The ACS Sidekick

What’s it for?

Our ACS Sidekick tool makes Texas 5-year estimate data from the Census American Community Survey much faster and easier to process. ACS Sidekick can help if you:

  • need an aggregate (total) estimate for a non-standard range
    show examples
    • geographic area, like a nonprofit service area of five zip codes or 17 census tracts
    • age group, like youth aged 17-24 or adults age 55 and older
    • other demographic group, like men of color
    • percent of federal poverty level, like 100%-<299% FPL
    • any other variable grouping.
  • need the margin of error (MOE) for that estimate and don’t have the time or desire to look up the formula and calculate it
  • use the same queries or value sets (e.g., those 17 census tracts in your service area) over and over

What’s in it?

The ACS Sidekick includes:

  • ACS 2019 (2015-2019), 2018 (2014-2018), 2017 (2013-2017) and 2016 (2012-2016) five-year estimates
  • Data for the United States as a whole; Texas as a whole; and each county, ZCTA (ZIP Code Tabulation Area), census tract, and block group in Texas
  • All B and C tables, but no DP, S, or other table types. Each C (“collapsed”) table is just a less-detailed version of a B (“base”) table.

Resources and shortcuts

Several short video tutorials are available:

ACS data can be overwhelming if you’re not a veteran user. The resources linked below will help you find the information you’re looking for and make sense of what you’ve found. Show resources


Can you tell me which table has data about education/ housing/ income/ turtles?

Yes and no. We don’t have the staffing to allow us to provide that kind of one-on-one help to the general public, but you’ll find a list of tables by subject area on the last page of the Technical Notes. Subjects included are age and sex, children, commute, employment, families, health insurance, income, older people, poverty, public assistance, race and Hispanic origin (ethnicity), and veterans and military. You can also browse the full list of names of the B and C tables in Sidekick. (Spoiler alert: ACS doesn’t actually have any data about turtles. We wish it did.)

How should I cite data I got from Sidekick?

The Census Bureau doesn’t have a required format. We suggest the following format, changing the year and table ID to match your query:
U.S. Census Bureau, American Community Survey 2017 5-Year Estimates, Table B17024. Generated using CI:Now ACS Sidekick

When will new data be available?

The Census Bureau generally releases new five-year estimates in December of each year, and we usually get the tool updated each spring.

Why isn't there data for any state except Texas?

CI:Now’s mission focuses on Texas and particularly the San Antonio region. We don’t currently plan to expand beyond Texas, but the ACS Sidekick code will be made available on GitHub. We encourage you to check with a National Neighborhood Indicators Partnership partner in your state to ask if they’d be willing to host data for your state.

Can I get training on how use the ACS Sidekick?

You can find video tutorials, a “cheat sheet”, and other useful information in the Resources and shortcuts section above, in the User Notes, and in the Technical Notes. If there’s sufficient demand, we can also host a virtual training. Please contact us if you’d like us to offer a training or have any specific questions.

Thanks and acknowledgements

The ACS Sidekick was developed for CI:Now by Jef Waltman Technology Consulting.

Support for ACS Sidekick development was generously provided by the Kronkosky Charitable Foundation, a Community Engagement Small Project Grant from the UTHealth San Antonio Institute for the Integration of Medicine and Science, and Jef Waltman, who donated much of his time to the project. We also thank the Health Collaborative and several data users for donating their time to help us to conduct usability testing to improve the Sidekick.