Esri Releases Annual Update of Ready-to-Use US Census Bureau Data for ArcGIS Users

by | Apr 5, 2022

Updated American Community Survey Data Is Available in ArcGIS Living Atlas

REDLANDS, Calif.” Many federal agencies are required by law to use American Community Survey (ACS) data, and many nonprofits rely on ACS data when applying to grants. Local governments and businesses often incorporate ACS data into their planning and resource allocation. To meet this need, Esri, the global leader in location intelligence, has updated ACS layers and maps in ArcGIS Living Atlas of the World. The update makes the newest values for five-year estimates of current data on demographic, housing, and workforce characteristics of the US population easily accessible to ArcGIS software users.

ArcGIS Living Atlas is the foremost collection of global geographic information and includes maps, apps, and data layers used by organizations around the world for research, analysis, and decision-making. Through ArcGIS Living Atlas, users can employ over 1,700 annually updated attributes of ACS tables, and this integration provides them with a faster way of accessing and analyzing this data.

Being able to access these national demographics analytics layers provides officials with an edge in understanding and responding to emergent situations in a better-informed, data-driven way, said Diana Lavery, Esri senior product engineer. The recent fight against COVID-19 has demonstrated that ACS layers are an invaluable tool for government personnel.

Updated layers in the collection incorporate the latest five-year estimates covering 2016“2020 and include the following topics and more:

  • Income
  • Housing
  • Internet access
  • Education
  • Disability
  • Health insurance

In 2020, the US Census Bureau used the ACS layers to build its COVID-19 hub, a valuable resource containing demographic and economic data designed to help guide decision-making related to the pandemic. This seamless, nationwide, tract-based data is allowing us to work regionally to respond to this pandemic, which we never had had to do before, said Jennifer Pettyjohn, a senior planner with the City of Seattle.

The collection also contains some historical ACS layers that have now been updated with the latest symbology corresponding to the current year layers, so that accurate comparisons can be made. For example, users can see how poverty levels have changed within a city by visualizing which areas have improved and which haven't.

With the fourth annual update, Esri made additional improvements to many of the existing ACS layers, like pop-up enhancements to include margins of errors and a Learn path created with resources that walk through different ways to incorporate margins of error in maps. And compared to previous years, additional state, county, and tract boundaries are shore lined where needed, with additional large or important water bodies cut out of the polygons. This supports map styles like dot density and map effects like drop shadow to work better.

While the 2016“2020 release was delayed following pandemic-related data collection disruptions, ACS data layers in ArcGIS Living Atlas typically update every December when the US Census Bureau produces new five-year estimates.

The current five-year ACS data can be accessed in ArcGIS Pro and ArcGIS Online, Esri's configurable mobile apps and dashboards, and ArcGIS StoryMaps. All maps using these layers will automatically contain the newest ACS figures. To learn more about the latest updates and how to use ACS data layers in ArcGIS Living Atlas, visit

About Esri

Esri, the global market leader in geographic information system (GIS) software, location intelligence, and mapping, helps customers unlock the full potential of data to improve operational and business results. Founded in 1969 in Redlands, California, USA, Esri software is deployed in more than 350,000 organizations globally and in over 200,000 institutions in the Americas, Asia and the Pacific, Europe, Africa, and the Middle East. Esri has partners and local distributors in over 100 countries on six continents, including Fortune 500 companies, government agencies, nonprofits, and universities. With its pioneering commitment to geospatial information technology, Esri engineers the most innovative solutions for digital transformation, the Internet of Things (IoT), and advanced analytics. Visit us at

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