The data on fertility were derived from Question 17 in 1999-2002, Question 18 in 2003-2007, question 23 in 2008, and question 24 since 2009 in the American Community Survey. The question asked if the person had given birth in the past 12 months, and was asked of all women 15 to 50 years old regardless of marital status. From this question, we are able to determine geographies with high numbers of women with births and the characteristics of these women, such as age and marital status. When fertility was not reported, it was imputed according to the woman's age and marital status and the possibility there was an infant in the household.
Data are most frequently presented in terms of the aggregate number of women who had a birth in the past 12 months in the specified category, and in terms of the rate per 1,000 women.
This measure estimates the number of children a group of 1,000 women would have by the end of their childbearing years if they all experienced the same age-specific birth rates between ages 15-50 in a given year. This rate is used for comparisons among different population groups-for example, women in different geographical areas--as the rate accounts for differences in the age distribution in those areas.
The 1996-1998 American Community Survey collected data on "children ever born." (See the section on "Children Ever Born" for more information.) In 1999, the American Community Survey began collecting data on children born in the last 12 months.
Limitation of the Data
Beginning in 2006, the population in group quarters (GQ) is included in the ACS. Some types of GQ populations may have fertility distributions that are different from the household population. The inclusion of the GQ population could therefore have a noticeable impact on the fertility distribution. This is particularly true for areas with a substantial GQ population.
The data on fertility can be compared to previous ACS years, to data from the National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS), and to similar data collected in the Current Population Survey (CPS) before that question changed in 2012. Keep in mind there are differences among these that can lead to differences in estimates. For instance, the NCHS collects administrative records while the ACS and CPS estimates are based on survey data. Also, all of these surveys have slightly different ways of determining the reference period, but generally show births occurring over a period of 12 months.