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How are population numbers from the census, population estimates, population projections, and American Community Survey different?
- The decennial census, conducted by the U.S. Census Bureau, attempts to count each person in the United States every 10 years. The last census was in 2010, and it collected information on age, race, ethnicity, sex, and household status for a range of geographical areas. Data from decennial censuses are provided on the Alaska Department of Labor and Workforce Development Web site.
- The department produces population estimates for each year between censuses by incorporating administrative records, including Permanent Fund Dividend applications and surveys of special populations (such as military and college students). Estimates are for each of Alaska's boroughs, census areas, cities, and census designated places; and for boroughs and census areas they include information on age, race, ethnicity, sex, and household status.
- The department produces population projections by extrapolating data on the components of population change (births, deaths, and migration) by age and sex into the future. There is much uncertainty in population projections because it's impossible to predict the future, but projections based on reasoned assumptions are an important tool for planners and policy makers. The further into the future projections go, the greater the uncertainty.
- The U.S. Census Bureau produces detailed social and economic data (such as income level and educational attainment) through the American Community Survey. The ACS is based on an annual survey of households and group quarters (such as prisons and dorms) that's adjusted to match Census Bureau population estimates. Though the ACS provides detailed and often useful data, it can be unreliable for many areas, so margins of error are necessary to use it effectively. The department's Web site provides or links to ACS data.