ArcGIS Living Atlas

Updates to American Community Survey Layers Now Available in ArcGIS Living Atlas

The 2017-2021 American Community Survey (ACS) five-year estimates are now available within ArcGIS Living Atlas. These ready-to-use layers save GIS users many hours of download and data processing time, and empower people to instantly begin to explore, map and analyze the data at state, county and tract levels. The layers can also be downloaded if needed. 

The Census ACS enables local officials, businesses, and researchers to understand what’s taking place in their communities and helps community programs allocate resources. This data determines how $675 billion dollars in federal and state spending are spent each year, so access to the latest available data is critical. Census ACS data is used by everyone from regional planners and program administrators to entrepreneurs and big companies looking for their next location to set up shop, something that can lead to more local jobs. 

Since 2018, Esri’s Living Atlas Policy Mapping team provides to the GIS community a set of free layers that contain a wealth of data from the U.S. Census Bureau’s American Community Survey (ACS). On December 8th, 2022, Census released its updated five-year estimates (2017-2021). Within days of that release, the Policy Mapping team updated the ACS layers already available in Living Atlas with the newest figures. Maps and apps that already use these layers will automatically reflect the most recent Census ACS data. 

Access the Latest Census ACS Data 

The Census ACS layers in Living Atlas cover a wide range of topics on housing, income, internet access, education, disability, health insurance, and more. These layers contain data for states, counties, and census tracts. More than 100 layers are available, each focusing on a specific topic.  Each layer already shows an interesting subject on the map, with an informative pop-up so that you can immediately see important patterns anywhere within the U.S. or Puerto Rico. You can also easily 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 your area. 

Additional benefits to these layers: 

Sample field descriptions of Census attributes and Esri-calculated attributes

Additional Tables Added 

To meet customer needs, additional tables were added to the Race and Hispanic Origin layers and Poverty Status layers. These include highly requested fields such as Hispanic Black and individuals with income that is 200% of poverty level. These fields provide a more detailed look at Hispanic or Latino populations. Poverty ratios are useful in high-cost areas where federal poverty levels do not accurately reflect actual cost of living.  

Enhancements Just Released 

Get started using these layers today 

The American Community Survey (ACS) helps local officials, community leaders, and businesses understand the changes taking place in their communities. The ACS layers in Living Atlas provide many of the popular variables directly within the ArcGIS platform. Being able to access these brand-new data values directly within Living Atlas makes it easy to start understanding the changes taking place in your community or areas of interest through maps and further analysis. 

Find the layers in ArcGIS Online: 

Learn where to find these layers and start using them within your mapping and analysis workflows. Check out this story map to learn how. 

Get started: 

Learn how to make a map about your community in four easy steps in this blog. You’ll have your own web map of your area in minutes! 

Update your existing ACS maps: 

When the new ACS figures are released by the Census and updated in Living Atlas, it’s time for you to check your web maps that use one of these ACS layers to see where you need to make updates to your map’s symbology and pop-ups. If you are using an ACS layer from Living Atlas and have not modified it at all, then you will appreciate knowing that your layer has already been updated, with new data, updated symbology, and updated pop-ups. 

If you are using an ACS layer from Living Atlas and have modified its symbology, pop-ups, etc., you’ll appreciate that the data has been updated, but your symbology and pop-ups kept your modifications. To confirm, check out the layer properties in Map Viewer to see what properties are stored in the source layer or stored in the web map. The attribute data in the latest five-year ACS layers changes each December and is automatically reflected in existing maps. After this release, verify that your map’s symbology breakpoints and pop-ups still make sense with the updated data.

Important Changes to Note in Your Maps:

Changes may be particularly noticeable for any currency values such as earnings, income, median contract rent, and median home value maps. See this blog on inflation to understand how your maps may be affected.

For maps that use the Housing Units by Year Built layers, there are six attribute fields with updated categories of year built at the top end of the distribution. For example, the field that was previously “Housing units built 2014 or later” is now “Housing units built 2020 or later.” Aliases have been updated to reflect the new categories for these six fields and their associated MOE fields. Read more about this change at census.gov.

Understand and use Margins of Error: 

We created a Learn Path full of resources that walk through different ways to incorporate margins of error (MOEs) into maps. Recently released, this lightweight app helps you get a quick sense of how reliable estimates are for each tract, and how they become more reliable as you aggregate tracts using the boundary of a neighborhood or other shape. Check out this blog to learn more. 

Questions? 

If you have questions about the layers, visit our FAQ, or post on Esri Community’s Living Atlas space. You can also learn more about the layers in this blog. 

About the authors

Julia Holtzclaw is a Product Engineer on ArcGIS Living Atlas's Demographic and Policy Maps Teams. She enjoys taking great data and turning them into maps and apps, while having a bit of fun along the way.

Connect:

Steven is a Product Engineer on ArcGIS Living Atlas of the World's Policy Maps team. He is interested in transportation, housing, and demography. Steven enjoys a good chicken wing or 12.

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