Earlier today, the Census Bureau released health coverage
estimates from the American Community Survey (ACS). The results look very
similar to what was reported a few weeks ago from the Current Population Survey
Overall, since 2008, the percentage of the uninsured increased, as did the
percentage of those in poverty. The magnitude of the change is different – the
ACS finds 15.1% of the population to be uninsured in 2009, while the CPS finds
16.7% (this is likely due to in part to the fact that the CPS captures coverage
over the course of the year, while the ACS asks about coverage at the point of
the interview). Children, however, were a bright spot, with the percentage of
uninsured declining significantly from 2008.
Despite the dire picture that the data paint for coverage
as a whole, there is a silver lining – the data source itself. I’ve mentioned this before,
but it bears repeating. The ACS is similar to the CPS in that it is a national
survey, but it has a much larger sample size, which allows you to take a closer
look at different areas of interest, whether they are geographic or
demographic. This new tool can help state-level folks (especially those in
small states) identify where gaps may exist in coverage in their state and
learn more about who the uninsured are.
(In case you all were worried, the CPS is still a very
important data source, as it is really the only source of historical coverage
trends. For further details, the Census Bureau provides recommendations on which data source
to use depending upon your research question.)
Some tables of interest to check out (which are all
available at American FactFinder
- The Data Profiles (the economic version) allow you to
look at employment status, income, poverty, and health insurance coverage for
- The Comparison Profiles (again, the economic version)
allow you to compare the same data points from 2008 and 2009.
- The Subject Tables allow you to look in more detail at
coverage in your state or locality, as well at selected characteristics of the
- The Detailed Tables (scroll down to #27) allow you to
look at coverage by very specific pre-set characteristics (for example,
coverage by employment status).
This is just a snippet of what the ACS has to offer. The
Census has also put out a really handy Quick Guide to the FactFinder tool that walks you through the various table options and
what data they can give you.
A special note to those serious data users – there were
some logical edits applied to the 2008 data, so when analyzing data year to
year, be sure to use the adjusted tables or the
pre-set 2008-2009 comparison tables. Comparing the unadjusted 2008 tables to
those from 2009 is not an option, as the data just aren’t analogous.
We’re planning on spending more time digging into this
wonderful new data source and promise to share what we’ve learned. We’d love to
know how you all in the states are taking advantage of this.