4 Tips to Learn More About ACS Data

One of the highlights of my recent east coast trip was meeting Ezra Haber Glenn, the author of the acs package in R. The acs package is my primary tool for accessing census data in R, and I was grateful to spend time with its author. My goal was to learn how to “take the next step” in working with the census bureau’s American Community Survey (ACS) dataset. I learned quite a bit during our meeting, and I hope to share what I learned over the coming weeks on my blog.

Today I’ll share 4 tips to help you get started in learning more. Before doing that, though, here is some interesting trivia: did you know that the ACS impacts how over $400 billion is allocated each year? 

  1. Read A Compass for Understanding and Using American Community Survey Data: What General Data Users Need to Know. I read this on the plane back to San Francisco and got a lot out of it. This is one of 12 handbooks that the ACS publishes. Each handbook targets a different audience, and I’m hoping to read What the Media Needs to Know next.
  2. If you want expert advice on a specific project, I recommend joining the American Community Survey Data Users Group website. I have an account there, but haven’t posted any questions yet. It looks like a lot of staff from the Census Bureau are active there. If you have any experience using that site, please contact me. I’m very interested in learning more about it.
  3. To learn more about Ezra’s R package acs, start by reading his paper Estimates with errors and errors with estimates: Using the R “acs'” package for analysis of American Community Survey data.  He presented this paper at this ACS Data Users Conference in May. 
  4. If you have a specific question about the acs package, ask on the acs-r mailing list, which Ezra manages.