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Data Sources Used on this Site

American Community Survey (ACS)

The ACS is a continuous data collection effort conducted by the U.S. Census Bureau that is used to produce annual estimates at the national, state and local level on the characteristics of the United States population. It replaces the decennial Census long form. The ACS collects information on an annual basis from approximately 3 million addresses in the United States, a 2.5 percent of the population living in group quarters and 36,000 addresses in Puerto Rico.

The U.S. Census Bureau has three main objectives for the ACS (U.S. Census Bureau, 2003). The first objective is to provide federal, state and local governments with an information base for the administration and evaluation of government programs. The second objective is to use the ACS as a replacement for the decennial Census long form so that the decennial Census can focus solely on counting the population. The third objective is to provide data users with timely information each year on demographic, housing, social and economic statistics that can be compared across states, communities, and population groups.

The ACS includes six questions that are used to identify the population with disabilities. A completely new set of disability questions were implemented in the 2008 ACS.

A disability is defined as a report of one of the six disabilities identified by the questions. The six questions as asked in the 2008 ACS surveys are as follows:

Below are the disability questions used in the 2008 ACS. Note that the Census Bureau refers to each of the individual types as "difficulty" while on the term "disability" is used.

Hearing Disability (asked of all ages):
16a. Is this person deaf or does he/she have serious difficulty hearing?

Visual Disability (asked of all ages): 16b. Is this person blind or does he/she have serious difficulty seeing even when wearing glasses?

Cognitive Disability (asked of persons ages 5 or older):
17a. Because of a physical, mental, or emotional condition, does this person have serious difficulty concentrating, remembering, or making decisions?

Ambulatory Disability (asked of persons ages 5 or older):
17b. Does this person have serious difficulty walking or climbing stairs?

Self-Care Disability (asked of persons ages 5 or older):
17c. Does this person have difficulty dressing or bathing?

Independent Living Disability (asked of persons ages 15 or older):
18. Because of a physical, mental, or emotional condition, does this person have difficulty doing errands alone such as visiting a doctor's office or shopping?

For more general information on the ACS see the following website:

For more information regarding rationale and testing of the new ACS 2008 disability questions, see the following Census Bureau document:
2006 American Community Survey Content Test Report P.4 - Evaluation Report Covering Disability

For more information regarding all the changes made to the 2008 ACS survey instrument download this Census Bureau Document

Census 2000

Census 2000 statistics on are based on the Census taken on April 1, 2000, and include information on over 281.4 million people in 115.9 million housing units across the United States. The 2000 short form questionnaire included seven questions for each household: name, sex, age, relationship, Hispanic origin, race, and whether the housing unit was owned or rented. In addition to these seven questions, the long form questionnaire completed by about one of every 6 households included questions about ancestry, income, mortgage, and size of the housing unit, as well as disability.

Census 2000 results are used in a wide variety of ways, including the apportionment of representatives among the states for the House of Representatives. Information on disability is used by a number of federal agencies to distribute funds and develop programs for people with disabilities and the elderly. The 2000 Census long form provides a snapshot of the characteristics of the nation for government officials, educators, business owners, and others.

There were major differences between the Census 2000 long form and the 1990 form. The changes included two new questions about disability among those 5 years or older, altogether identifying six disability categories. The questions are as follows:

Q16. Does this person have any of the following long-lasting conditions:
  1. Blindness, deafness, or a severe vision or hearing impairment?
  2. A condition that substantially limits one or more basic physical activities such as walking, climbing stairs, reaching, lifting, or carrying?
Q17. Because of a physical, mental, or emotional condition lasting 6 months or more, does this person have any difficulty in doing any of the following activities:
  1. Learning, remembering, or concentrating?
  2. Dressing, bathing, or getting around inside the home?
  3. (Answer if this person is 16 YEARS OLD OR OVER.) Going outside the home alone to shop or visit a doctors office?
  4. (Answer if this person is 16 YEARS OLD OR OVER.) Working at a job or business?

The Census Bureau refers to the six disability categories as: sensory disabilities (Q16a), physical disabilities (Q16b), mental disabilities (Q17a), self-care disabilities (Q17b), go-outside-home disabilities (Q17c), and employment disabilities (Q17d). The Census Bureau identifies the population with disabilities as those who report that they have at least one of the six disabilities.

It is important to note that the U. S. Census Bureau found evidence that some long form respondents misinterpreted the employment and go-outside disability questions, resulting in some members of the population without disabilities being mistakenly identified as members of the population with disabilities. This error is related to last two subparts of Question 17 -- that is, go-outside-home disability (q17c) and employment disability (Q17d) -- which are excluded from All Census 2000 statistics reported on use the remaining four unaffected disability question/categories, including physical disability (Q16a), sensory disability (Q16b), mental disability (Q17a), and self-care disability (Q17b). Click here for further information regarding the Census 2000 disability measurement issue and its implications.

For more information on Census 2000 data go to:

For more information on the disability related information in the Decennial Census (Census 2000), refer to the following publication:

Decennial Census (Census 2000) User Guide

Erickson, William A. & Houtenville, Andrew J. (2005, November). A Guide to Disability Statistics from the 2000 Decennial Census. Rehabilitation Research and Training Center on Disability Demographics and Statistics, Cornell University, Ithaca, NY.

Current Population Survey (1981 - 2009)

The Current Population Survey (CPS) is a survey of about 50,000 households in the United States, conducted by the Census Bureau on behalf of the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The CPS is the primary source of labor force statistics and income statistics in the United States. It is used extensively by government agencies, researchers, policy makers, and journalists to evaluate employment, government programs, and the economic well-being and behavior of individuals, families and households. Because the CPS is a survey of households, persons living in institutions and abroad are not included.

The CPS is conducted monthly; periodic and annual supplements are used to ask questions about special topics. The CPS Basic Monthly Survey focuses on current employment. In March of each year, the Census Bureau conducts the CPS Annual Social and Economic Supplement (also known as, the Annual Demographic Survey, March Supplement, Income Supplement and March CPS). This supplement focuses on income and employment in the prior calendar year (for example, weeks worked, average hours per week), participation in government programs, insurance, education, and a variety of other characteristics.

In 1994, major revisions were made to the CPS Basic Monthly Survey and the way information about current employment status was obtained. These changes created substantial increases in current employment statistics between March 1993 and March 1994. Changes to the Annual Social and Economic Supplement only reflected a shift to computer-assisted interviews, and therefore questions about employment in the prior year and work limitation were not dramatically altered. For this reason, we provide prior year employment statistics from 1981 onward, but current employment statistics for only 1994 onward.

In 1981, a question about disability-related work limitations was added to the Annual Social and Economic Supplement to help identify people potentially receiving disability income, such as private insurance payments. The question was "[d]oes anyone in this household have a health problem or disability which prevents them from working or which limits the kind or amount of work they can do? If yes ..., who is that? (Anyone else?)." The wording of this question reflects the fact that the "householder" or some other person completes the survey for all household members. The use of such proxy responses when asking questions about disability is a topic of much debate and research in the survey literature. Also note that the question includes no time reference.

For more information about the CPS, go to

For more information on the disability related information in the Current Population Survey, refer to the following publication:

Current Population Survey (CPS)

Burkhauser, R. V., & Houtenville, A. J. (2006, September). A Guide to Disability Statistics from the Current Population Survey - Annual Social and Economic Supplement (March CPS). Rehabilitation Research and Training Center on Disability Demographics and Statistics, Cornell University, Ithaca, NY.