Local Disability Data for Planners

A Planning Resource for County and State Data

Frequently Asked Questions

How is disability defined in the ACS?

Do other disability surveys use the same six ACS disability questions?

Are children under 5 included in the ACS disability data?

What are “group quarters” and are people with group quarters included in the ACS?

Are ACS estimates available for my state, county, city or town?

What are the benefits and limitations of using multi-year ACS estimates rather than single year estimates, if both are available?

What is the ACS PUMS?

What are PUMAs?

How can county estimates be developed from ACS PUMS data?

Why do the tables on this site exclude some values?

What is DataFerrett?

How is disability defined in the ACS?

The Census Bureau defines disability as a long-lasting sensory, physical, mental, or emotional condition or conditions that make it difficult for a person to do functional or participatory activities such as seeing, hearing, walking, climbing stairs, learning, remembering, concentrating, dressing, bathing, going outside the home, or working at a job.

A person is identified in the 2005, 2006 and 2007 ACS as having a disability if the respondent answered yes to any of the following six questions:

F: Answer question 15 and 16 only if this person is 5 years old or over…

15. does this person have any of the following long-lasting conditions:
    a. Blindness, deafness, or a severe vision or hearing impairment?
    b. A condition that substantially limits one or more basic physical activities such as walking, climbing stairs, reaching. lifting, or carrying?

16. Because of a physical, mental, or emotional condition lasting 6 months or more, does this person have any difficulty in doing any of the following activities:
    a. Learning, remembering, or concentrating?
    b. Dressing, bathing, or getting around inside the home?

G. Answer question 17 ONLY if this person is 15 years old or over..,
17. Because of a physical, mental, or emotional condition lasting 6 months or more, does this person have any difficulty in doing any of the following activities:
    a. Going outside the home alone to shop or visit a doctor’s office?
    b. Working at a job or business?

The 2008 ACS separated the 2005-2007 ACS disability question on blindness, deafness, or a severe vision or hearing impairment (sensory disability) into one question on blindness and vision impairment and another question on deafness or hearing impairment and eliminated the question on “working at a job or business.”

Do other disability surveys use the same six ACS disability questions?

There are a number of surveys that include questions on disability, each designed for specific purposes, but no other survey produces the same estimates as the ACS. The Guide on this website includes information on three other relevant surveys: the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS), the Survey of Income and Program Participation (SIPP), and the Current Population Survey (CPS). The BRFSS uses two broad questions to define disability; the SIPP uses a number of questions to define disability in terms of function, activities, and conditions.

The 2008 Current Population Survey (CPS) uses the same questions as the 2008 ACS, but the sampling and administration of these two surveys differ, so the resulting estimates are expected to differ.
DO YOU WANT TO LINK TO THEIR PAGES IN GUIDE

Are children under 5 included in the ACS disability data?

Children under 5 are not included in the ACS disability data. The first four of the six disability questions in the 2005, 2006, and 2007 American Community Survey were asked about individuals five years old or over. These questions concern sensory disability, physical disability, mental disability, and self-care disability. The questions about going outside the home alone and working at a job or business were asked about individuals 15 years old or over.

What are “group quarters” and are people with group quarters included in the ACS?

The US Census Bureau defines a group quarter facility as a place where people live or stay that is normally owned or managed by an entity or organization providing housing and/or services for the residents. Services may include custodial or medical care as well as other types of assistance. Residency is commonly restricted to those receiving these services, and residents are usually not related to each other. Group quarters include such places as college residence halls, residential treatment centers, skilled nursing facilities, group homes, military barracks, correctional facilities, and workers dormitories.

People living in group quarters facilities were included in the 2006 and 2007 ACS, but not in 2005. This difference must be taken into account in comparing different years of ACS data. The population and housing tables on this website were created from pooled 2005, 2006 and 2007 ACS data, and do not include individuals in group quarters.

Are ACS estimates available for my state, county, city or town?

The ACS sampling plan allows for annual estimates of geographic areas larger than 65,000 people, 3-year estimates for places larger than 20,000 people, and 5-year estimates for areas with fewer than 20,000 people including zip code, census tract and block group. The American Factfinder (http://factfinder.census.gov) currently includes published tables with the first set of 3-year estimates (2005-2007) including disability estimates.

