins of Error.
  • Using ACS Data to Create Custom Tabulations.
  • Issues and Limitations in Using Small-Area ACS Data.

Heidi Worley is a senior writer/editor at the Population Reference Bureau.