The ACS Summary File is organized in three directories per data release. For example, data users have a choice of three ACS 1-year Summary File directories:
- 1_year_entire_sf (entire summary file).
- 1_year_by_state (summary file subdivided by state).
- 1_year_seq_by_state (summary file subdivided by state and sequence).
These three directories contain the same combination of files, and each folder can be used to access all ACS Detailed Tables; they are simply arranged differently to accommodate different user needs. Each data release also includes a corresponding zipped file for templates.
Each of the three directories is further subdivided into three types of files: geography, estimate, and margin of error files, which are available for each of the 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and cross-state geographies such as metropolitan statistical areas. The geography files start with "g," the estimate files start with "e," and the margin of error files start with "m." Lastly, the estimate and margin of error files are segmented by "sequence." Each sequence contains the data points for a single table or multiple tables within the same subject area. This means that the Summary File is actually a set of over 10,000 files. Learn more about sequences in Section 3.
- All-in-one directory (1_year_entire_sf, 5_year_entire_sf)
This directory contains a single zipped file, which includes all the geography, estimate, and margin of error files (over 10,000 files in all). This zipped file is ideal to download if you want estimates and margins of error for all geographies throughout the nation. The file is very large and should only be used by those who can easily process a very large file.
- State table directory (1_year_by_state, 5_year_by_state)
This directory contains a zipped file for each state, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and crossstate geographies such as metropolitan statistical areas. Each zipped file contains a geography file and an estimate and margin of error file for each sequence. Downloading files from these state-level
folders is ideal if you want all the tables for a particular geography.
- Topic table directory (1_year_seq_by_state, 5_year_seq_by_state)
Like the state table directory, the topic table directory contains a folder for each state, state-level equivalent (District of Columbia and Puerto Rico), and cross-state geography. Within each folder, there is a geography file and a zipped file for each sequence, containing the estimate and margin of error files for that sequence. Downloading from these folders is ideal if you only want a few tables for a particular geography.
Table 2.1 shows the naming convention used for a selected zipped file in the "1_year_seq_by_state" directory. In the file name, "ak" refers to the State of Alaska.
- Templates (1yr_Summary_FileTemplates.zip, 5yr_SummaryFileTemplates.zip)
These zipped files contain Excel file templates for each sequence (for example, Seq1.xls, Seq2.xls), as well as the geography file (for example, 2017_SFGeoFileTemplate.xls). These files include two rows of metadata containing the variable names and their descriptions for every column. The templates are meant to be used with the commadelimited versions of the geography, estimate, and margin of error files and can be used to import the ACS Summary File into Excel. ACS Summary File templates are located in the same directory as the 1-year and 5-year data files (See Figure 2.4).
- 5-year Summary File organization
The ACS 5-year Summary File has an additional layer within the directories. The file is divided into two groups, one that contains the data for all geographic levels other than census tracts and block groups, called "All_Geographies_Not_Tracts_Block_Groups" and another that includes only census tracts and block groups, called "Tracts_Block_Groups_Only."