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The American Community Survey in counties with “seasonal” populations


  • Paul Auken
  • Roger Hammer


  • Paul Voss
  • Daniel Veroff


The U.S. Census Bureau designed the American Community Survey (ACS) to provide annual estimates of social and economic characteristics for states, counties, municipalities, census tracts, and block groups. Because of its April 1 reference date, in northern nonmetropolitan counties with substantial seasonal population fluctuations the decennial census provides a statistical representation of the demographic and social characteristics of the population at a time when the population is close to its annual minimum. The year-round monthly ACS sample survey has the potential to provide local communities with an unprecedented understanding of the average population characteristics over the course of a year. In the future, the ACS even has the potential for providing social and economic characteristics of the population by season. This paper examines four ACS pilot data collection counties, Oneida and Vilas Counties in northern Wisconsin, and Lake and Flathead Counties in northwest Montana. We hypothesize that the ACS will reflect a resident population over the course of the year that is different from the traditional April 1 decennial census population. While the ACS holds much promise, our research uncovered some sampling problems that are not yet fully resolved. In addition, our analysis was not able to examine ACS estimates for minor civil divisions (MCDs), which are functioning governmental units in many states. The fact that these MCDs often have very small populations, together with the fact that estimated standard errors at the much larger census tract level in these counties are disconcertingly large, raises (currently unanswerable) questions concerning the eventual statistical quality of ACS estimates for small MCDs. Consequently, the adequacy of the ACS as a replacement for the census long form may depend on the ability of the Census Bureau to effectively address the concerns presented in this analysis. Copyright Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2006

Suggested Citation

  • Paul Auken & Roger Hammer & Paul Voss & Daniel Veroff, 2006. "The American Community Survey in counties with “seasonal” populations," Population Research and Policy Review, Springer;Southern Demographic Association (SDA), vol. 25(3), pages 275-292, June.
  • Handle: RePEc:kap:poprpr:v:25:y:2006:i:3:p:275-292
    DOI: 10.1007/s11113-006-0010-6

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Shields, Martin & Deller, Steven C. & Stallmann, Judith I., 1998. "The Impact Of Retirees And Working-Age Families On A Small Rural Region: An Application Of The Wisconsin Economic Impact Modeling System," Faculty Paper Series 23970, Texas A&M University, Department of Agricultural Economics.
    2. Rachel Gordon & P. Chase-Lansdale, 2001. "Availability of child care in the United States: A description and analysis of data sources," Demography, Springer;Population Association of America (PAA), vol. 38(2), pages 299-316, May.
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    Cited by:

    1. David A. Swanson & Jeff Tayman, 2011. "On Estimating a De Facto Population and Its Components," Review of Economics & Finance, Better Advances Press, Canada, vol. 1, pages 17-31, November.
    2. Katherine Nesse & Mallory Rahe, 2015. "Conflicts in the Use of the ACS by Federal Agencies Between Statutory Requirements and Survey Methodology," Population Research and Policy Review, Springer;Southern Demographic Association (SDA), vol. 34(4), pages 461-480, August.
    3. Karen Smith Conway & Jonathan C. Rork, 2016. "How Has Elderly Migration Changed in the Twenty-First Century? What the Data Can—and Cannot—Tell Us," Demography, Springer;Population Association of America (PAA), vol. 53(4), pages 1011-1025, August.


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