American Community Survey: New Survey Questions Enable Measurement of Marital Transitions

Published: October 15, 2008
Strengthening Families, Healthy Marriage & Responsible Fatherhood
An Exploration of Options for the Collection of Marriage and Divorce Statistics at the National, State and Local Levels, 2003–2008 | Learn more about this project

Since its inception, the ACS has included a question on marital status (never married, divorced, separated, widowed, or married). With the addition of the new questions, the ACS will fill a large data gap and allow for the calculation of marriage and divorce rates and a more complete study of family formation trends. Because of the size of the sample and the kinds of information collected on the ACS, these rates and trends can be analyzed at the person, family, household and community level. This new data will provide program managers, government analysts, policymakers, researchers, demographers and others with the information needed to analyze marriage and divorce rates and marital transitions nationally, by state and by locality.

The ACS, the Census Bureau’s replacement for the decennial census long form, provides estimates of demographic, housing, social, and economic characteristics. It is a continuous measurement survey with an annual sample of three million households plus a large sample of group quarters (e.g., college dormitories, prisons, military barracks). The data are collected monthly and reported annually. Because of its large sample size, the ACS allows for sub-national analyses. Statistics can be computed annually for all 50 states, the District of Columbia, and population areas with 65,000 or more people; reliable county-level and Census tract-level statistics can be computed using three years and five years of data, respectively.