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Ready-to-Use US Census Data Layers

Traditionally, using American Community Survey (ACS) data required processing the newest estimates from the US Census Bureau each year, which could take days or weeks.

Since 2018, ArcGIS Living Atlas of the World has made many ACS tables readily available for use with your GIS workflows. These layers are updated automatically each year when the US Census Bureau releases its annual estimates.

You can quickly map more than 1,700 ACS attributes covering a wide range of demographic topics such as income, housing, age, race, and education. Each layer maps an interesting subject with informative pop-ups. You can immediately see important patterns anywhere in the United States or Puerto Rico. You can also use the layers to create your own customized web maps and applications to tell an endless number of stories about the population or housing in an area.

These layers are accessible in ArcGIS software, are free to use, sourced directly from the US Census Bureau API and require no login or credits. To make using these layers even easier, percentages and related margins of error have already been calculated. These layers are provided as both boundaries and centroids layers.

 

Household Income Variables ArcGIS Living Atlas of the World makes 1,700 attributes from the American Community Survey (ACS) accessible, covering a wide range of demographic topics such as income, housing, age, race, and education.

New Enhancements with this Release

As of December 11, 2020, these layers contain the newest 5-year estimates for 2015-2019. Boundaries layers always reflect TIGER (Topologically Integrated Geographic Encoding and Referencing) boundaries that are appropriate for the newest ACS figures. In this update, many layers have adjusted cartography that highlights the national rate of the attribute being mapped and legends that clearly state the national figure, which helps create a reference point for map readers.

The alias names have been updated to describe race and ethnicity attributes to be consistent with the ACS race and ethnicity categories as published by the US Census Bureau.

Some attributes with precalculated percentages now have revised calculations based on feedback from the US Census Bureau. These attributes help you map a normalized attribute quickly without needing to research what the denominator should be.

 

Insurance by Race and Age ACS data about health insurance coverage by type and by age group that is symbolized to show the percent uninsured.

New Attributes Allow for More Mapping Possibilities

ACS layers in the ArcGIS Living Atlas of the World cover a host of topics around housing, income, internet access, education, disability, and other characteristics, created in response to user requests. New attributes include:

New 2010–2014 layers allow for comparisons over time. Many users have requested historical ACS data so that they can compare how patterns have changed over time. Because the 2010–2014 layers and the most recent 2015–2019 data match and are symbolized in the same way and none of the survey years overlap, they can be used to compared changes in patterns of distribution in a map.

There are several tools for comparing layers. The Compare App (https://bit.ly/3asMtgv), a free configurable app template, supports side-by-side or stacked comparison of two maps or scenes. Swipe comparisons in an ArcGIS StoryMaps story, classic Esri Story Maps app, or ArcGIS Web AppBuilder app are also supported by this data. Also bring layers into ArcGIS Pro to join, analyze, and map change over time.

 

Computer Ownership and Internet Access ACS data is provided as boundaries and centroids. This centroid layer shows computer ownership and internet access by income group.

Get Started Today with These Resources

If you already use ACS data in your maps, make sure you update them with this new data. When updating data, check class breakpoints to ensure that the map symbology still makes sense.

About the authors

Lisa Berry is a cartographic product engineer on the ArcGIS Living Atlas of the World team at Esri. She works to create clear and concise stories about demographic data using cartography. She also builds data layers and tutorials to help others create their own map masterpieces.

Diana Lavery

Diana Lavery loves working with data! She has over a decade of experience as a practitioner of demography, sociology, economics, policy analysis, and GIS - making her a true social science quantoid. Diana holds a BA in quantitative economics and an MA in applied demography. She has been with Esri as a product engineer on Esri's Living Atlas and Policy Maps teams since 2017. Diana enjoys strong coffee and clean datasets, usually simultaneously.