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Esri Releases Annual Update of Ready-to-Use US Census Bureau Data for ArcGIS Users

Updated American Community Survey Data Is Available in ArcGIS Living Atlas

Many federal agencies are required by law to use American Community Survey (ACS) data, and many nonprofits rely on ACS data when applying to grants. Local governments and businesses often incorporate ACS data into their planning and resource allocation. To meet this need, Esri, the global leader in location intelligence, has updated ACS layers and maps in ArcGIS Living Atlas of the World. The update makes the newest values for five-year estimates of current data on demographic, housing, and workforce characteristics of the US population easily accessible to ArcGIS software users.

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“This seamless, nationwide, tract-based data is allowing us to work regionally to respond to this pandemic, which we had never had to do before”

ArcGIS Living Atlas is the foremost collection of global geographic information and includes maps, apps, and data layers used by organizations around the world for research, analysis, and decision-making. Through ArcGIS Living Atlas, users can employ over 1,700 annually updated attributes of ACS tables, and this integration provides them with a faster way of accessing and analyzing this data.

“Being able to access these national demographics analytics layers provides officials with an edge in understanding and responding to emergent situations in a better-informed, data-driven way,” said Diana Lavery, Esri senior product engineer. “The recent fight against COVID-19 has demonstrated that ACS layers are an invaluable tool for government personnel.”

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Updated layers in the collection incorporate the latest five-year estimates covering 2016–2020 and include the following topics and more:

  • Income
  • Housing
  • Internet access
  • Education
  • Disability
  • Health insurance

In 2020, the US Census Bureau used the ACS layers to build its COVID-19 hub, a valuable resource containing demographic and economic data designed to help guide decision-making related to the pandemic. “This seamless, nationwide, tract-based data is allowing us to work regionally to respond to this pandemic, which we had never had to do before,” said Jennifer Pettyjohn, a senior planner with the City of Seattle.

The collection also contains some historical ACS layers that have now been updated with the latest symbology corresponding to the current year layers, so that accurate comparisons can be made. For example, users can see how poverty levels have changed within a city by visualizing which areas have improved and which haven’t.

With the fourth annual update, Esri made additional improvements to many of the existing ACS layers, like pop-up enhancements to include margins of errors and a Learn path created with resources that walk through different ways to incorporate margins of error in maps. And compared to previous years, additional state, county, and tract boundaries are shore lined where needed, with additional large or important water bodies cut out of the polygons. This supports map styles like dot density and map effects like drop shadow to work better.

While the 2016–2020 release was delayed following pandemic-related data collection disruptions, ACS data layers in ArcGIS Living Atlas typically update every December when the US Census Bureau produces new five-year estimates.

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