Data Dictionary: ACS 2007 -- 2011 (5-Year Estimates)
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Data Source: U.S. Census Bureau
Table: B25069. Inclusion Of Utilities In Rent [3]
Universe: Universe: Renter-occupied housing units
Table Details
B25069. Inclusion Of Utilities In Rent
Universe: Universe: Renter-occupied housing units
Relevant Documentation:
Excerpt from: Social Explorer; U.S. Census Bureau; American Community Survey 2007-2011 Summary File: Technical Documentation.
 
Utilities
The data on utility costs were obtained from Housing Questions 11a through 11d in the 2011 American Community Survey. The questions were asked of occupied housing units. The questions about electricity and gas asked for the monthly costs, and the questions about water/sewer and other fuels (oil, coal, wood, kerosene, etc.) asked for the yearly costs.

Costs are recorded if paid by or billed to occupants, a welfare agency, relatives, or friends. Costs that are paid by landlords, included in the rent payment, or included in condominium or cooperative fees are excluded.

The cost of utilities provides information on the cost of either home ownership or renting. When the data is used as part of monthly housing costs and in conjunction with income data, the information offers an excellent measure of housing affordability and excessive shelter costs. The data also serve to aid in the development of housing programs to meet the needs of people at different economic levels, and to provide assistance in forecasting future utility services and energy supplies.

Question/Concept History
The American Community Survey questions ask for monthly costs for electricity and gas, and yearly costs for water/sewer and other fuels. Since 1999, the words "or mobile home" were added to each question, and Question 11b, which asked "Last month, what was the cost of gas for this house, apartment, or mobile home?" had an additional response category, "included in electricity payment entered above."

Limitation of the Data
Research has shown that respondents tended to overstate their expenses for electricity and gas when compared to utility company records. There is some evidence that this overstatement is reduced when yearly costs are asked rather than monthly costs. Caution should be exercised in using these data for direct analysis because costs are not reported for certain kinds of units such as renter-occupied units with all utilities included in the rent and owner-occupied condominium units with utilities included in the condominium fee.
Comparability
Data on utility costs in the American Community Survey can be compared to previous ACS and Census 2000 utility costs data.

Excerpt from: Social Explorer; U.S. Census Bureau; American Community Survey 2007-2011 Summary File: Technical Documentation.
 
Gross Rent
The data on gross rent were obtained from answers to Housing Questions 11a-d and 15a in the 2011 American Community Survey. Gross rent is the contract rent plus the estimated average monthly cost of utilities (electricity, gas, and water and sewer) and fuels (oil, coal, kerosene, wood, etc.) if these are paid by the renter (or paid for the renter by someone else). Gross rent is intended to eliminate differentials that result from varying practices with respect to the inclusion of utilities and fuels as part of the rental payment. The estimated costs of water and sewer, and fuels are reported on a 12-month basis but are converted to monthly figures for the tabulations. Renter units occupied without payment of rent are shown separately as "No rent paid" in the tabulations.

Gross rent provides information on the monthly housing cost expenses for renters. When the data is used in conjunction with income data, the information offers an excellent measure of housing affordability and excessive shelter costs. The data also serve to aid in the development of housing programs to meet the needs of people at different economic levels, and to provide assistance to agencies in determining policies on fair rent.

Adjusting Gross Rent for Inflation
To inflate gross rent amounts from previous years, the dollar values are inflated to the latest year's dollar values by multiplying by a factor equal to the average annual Consumer Price Index (CPI-U-RS) factor for the current year, divided by the average annual CPI-U-RS factor for the earlier/earliest year.

Median Gross Rent
Median gross rent divides the gross rent distribution into two equal parts: one-half of the cases falling below the median gross rent and one-half above the median. Median gross rent is computed on the basis of a standard distribution. (See the "Standard Distributions" section under "Appendix A") Median gross rent is rounded to the nearest whole dollar. (For more information on medians, see "Derived Measures.")

Aggregate Gross Rent
Aggregate gross rent is calculated by adding together all the gross rents for all specified housing units in an area. Aggregate gross rent is rounded to the nearest hundred dollars. (For more information, see "Aggregate" under "Derived Measures.")
Question/Concept History
Since 1996, the American Community Survey questions have remained the same.
Comparability
Data on gross rent in the American Community Survey should not be compared to Census 2000 gross rent data. For Census 2000, tables were not released for total renter-occupied units. The universe in Census 2000 was "specified renter-occupied housing units" whereas the universe in the ACS is "renter occupied housing units," thus comparisons cannot be made between these two data sets.