Data Dictionary: ACS 2011 (1-Year Estimates)
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Data Source: U.S. Census Bureau
Universe: Universe: Population 16 to 64 years
Relevant Documentation:
Excerpt from: Social Explorer; U.S. Census Bureau; American Community Survey 2011 Summary File: Technical Documentation.
The data on sex were derived from answers to Question 3. Individuals were asked to mark either "male" or "female" to indicate their biological sex. For most cases in which sex was invalid, the appropriate entry was determined from other information provided for that person, such as the person's given (i.e., first) name and household relationship. Otherwise, sex was allocated from a hot deck.

Sex is asked for all persons in a household or group quarters. On the mailout/mailback paper questionnaire for households, sex is asked for all persons listed on the form. This form accommodates asking sex for up to 12 people listed as living or residing in the household for at least 2 months. If a respondent indicates that more people are listed as part of the total persons living in the household than the form can accommodate, or if any person included on the form is missing sex, then the household is eligible for Failed Edit Follow-up (FEFU). During FEFU operations, telephone center staffers call respondents to obtain missing data. This includes asking sex for any person in the household missing sex information. In Computer Assisted Telephone Interviews (CATI) and Computer Assisted Personal Interview (CAPI) instruments sex is asked for all persons. In 2006, the ACS began collecting data in group quarters (GQs). This included asking sex for persons living in a group quarters. For additional data collection methodology, please see

Data on sex are used to determine the applicability of other questions for a particular individual and to classify other characteristics in tabulations. The sex data collected on the forms are aggregated and provide the number of males and females in the population. These data are needed to interpret most social and economic characteristics used to plan and analyze programs and policies. Data about sex are critical because so many federal programs must differentiate between males and females. The U.S. Departments of Education and Health and Human Services are required by statute to use these data to fund, implement, and evaluate various social and welfare programs, such as the Special Supplemental Food Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) or the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP). Laws to promote equal employment opportunity for women also require census data on sex. The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs must use census data to develop its state projections of veterans' facilities and benefits. For more information on the use of sex data in Federal programs, please see

Sex Ratio
The sex ratio represents the balance between the male and female populations. Ratios above 100 indicate a larger male population, and ratios below 100 indicate a larger female population. This measure is derived by dividing the total number of males by the total number of females and then multiplying by 100. It is rounded to the nearest tenth.
Question/Concept History
Sex has been asked of all persons living in a household since the 1996 ACS Test phase. When group quarters were included in the survey universe in 2006, sex was asked of all person in group quarters as well.
Beginning in 2008, the layout of the sex question response categories was changed to a horizontal side-by-side layout from a vertically stacked layout on the mail paper ACS questionnaire
Limitation of the data
Beginning in 2006, the population in group quarters (GQ) was included in the ACS. Some types of GQ populations have sex distributions that are very different from the household population. The inclusion of the GQ population could therefore have a noticeable impact on the sex distribution. This is particularly true for a given geographic area. This is particularly true for areas with a substantial GQ population.

The Census Bureau tested the changes introduced to the 2008 version of the sex question in the 2007 ACS Grid-Sequential Test ( The results of this testing show that the changes may introduce an inconsistency in the data produced for this question as observed from the years 2007 to 2008.

Sex is generally comparable across different data sources and data years.
However, data users should still be aware of methodological differences that may exist between different data sources if they are comparing American Community Survey sex data to other data sources, such as Population Estimates or Decennial Census data. For example, the American Community Survey data are that of a respondent-based survey and subject to various quality measures, such as sampling and nonsampling error, response rates and item allocation. This differs in design and methodology from other data sources, such as Population Estimates, which is not a survey and involves computational methodology to derive intercensal estimates of the population. While ACS estimates are controlled to Population Estimates for sex at the nation, state and county levels of geography as part of the ACS weighting procedure, variation may exist in the sex structure of a population at lower levels of geography when comparing different time periods or comparing across time due to the absence of controls below the county geography level. For more information on American Community Survey data accuracy and weighting procedures, please see

It should also be noted that although the American Community Survey (ACS) produces population, demographic and housing unit estimates, it is the Census Bureau's Population Estimates Program that produces and disseminates the official estimates of the population for the nation, states, counties, cities and towns and estimates of housing units for states and counties .
Excerpt from: Social Explorer; U.S. Census Bureau; American Community Survey 2011 Summary File: Technical Documentation.
Disability Status
Under the conceptual framework of disability described by the Institute of Medicine (IOM) and the International Classification of Functioning, Disability, and Health (ICF), disability is defined as the product of interactions among individuals' bodies; their physical, emotional, and mental health; and the physical and social environment in which they live, work, or play. Disability exists where this interaction results in limitations of activities and restrictions to full participation at school, at work, at home, or in the community. For example, disability may exist where a person is limited in their ability to work due to job discrimination against persons with specific health conditions; or, disability may exist where a child has difficulty learning because the school cannot accommodate the child's deafness.

Furthermore, disability is a dynamic concept that changes over time as one's health improves or declines, as technology advances, and as social structures adapt. As such, disability is a continuum in which the degree of difficulty may also increase or decrease. Because disability exists along a continuum, various cut-offs are used to allow for a simpler understanding of the concept, the most common of which is the dichotomous "With a disability"/"no disability" differential.

Measuring this complex concept of disability with a short set of six questions is difficult. Because of the multitude of possible functional limitations that may present as disabilities, and in the absence of information on external factors that influence disability, surveys like the ACS are limited to capturing difficulty with only selected activities. As such, people identified by the ACS as having a disability are, in fact, those who exhibit difficulty with specific functions and may, in the absence of accommodation, have a disability. While this definition is different from the one described by the IOM and ICF conceptual frameworks, it relates to the programmatic definitions used in most Federal and state legislation.

