The ABCs of AFF (American FactFinder)

In yesterday’s blog post, I mentioned “Table B23001” from the American Community Survey (ACS), using the US Census Bureau’s American FactFinder (AFF).

So, what is the significance of the table number “B23001”? Do you need a secret decoder ring to figure this out? (Yes, in fact, you do!)

There is a secretive FAQ page (Frequently Asked Questions) on the US Census Bureau website that explains the ACS table numbering schemes. It’s here.

(The end of this post includes some information on the use of “wild cards” for table searching. Check it out!)

Or find this page the long way:

  1. Go to the US Census Bureau home page.
  2. Go to the link “FAQs” (in the upper right hand corner of the home page).
  3. Search on “table numbers”
  4. Choose the page “How are American Community Survey (ACS) tables numbered” For example, what do the letters and numbers in a table like B06004A mean?”

My recommendation is to bookmark and print this page. It’s a great “cheat sheet” on table numbering for ACS data. I’m repeating this information verbatim or with my annotations:

The initial character(s) are the types of tables:

  • “B” for Base or Basic Tables
  • “C” for Collapsed or Combined Tables
  • “S” for Subject Matter Tables
  • “R” for Ranking Tables
  • “GCT” for Geographic Comparison Tables
  • “DP” for Data Profile
  • and so on….

The next two characters identify the subject of the table (Primarily for the “B” and “C” tables):

    01 = Age and Sex
    02 = Race
    03 = Hispanic or Latino Origin
    04 = Ancestry
    05 = Foreign Born; Citizenship; Year or Entry; Nativity
    06 = Place of Birth
    07 = Residence 1 Year Ago; Migration
    08 = Journey to Work; Workers’ Characteristics; Commuting to Work
    09 = Children; Household Relationship
    10 = Grandparents; Grandchildren
    11 = Household Type; Family Type; Subfamilies
    12 = Marital Status and History
    13 = Fertility
    14 = School Enrollment
    15 = Educational Attainment
    16 = Language Spoken at Home and Ability to Speak English
    17 = Poverty
    18 = Disability
    19 = Income (Households and Families)
    20 = Earnings (Individuals)
    21 = Veteran Status
    22 = Food Stamps
    23 = Employment Status; Work Experience; Labor Force
    24 = Industry; Occupation; Class of Worker
    25 = Housing Characteristics
    26 = Group Quarters
    27 = Health Insurance
    28 = Computer and Internet Use
    98 = Quality Measures
    99 = Imputation table for any subject

This list of 30 subjects is key in understanding and demystifying the American Community Survey! Print it out!

The next 2 or digits are a sequential number, such as 001 or 002, that uniquely identifies the table.

For selected tables, an alphabetic suffix is used to iterate the base or combined table on race/ethnicity:

    A = White Alone
    B = Black or African American Alone
    C = American Indian and Alaska Native Alone
    D = Asian Alone
    E = Native Hawaiian and Other Pacific Islander Alone
    F = Some Other Race Alone
    G = Two or More Races
    H = White Alone, Not Hispanic or Latino
    I = Hispanic or Latino

And there may be a “PR” suffix at the end for Puerto Rico data.

So, the table “B23001” is a “base” table of the subject matter “Employment Status; Work Experience; Labor Force” and it is the first table (“001” in this set.


And last, the data user should know about using wild cards with American Factfinder. And it’s simple, it’s an asterisk (*)!

Searching on “B27*” will give you all of the base tables related to Health Insurance.

Double wild cards work, too!!!

Searching on “*B27*” will give you all of the base, collapsed, subject, etc., tables related to Health Insurance.

Wild cards are great for the casual and serious data wonk!!

(This wild card feature is a great asset. I’m just not sure when and where I learned this trick. And I can’t find the US Census Bureau FAQ or recorded webinar or magic bullet to understanding all of the tips and tricks to American FactFinder. Maybe somebody can point it out for me??)



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