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Experian ACS vs. Experian CAPE - What's the difference?

Alteryx Alumni (Retired)
Created on

This is a common question and a source of confusion if you aren't familiar with the ACS dataset.  The actual name of the install is "Experian Full US ACS 201x," which is sometimes referred to a Full US ACS and is delivered with the Core Data Bundle. The addition of Puerto Rico geographies to the Allocate/Demographic Analysis geographic inventory (hence "Full") sets this dataset apart from an Experian US 201xX install which does NOT include Puerto Rico geographies.


But why two datasets - why not just include Puerto Rico geographies in CAPE?   Inconsistent data sources is one of the reasons. Experian's CAPE includes estimates, projections and Census 2010 values for thousands of variables and includes some American Community Survey (ACS) fields.  The same sources of information enabling the building of estimates and projections may not be available for Puerto Rico and would result in many empty field values in CAPE.  Providing the ACS fields in a separate install was the best solution.  The same American Community Survey variables found in CAPE are found the Full US ACS including a good number of basic Current Year Estimates, Housing Units and Geographic Identifier variables.  


Are values in CAPE the same as Full US ACS?  Yes and no, with more explanation.   (Wow - more confusion!)  If comparing the same geographies and vintages of CAPE and Full US ACS, the answer is yes.  Full US ACS is updated annually and typically in a Q1 release.  As of this date (4/11/2016), the current vintage of ACS is 2013 carrying Current Year Estimates A (2015).  If comparing CAPE population or households for the State of Colorado, selecting a dataset with Experian US 2015A provides consistent values.  


Can values between CAPE and Full US ACS differ?   Yes, and here are two examples:  when selecting the Entire US (because CAPE does not include Puerto Rico) and ZIP Codes (if different vintages of ZIP Codes are used).  The Entire US polygon in Full US ACS includes the island of Puerto Rico and CAPE does not, which is clearly seen when taking geographies to a map. ACS Basic Variable values (including Puerto Rico) should be higher than the same fields in CAPE.  ZIP Code values can differ if different ZIP Code quarters are compared.  If comparing Full US ACS 2013 from Q2 2015 with Q2 2015 ZIP Codes to CAPE US 2015B from Q3 2015, ZIP Code boundaries may have been updated and can reflect different values for the same variable. When comparing data between CAPE and Full US ACS, ensure the geographies and demographic vintages are the same. 


How do I locate geographies for Puerto Rico?  Review the geographies in the Allocate Pick Geography tab.  Open any geography folder, except DMA and DMA by State, and find a Puerto Rico entry at the bottom of the list.  DMAs are not defined for Puerto Rico.


Where can I find additional information about the ACS?


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