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Consumer Expenditure Surveys

American Community Survey

The American Community Survey (ACS) is conducted by the U.S. Census Bureau. Survey recipients are required by law to respond. The ACS collects data on many of the same items collected as part of the Consumer Expenditure Surveys (CE), including detailed information on social, economic, housing, and demographic characteristics. The ACS provides information on an annual basis about income, jobs and occupations, educational attainment, veterans, housing tenure, as well as other topics. The ACS releases new data every year through a variety of data products that can be accessed using different data tools.

Release ScheduleAnnually

Data Source

Data are sourced from the ACS Questionnaire, which asks for additional details beyond that of the Decennial Census. ACS questions tend to be broader and more inclusive than those collected by CE.

Data Type

Estimates and Microdata
Collection UnitHouseholds. An individual is considered a resident if they have been or will be staying at the address for more than 2 months of the year. Each housing unit is interviewed only once.

Sample Characteristics

The ACS utilizes a randomly selected sample of about 3.5 million addresses each year and is intended to be representative of the U.S population. ACS is a survey of all residential addresses including both owned and vacation homes, and includes state prisons, local jails, institutional halfway houses, military on-post barracks, and correctional institutions. All individuals living within a housing unit are considered one household. Expenditures associated with a housing unit, regardless of whether they were made by an individual living in the unit, are included in the ACS. The ACS does not reduce reported expenditures for the portion of expenses incurred for a business. ACS income data are adjusted for inflation using the Consumer Price Index (CPI). The ACS is intended as a self-administered survey.

Notable Sample Exclusions

Mortgages are not differentiated into primary and vacation. ACS collects only those expenditures made with respect to a particular housing unit and does not differentiate whether the individuals in the housing unit were the individuals who made the expenditures. Expenditures made for someone outside of the housing unit are not included in the ACS. The ACS is not an expenditure survey and therefore detailed information about expenditures is limited.


Data Comparison

As seen in Chart 1 below, the CE estimates of average annual expenditures of rent, mortgages, utilities, and household income have historically compared well, with estimates ranging from 88 to 120 percent of those from ACS. Deviations between the two products are directly attributed to coverage, definitional, and measurement differences. Specifically, differences in estimates from CE and ACS could partially be the result of the specificity of the questions in CE, compared with the broader questions asked by ACS. Beyond that, time period differences between the two surveys, as well as the adjustment of values by ACS using the CPI, could also further explain that gap between estimates. For more information on these differences, please see Consumer Expenditure Survey Compared with the American Community Survey

ACS defines the mortgage payment variable to include interest, principal, real estate taxes, and insurance. ACS does not make a distinction between primary residences and vacation homes. The CE values reported in this comparison is the sum of interest charges, the reduction in principal paid multiplied by negative 1, property taxes, and insurance (for owned homes, vacation homes, and equity lines of credit).

For more information on these detailed expenditure ratios, please see the ACS tab in CE data comparisons database linked below.

Methodology and Concordance:

The CE estimates provided in this comparison were developed using the same methods used in estimating average annual figures in the CE tables. For more information on this methodology, see the Tables Getting Start Guide, The ACS figures were developed using data from the ACS 1-year Public Use Microdata Sample (PUMS). These files contain data for the entire U.S and are presented at the household-level. Population weights are used to generate estimates population estimates that can be compared with the CE.

Supporting Documentation

  • CE data comparisons (XLSX)
  • Consumer Expenditure Survey Compared with the American Community Survey (PDF)


Last Modified Date: October 19, 2021