The data on real estate taxes were obtained from Housing Question 17 in the 2011 American Community Survey. The question was asked at owner-occupied units. The statistics from this question refer to the total amount of all real estate taxes on the entire property (land and buildings) payable to all taxing jurisdictions, including special assessments, school taxes, county taxes, and so forth.
Real estate taxes include state, local, and all other real estate taxes even if delinquent, unpaid, or paid by someone who is not a member of the household. However, taxes due from prior years are not included. If taxes are paid on other than a yearly basis, the payments are converted to a yearly basis.
The payment for real estate taxes is added to payments for fire, hazard, and flood insurance; utilities and fuels; and mortgages (both first and second mortgages, home equity loans, and other junior mortgages) to derive "Selected Monthly Owner Costs" and "Selected Monthly Owner Costs as a Percentage of Household Income." These data provide information on the cost of home ownership and offer an excellent measure of housing affordability and excessive shelter costs.
A separate question (Question 19c in the 2008 American Community Survey) determines whether real estate taxes are included in the mortgage payment to the lender(s). This makes it possible to avoid counting taxes twice in the computations.
Since 1996, the American Community Survey questions have been the same.
Data on real estate taxes in the American Community Survey should not be compared to Census 2000 real estate taxes data. The universe in Census 2000 was "specified owner-occupied housing units" whereas the universe in the ACS is "owner occupied housing units," thus comparisons cannot be made between these two data sets.