ArcGIS Living Atlas

Updates coming to American Community Survey layers in ArcGIS Living Atlas (Winter 2022)

As part of ArcGIS Living Atlas, the Policy Mapping team maintains a set of free layers that contain a wealth of data from the U.S. Census Bureau’s American Community Survey (ACS). In early December 2022, Census will release the newest ACS data for their 2017-2021 five-year estimates. Within days of that release, the Policy Mapping team updates the ACS layers already available in Living Atlas with this new update from Census. Maps and apps that already use these layers will automatically display the most recent 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 topic’s layer is hosted as both boundaries and centroids for your use in analysis, mapping, charting, dashboards, Story Maps, ArcGIS Pro and other applications. These layers are free to use and can be exported to your local drive if needed.

The data is made available in ArcGIS Online as hosted feature layers, so all you need is an internet connection to use them. Through ArcGIS Living Atlas of the World, you can easily add these layers into your maps and analysis in ArcGIS Online and ArcGIS Pro. You can also use them within applications, dashboards, Story Maps, Insights, Business Analyst and many other ArcGIS tools.

Boundary Enhancements

Table Updates

Legend Updates

Using These Layers

The American Community Survey (ACS) helps local officials, community leaders, and businesses understand the changes taking place in their communities. It is the premier government source for detailed population and housing information about our nation. 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 popups. 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 popups.

If you are using an ACS layer from Living Atlas and have modified its symbology, popups, etc., you’ll appreciate that the data has been updated, but your symbology and popups 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 popups still make sense with the updated data.

Understand and use Margins of Error:

Earlier this year, we created a Learn Path full of resources that walk through different ways to incorporate margins of error (MOEs) into maps. We presented this work at the ACS Data Users Conference to show these exciting new ways to help everyone see and understand MOEs.

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.

Business Analyst and GeoEnrichment:

Developers can access the latest available ACS Data through Esri’s GeoEnrichment Service, while Business Analyst users can access in the Business Analyst web app. Esri will release new ACS 2017-2021 data through GeoEnrichment Service and Business Analyst next year, typically around March or June. To learn how to use the current ArcGIS Living Atlas data in Business Analyst, please see the step-by-step guided blog or check out this guided tutorial video.


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 author

Julia Holtzclaw is a Senior Product Engineer on ArcGIS Living Atlas's Demographic and Policy Maps Teams. When not exploring new ways to map demographics, she's walking with her pups or enjoying a cup of espresso.

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