ACS Sidekick User Notes

New! Video tutorials

New! #protips

Here are some quick tips for using Sidekick:

  • As you build your query, preview your results often (blue table icon at lower left of Query Builder screen) to check whether you’re seeing what you intended to. If you preview at each step it’s easier to discover where something went wrong. (Watch a short video tutorial on building a query.)

  • Save your queries and lists! You never know when you might be able to reuse or adapt them. Watch a short video tutorial on saving queries and lists.

  • Make your own cheat sheet of the numbers and names of tables you’re likely to use often. The following links take you to a list of table names and numbers or the detailed shell for each table. If you’re new to ACS, we recommend you start with the just the table list. Remember that Sidekick contains only B and C tables and only 5-year estimates.

    2018     Table list          |  Detailed table shells
    2017     [No table list]  |  Detailed table shells
    2016     [No table list]  |  Detailed table shells

  • Once you start getting familiar with table names, find your table by entering a less-common keyword in the Topic or Table Name field of the Query Builder. For example, use the keyword ratio rather than income or poverty to find TABLE B17002 RATIO OF INCOME TO POVERTY LEVEL IN THE PAST 12 MONTHS.

  • Geography filters and lists: download the geography data dictionary listing every geography type, number, and name for Texas. (Watch a short video tutorial on saving queries and lists.)

    • COUNTY is always a three-character string. For example, Bexar County is 029. Harris County is 201. COUNTY NAME is the full county name and state. For example, Bexar is Bexar County, Texas.

    • TRACT is always a six-character string. For example, census tract 1205.01 is 120501, and census tract 1.01 is 000101. Census tract numbers repeat across counties, so you’ll need to filter by the county code to be sure you get the census tract in your county of interest. TRACT NAME includes the county, e.g., Census Tract 1205.01, Bexar County, Texas.

    • BLOCK GROUP is a 1-character string between 1 and 8. Again, the block group number is meaningless without the tract and county. BLOCK GROUP NAME is the full designation, e.g., Block Group 1, Census Tract 1205.01, Bexar County, Texas.

    • SDUNI (unified school district) is a 5-character string. County is included in SDUNI NAME only if there are two or more school districts with the same name. For example, Edgewood Independent School District (Bexar County), Texas.

    • View the geography data dictionary for naming conventions for other geographies.

  • Copy and paste from the geography data dictionary or from a text document (e.g., Notepad, Word) to save typing when building lists and filters. (Watch a short video tutorial on setting data filters.) For example, in the geography data dictionary, filter the COUNTY field to see just the counties you want to include in your query. Then set the Sidekick’s Filter field to COUNTY, set the filter operator to IN SET, and then copy and paste those COUNTY cells from the spreadsheet into the filter values box.

Technical Notes

These ACS Sidekick Technical Notes provide an overview of how to use and interpret data processed with the ACS Sidekick. The notes are intended for first-time users, but experienced users may also find them a helpful reference for technical issues. Version 1 includes the following sections:

  • Margins of error
  • Table IDs
  • Geographies
  • SQL query language
  • Quick guide to interpreting indicators

Download Technical Notes [pdf]