The American Community Survey (ACS) is a general household survey conducted by the U.S. Census Bureau and has replaced the decennial census "long form" survey. It is used to an up-to-date profile of America’s communities, and includes data on income, poverty, disability, marital status, education, occupation, travel to work, and disability, health insurance coverage (as of 2008), among others.
An important feature of the ACS is that it includes a large enough sample for state-level and sub-state health insurance coverage estimates. The ACS provides an alternate estimate of state-level insurance coverage estimates previously available only from the Current Population Survey’s Annual Social and Economic Supplement (CPS), also conducted by the Census Bureau. Both surveys produce annual releases of state-level health insurance coverage estimates in the fall of each year, reflecting the prior year’s coverage rates.
ACS Data are collected on an ongoing basis using monthly mailings to a sample of U.S. households. It is a mixed-mode incremental survey, with mail non-respondents being called for a computer-assisted telephone interview (CATI), and phone non-respondents sampled for an in-person computer-assisted personal interview (CAPI).
The ACS is draws a sample of 3 million addresses, yielding about 2 million responses. This is roughly 30 times larger than the sample size of the CPS. The ACS collects sample in all 3,141 counties (or county equivalents) in the United States every year, and starting in 2006 it also collects data from people living in institutionalized group quarters, which include nursing homes, mental hospitals, and correctional facilities. The Census Bureau started testing the ACS in 1999 and became fully operational for residential addresses in 2005.
The health insurance question is asked of all people in the household separately. The question is a limited range of options (i.e., through an employer, Medicare, etc.) with no state-specific program names included. A verification question is not included.
The State Health Access Data Assistance Center (SHADAC) is a program of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and a part of the Health Policy and Management Division of the School of Public Health at the University of Minnesota.