In an attempt to capture a variety of characteristics that encompass the definition of disability, the ACS identifies serious difficulty with four basic areas of functioning - hearing, vision, cognition, and ambulation. These functional limitations are supplemented by questions about difficulties with selected activities from the Katz Activities of Daily Living (ADL) and Lawton Instrumental Activities of Daily Living (IADL) scales, namely difficulty bathing and dressing, and difficulty performing errands such as shopping. Overall, the ACS attempts to capture six aspects of disability, which can be used together to create an overall disability measure, or independently to identify populations with specific disability types.

Information on disability is used by a number of federal agencies to distribute funds and develop programs for people with disabilities. For example, data about the size, distribution, and needs of the disabled population are essential for developing disability employment policy. For the Americans with Disabilities Act, data about functional limitations are important to ensure that comparable public transportation services are available for all segments of the population. Federal grants are awarded, under the Older Americans Act, based on the number of elderly people with physical and mental disabilities.

Question/Concept History
In the 2011 American Community Survey, disability concepts were asked in questions 17 through 19. Question 17 had two subparts and was asked of all persons regardless of age. Question 18 had three subparts and was asked of people age 5 years and older. Question 19 was asked of people age 15 years and older.

Hearing difficulty
Hearing difficulty was derived from question 17a, which asked respondents if they were "deaf or ... [had] serious difficulty hearing."

Vision difficulty
Vision difficulty was derived from question 17b, which asked respondents if they were "blind or ... [had] serious difficulty seeing even when wearing glasses." Prior to the 2008 ACS, hearing and vision difficulty were asked in a single question under the label "Sensory disability."

Cognitive difficulty
Cognitive difficulty was derived from question 18a, which asked respondents if due to physical, mental, or emotional condition, they had "serious difficulty concentrating, remembering, or making decisions." Prior to the 2008 ACS, the question on cognitive functioning asked about difficulty "learning, remembering, or concentrating" under the label "Mental disability."

Ambulatory difficulty
Ambulatory difficulty was derived from question 18b, which asked respondents if they had "serious difficulty walking or climbing stairs." Prior to 2008, the ACS asked if respondents had "a condition that substantially limits one or more basic physical activities such as walking, climbing stairs, reaching, lifting, or carrying." This measure was labeled "Physical difficulty" in ACS data products.

Self-care difficulty
Self-care difficulty was derived from question 18c, which asked respondents if they had "difficulty dressing or bathing." Difficulty with these activities are two of six specific Activities of Daily Living (ADLs) often used by health care providers to assess patients' self- care needs. Prior to the 2008 ACS, the question on self-care limitations asked about difficulty "dressing, bathing, or getting around inside the home," under the label "Self-care disability."

Independent living difficulty
Independent living difficulty was derived from question 19, which asked respondents if due to a physical, mental, or emotional condition, they had difficulty "doing errands alone such as visiting a doctor's office or shopping." Difficulty with this activity is one of several Instrumental Activities of Daily Living (IADL) used by health care providers in making care decisions. Prior to the 2008 ACS, a similar measure on difficulty "going outside the home alone to shop or visit a doctor's office" was asked under the label "Go-outside-home disability."

Disability status
Disability status is determined from the answers from these six types of difficulty. For children under 5 years old, hearing and vision difficulty are used to determine disability status. For children between the ages of 5 and 14, disability status is determined from hearing, vision, cognitive, ambulatory, and self-care difficulties. For people aged 15 years and older, they are considered to have a disability if they have difficulty with any one of the six difficulty types.

Limitation of the Data
The universe for most disability data tabulations is the civilian noninstitutionalized population. Some types of GQ populations have disability distributions that are different from the household population. The inclusion of the noninstitutionalized GQ population could therefore have a noticeable impact on the disability distribution. This is particularly true for areas with a substantial noninstitutionalized GQ population. For a discussion of the effect of group quarters data has on estimates of disability status, see "Disability Status and the Characteristics of People in Group Quarters: A Brief Analysis of Disability Prevalence among the Civilian Noninstitutionalized and Total Populations in the American Community Survey" (

Beginning in 2008, questions on disability represent a conceptual and empirical break from earlier years of the ACS. Hence, the Census Bureau does not recommend any comparisons of 2011 disability data to 2007 and earlier ACS disability data.

Research suggests that combining the new separate measures of hearing and vision difficulty to generate a sensory difficulty measure does not create a comparable estimate to the old Sensory disability estimates in prior ACS products. Likewise, the cognitive difficulty, ambulatory difficulty, self-care difficulty, and independent living difficulty measures are based on different sets of activities and different question wordings from similar measures in ACS questionnaires prior to 2008 and thus should not be compared. Because the overall measure of disability status beginning in 2008 is based on different measures of difficulty, these estimates should also not be compared to prior years. For additional information on the differences between the ACS disability questions beginning in 2008 and prior ACS disability questions, see "Review of Changes to the Measurement of Disability in the 2008 American Community Survey" (

The 2011 disability estimates should also not be compared with disability estimates from Census 2000 for reasons similar to the ones made above. ACS disability estimates should also not be compared with more detailed measures of disability from sources such as the National Health Interview Survey and the Survey of Income and Program Participation.
The 2011 ACS disability estimates are comparable with the ACS disability estimates from 2008,2009, and 2010.
Full-Time, Year-Round Workers
All people 16 years old and over who usually worked 35 hours or more per week for 50 to 52 weeks in the past 12 months.