Estimates for many of the demographic, social, economic and housing characteristics at the block group and census tract level will be available in the 5-year estimates based on 2005-2009 data, available in 2010. Because of changes in the disability questions in the 2008 ACS, tables with the next 3-year estimates are planned for when the 2008-2010 data are available in 2011, and the first 5-year estimates for disability are planned for when 2008-2012 pooled data is available in 2013.

What are the benefits and limitations of using multi-year ACS estimates rather than single year estimates, if both are available?

For places with 65,000 people or more, the American Factfinder currently offers a choice of one-year or three-year estimates. Multi-year estimates from the ACS have the advantage of a larger sample size. However, combining several years may obscure changes in population. One year estimates from the most recently available period are more current and more responsive to changes in population or geographic boundaries. Places smaller than 65,000 people do not have singe year estimates, but depending on size may be limited to multi-year estimates in the Factfinder ACS tables.

For more information, see US Census Bureau (2008). Statistical issues of interpretation of the American Community Survey’s one-, three- and five-year period estimates. (LINK IS IN REFERENCES)

What is the ACS PUMS?

The US Census Bureau provides ACS data for analysis. The ACS Public Use Microdata Sample (PUMS) is a sub-sample of the ACS sample. All identifying information such as name and address is removed, to protect confidentiality. The PUMS supports development of custom tables not included in the American Factfinder, and is available to download from the Factfinder website.

For PUMS users, the smallest sub-state geographic identifier provided is the Public Use Microdata Area (PUMA). PUMAs are 100,000 in population or larger. Large counties and places may be made up of one or more PUMAs and in this case the PUMS will support local estimates, but smaller jurisdictions will need to rely on estimates from the PUMA in which they are located.

For more information, please refer to US Census Bureau (2009a) A compass for understanding and using American Community Survey data: What PUMS data users need to know. ( http://www.census.gov/acs/www/Downloads/ACSPUMS.pdf )

What are PUMAs?

PUMAs (Public Use Microdata Areas) are sub-state geographic areas defined by the Census Bureau with input from individual state data centers. PUMAs have minimum populations of 100,000 and are redefined every ten years. States are partitioned into PUMAs; no PUMA crosses a state boundary. PUMAs may cross county borders, and are larger than many places and counties.

How can county estimates be developed from ACS PUMS data?

While PUMAs are helpful geographic entities for Census purposes, planners need estimates for more relevant political boundaries and planning areas, such as county, city, block group, and census tract. The population and data tables for disabilityplanningdata.com were developed from PUMS data and provide county or group of county estimates not available elsewhere, such as "What percentage of households in San Mateo County, California, include a person with a disability?" or "In San Mateo County, in what percentage of households of people with disabilities, does the person live alone?"

To develop these housing and population tables for counties and groups of counties, we used the University of Missouri Census Data Center geographic crosswalk between different census geographies (MABLE/Geocorr2k) with the ACS PUMS to develop these estimates. This is possible because counties relate to PUMAs in one of fours ways:

1) Counties that are exactly one PUMA (6 percent of US counties).

2) Large population counties that subdivide into several entire PUMAs, so the county estimate is made up of the estimates of several PUMAs (About 6.5 percent of US counties).

3) Small population counties when joined with other small population counties comprise an entire PUMA. In this case, a county estimate is not available from the PUMS, but information can be obtained for the county combined with adjacent counties. (About 80 percent of US counties).

4) Approximately 7.5 percent of US counties do not meet these conditions and are not included in the disbilityplanningdata.com estimates.

Why do the tables on this site exclude some values?

Since the PUMS contains only a sample of ACS data, the number of individuals in specific cells of the population and housing tables developed from the PUMS may not be large enough to develop reliable estimates. To sound estimates, the population and housing tables on this website use three years of ACS PUMS data, and display N/A if less than 40 actual observations were available for the total population.

What is DataFerrett?

DataFerrett allows users to analyze available datasets without the need for specialized statistical software such as SAS, SPSS or STATA. The American Community Survey is one of the datasets available for analysis using DataFerrett. The user is able to select variables of interest and recode as needed. Results can be saved for further use. PUMS microdata can be downloaded in pre-formatted or delimited files for analysis using DataFerrett.

An excellent description is available from the Census publication
A compass for understanding and using American Community Survey data: What PUMS data users need to know.