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Design Comparison of LODES and ACS Commuting Data Products


  • Matthew R. Graham
  • Mark J. Kutzbach
  • Brian McKenzie


The Census Bureau produces two complementary data products, the American Community Survey (ACS) commuting and workplace data and the Longitudinal Employer-Household Dynamics (LEHD) Origin-Destination Employment Statistics (LODES), which can be used to answer questions about spatial, economic, and demographic questions relating to workplaces and home-to-work flows. The products are complementary in the sense that they measure similar activities but each has important unique characteristics that provide information that the other measure cannot. As a result of questions from data users, the Census Bureau has created this document to highlight the major design differences between these two data products. This report guides users on the relative advantages of each data product for various analyses and helps explain differences that may arise when using the products.2,3 As an overview, these two data products are sourced from different inputs, cover different populations and time periods, are subject to different sets of edits and imputations, are released under different confidentiality protection mechanisms, and are tabulated at different geographic and characteristic levels. As a general rule, the two data products should not be expected to match exactly for arbitrary queries and may differ substantially for some queries. Within this document, we compare the two data products by the design elements that were deemed most likely to contribute to differences in tabulated data. These elements are: Collection, Coverage, Geographic and Longitudinal Scope, Job Definition and Reference Period, Job and Worker Characteristics, Location Definitions (Workplace and Residence), Completeness of Geographic Information and Edits/Imputations, Geographic Tabulation Levels, Control Totals, Confidentiality Protection and Suppression, and Related Public-Use Data Products. An in-depth data analysis—in aggregate or with the microdata—between the two data products will be the subject of a future technical report. The Census Bureau has begun a pilot project to integrate ACS microdata with LEHD administrative data to develop an enhanced frame of employment status, place of work, and commuting. The Census Bureau will publish quality metrics for person match rates, residence and workplace match rates, and commute distance comparisons.

Suggested Citation

  • Matthew R. Graham & Mark J. Kutzbach & Brian McKenzie, 2014. "Design Comparison of LODES and ACS Commuting Data Products," Working Papers 14-38, Center for Economic Studies, U.S. Census Bureau.
  • Handle: RePEc:cen:wpaper:14-38

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