ACS Sidekick

The Only Sidekick You’ll Ever Need!

Get more out of the Census American Community Survey (ACS) five-year estimates by using Sidekick to calculate aggregate estimates and margins of error for non-standard demographic groupings and geographic areas across Texas.


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

  • Find aggregate (total) estimates for non-standard ranges for geographic areas, age groups, demographic groups, and more
  • Get the margins of error (MOE) for estimates without calculating it on your own
  • Use the same queries or value sets over and over

The tool 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.


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

U.S. Census Bureau, American Community Survey 2017 5-Year Estimates, Table B17024. Generated using CINow ACS Sidekick 

Typically, the Census Bureau unveils new five-year estimates around December each year, and our tool is typically refreshed each spring to incorporate the latest data.

CI:Now is dedicated to its mission centered on Texas, with a specific emphasis on the San Antonio region. While our current plans don’t include expansion beyond Texas, the ACS Sidekick code will be accessible on GitHub. We encourage you to reach out to the National Neighborhood Indicators Partnership about the possibility of hosting data for your specific region.

Primarily because of methodological problems with small sample or population sizes but also because of the importance of preserving confidentiality, data are less likely to be available for small or less populous geographic areas. Similarly, datasets may not be broken down by all variables of interest (e.g., age, census tract).

Tutorials & Tips

CINow has developed a number of new resources including videos and #protips to help users with the new ACS Sidekick tool that makes American Community Survey data for Texas faster and easier to process. 

Query Data
Set Data Filters, Create Aggregations and Percentages
Save Custom Queries and Geography Listings

Here are some #protips 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.
  • 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 here:


Further Resources

We understand that ACS data can be overwhelming. The resources provided below are designed to assist you in locating the information you seek and comprehending the data you uncover. It’s important to note that some of these resources are independent and not affiliated with CI: Now; they are purely educational tools we’ve identified as valuable.

Census Academy - Concepts & Definitions
Census Academy - Code List, Definitions, and Accuracy
Census Academy - User Notes
CINow - ACS Technical Notes
CINow - Video Tutorials
Census Academy - Sample ACS & PRCS Forms and Instructions
CINow - Geography Data Dictionary

Thanks & Acknowledgements

The ACS Sidekick was developed for CINow 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. We also thank the Health Collaborative and several data users for donating their time to help us conduct usability testing. 


We Want to Meet You!

Connect with us at CINow to explore the endless ways data can make communities stronger. Whether you have questions, ideas, training needs, or a potential partnership in mind – we’re happy to hear from you!

PO Box 8149 San Antonio, TX 78208