WHAT IS THE NEW CENSUS DATA ABOUT ANYWAY?!
2011 DATA TO BE RELEASED SEPTEMBER 12th AND
20th ON HEALTH INSURANCE COVERAGE, POVERTY,
On two dates in September, the Census Bureau will release data on poverty, income, and the number of uninsured:
• On September 12, the Bureau will release health insurance, poverty, and income data from the Current Population Survey
• On September 20, the Bureau will release additional health insurance, poverty, and income data from the American
Community Survey (ACS).
Although the data from these two surveys are similar, they differ in important ways and will likely yield somewhat different
CPS vs. ACS: Apples and Oranges
Although the data will be similar, you should not compare the CPS data to the ACS data (i.e., do not compare local uninsured
rates from the ACS to statewide uninsured rates from the CPS)! The surveys pose different questions at different times of the
year to different populations.
The key differences are as follows (for more details, visit the Census Bureau’s CPS vs. ACS webpage):
• The way the two surveys ask about health insurance (i.e., if you had it at any point in the previous year versus if you have
• Whether military health insurance coverage is represented as private or public/government insurance
• Annual U.S. sample sizes: CPS = 100,000 addresses vs. ACS = 3 million addresses.
• What geographic level of data is available (i.e., CPS only goes down to state-level, while ACS goes down to areas above
65,000, including Congressional Districts, metro areas, and some counties)
Examining the Poverty numbers – The Sept. 20 data will be much better.
The CPS data released on September 12 will provide a pretty good indication of the change in poverty at the national level in
2011, but it won’t tell us nearly as much about changes at the state level (or anything about local changes). The reason for that
is that the much smaller sample size for the CPS makes it less reliable and requires averaging together two years of state data
(but not for the national numbers). The averaging will mask some of the state-level change that occurred in 2011.
The ACS uses a sample that is 30 times larger than the CPS, which makes it a much better source for state-level trends and
state rankings. Thus, the ACS data released on September 20 will provide a much clearer picture of the change in poverty in
Wisconsin from 2010 to 2011, and it will also include some local data on income and poverty.
For similar reasons, the ACS data will give us a better indication of changes in insurance coverage in Wisconsin from 2010 to
2011. However, the health question wasn’t added to the ACS survey until 2008, which makes the CPS data the only national
data source for examining the long-term trends in insurance coverage.
Use WCCF as a Resource to Help Make Sense of the Numbers
The Wisconsin Council on Children and Families is a non-profit, non-partisan policy institute that will issue press releases and
be available for interviews on both days of the data releases to help provide context and interpretation of the numbers. If you
have questions regarding the methodology or what kinds of data will be available (e.g. geographic areas, changes over time,
etc.), please contact our Communications Director, Bob Jacobson, at (608) 284-0580 ext. 303 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Differences in the Health Insurance and Population Data
Key Facts about the CPS health insurance data:
• Data only available for U.S. and States (not local areas)
• Asks: whether the person had health insurance at any time during 2011
o “Uninsured” = not insured for the entire year (2011)
o “Insured” = had health insurance at any point in the year, even if it was just for a short period of time.
• Data available over time: 1987-2011
Key Facts about the Health Insurance Data from the ACS:
• Health insurance coverage data for states, as well as geographic areas with populations of 65,000 or more (including
more than 20 Wisconsin counties, all U.S. Congressional Districts, and several Wisconsin Metropolitan Areas)
• Asks: whether individuals had health insurance at the time they were surveyed
o “Uninsured” = didn’t have insurance at the time survey was completed
o “Insured” = had insurance at the time survey was completed.
• This question was asked for the first time in 2008, so only 2008-2011 data are available.
Key Facts about the Population, Income, and Poverty Data from the ACS:
• Compared to the CPS, the ACS includes more population data
o Average family size
o Poverty rates by age, race/ethnicity, gender, and educational attainment
o Median income for families or non-family households, and by race/ethnicity or age
o Housing costs as a percentage of income
• Data available for the state, as well as geographic areas with populations of 65,000 or more
• Data over time: 2001-2011