Should I compare data year-over-year?

Comparing Data Year-over-Year

We and the US Census Bureau recommend against comparing data across the Census’ American Community Survey 5 year datasets (2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019, 2020) with overlapping years.

The US Census Bureau collects surveys for 5 years and then sums up the responses to produce current year estimates. 

  • For the 2020 dataset, surveys were collected in 2020, 2019, 2018, 2017 and 2016. Then, the later year survey responses were projected forward (e.g. 2016 income was projected into 2020 dollars). 
  • The 2019 dataset is made up of surveys that were collected in 2019, 2018, 2017, 2016 and 2015. 

There are 4 years of overlapping survey results between the 2020 dataset and the 2019 dataset. This means that there won't be a lot of change between 2020 data and 2019 data, because the estimates are based on 4 of the same survey years and only have 1 unique survey year. Most of our clients wait 2 to 3 years before buying a more current dataset.

The only clients who get year over year updates are those clients, who for marketing purposes, have to be able to say "we are using the most current US Census data." So marketing drives the data update decision rather than changes in statistics for these clients.