Census 2010 Long Form

Photo by Andrew Neel on Unsplash

There is no Census 2010 Long Form.

I still get asked by planners and researchers about when will the Census 2010 Long Form data be released. So I hope to clear up the confusion around this topic. Bottom-line: there is no Census 2010 Long Form. It’s been replaced by the American Community Survey.

Census Short Form versus a Census Long Form

Let’s go back to the Census 2000. The Census 2000 used 2 forms: the Short Form and the Long Form. The Census 2000 Short Form collected basic demographic information from 100% of US residents. The Short Form collected information like population count, sex, age and race. Here’s the Census 2000 Short Form.

The Census 2000 Long Form included all of the Census Short Form questions plus additional, more detailed demographic questions. For example, the Long Form asked about school attendance, languages spoken and disabilities. Here’s the Census 2000 Long Form.

The Census Long Form was sent to only 18 million lucky households–a small sample of the 105.5 million households in the US in 2000. The Census Bureau used the Long Form data collected from the 18 million household sample to then project or estimate the detailed demographic data for the rest of the US households that got the Short Form and weren’t asked the detailed demographic questions.

The Census 2010 Didn’t Use a Long Form

Fastforward to the Census 2010. The decennial Census 2010 only collected basic demographic information (just like the Census 2000 Short Form). The Census Bureau did not include a Long Form Questionnaire in the 2010 Census. Here’s a copy of the 2010 Census Form. You can see that the Census 2010 Form is much more like the Census 2000 Short Form than like the Census 2000 Long Form. In fact, the Census 2010 Form is one of the shortest Census forms in history.

Great, you’re still with me. So since the decennial Census 2010 didn’t use the Long Form, then how are researchers going to get the detailed demographic data like education levels and languages spoken that we need for our planning projects? That’s were the American Community Survey comes in. Just so there’s no confusion, let me quote from the Census Bureau:

Launched in 2005, the American Community Survey (ACS) is part of the decennial census program and is essentially what used to be the long form.

Let me know if you have any other questions about the ACS or Census 2010 in the comments below.

American Community Survey vs. Decennial Census: What’s the Difference

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This post explains the differences between the American Community Survey (ACS) and the Decennial Census and how those differences will impact your work.

Background: Long Form and Short Form

Remember back to the Census 2000 when some people were complaining about the Census form taking forever to fill out? Well, those people received the Census 2000 Long Form which was sent to about 18 million households and collected detailed demographic, economic and housing data. The rest of the US households received the simple Census 2000 Short Form, which was used to count the population and collect basic demographic data. So for the Census 2000, 2 forms were used: the Long Form and the Short Form.

Fast-forward to the Census 2010. The Census 2010 did not use the Long Form, only the Short Form. Enter the ACS. The American Community Survey (ACS) is an annual demographic survey of the United States. It provides the detailed demographic, economic and housing data that was once supplied by the Decennal Census Long Form.

2000 2010
Count + Basic Data Short Form Census 2010
Detailed Data Long Form ACS 5 year estimates

However, the ACS is only sent to 3 million households each year, a statistically small sample especially when compared to the Census 2000 Long Form which was sent to 18 million households in 1 year. So to produce the detailed demographic data, the ACS combines data from several years to produce multi-year estimates. For example, the ACS combines data collected from 2006 + 2007 + 2008 to get 3-year ACS estimates for geographies with at least 20,000 persons. ACS 5 year estimates, which will be out in December 2010, will provide data for geographies with fewer than 20,000 persons.

Similar Data; Different Methodologies & Format

The ACS and the Decennial Census provide the same types of data data–that is, demographic, economic and housing data for the US. However, the methodology of these 2 tools differs greatly.

ACS Decennial Census
What isIt?




Count of the






Counts characteristics for a SPECIFIC DATE
How Often

Every 1 year

(more timely)

Every 10 years (less


House-holds 11 million households over 5 years

18 million households

in 1 year

Sampling Error

Higher Error (1.75


higher than Census


Lower Error
Accuracy Less Accurate More Accurate

*[Revised: this information (and much of the blog post) is based on the Census Bureau’s Brian McKenzie’s awesome presentation here]

To sum up the table above, the ACS more timely but less accurate than the Decennial Census, because the data is collected over a series of years (instead of just 1 year), and fewer households are surveyed.

Because the ACS is less accurate, ACS data includes margins or error and is released at 90% confidence limits. Here’s an example of ACS data.

Austin city
Estimate Error Percent Error
Hispanic/Latino 261,672 +/-3,404 35.0 +/-0.4

This means that we can say with 90% confidence that the number of Hispanic persons in Austin is between 258,268 and 265,076 (or 261,672 plus or minus 3,404). We can also say with 90% confidence that the percentage of Hispanic persons in Austin is between 34.6% and 35.4%.

How Does All of this Impact You?

  1. ACS demographic data is less reliable than Decennial Census data. It’s going to be more important than ever use ACS data as a starting point only and to support the data fieldwork, interviews, and data from other sources.
  2. Doing basic calculations with ACS data is going to require an elementary understanding of statistics. For example, calculating percentage change between Census 2000 data and ACS estimates will require basic statistics, because the numbers are not comparable (they are apples to oranges).

If you’re interested, let me know in the comments if a blog post on how to accurately calculate comparisons using Decennial Census data and ACS estimates would be helpful. Or you can check out the Census’ guidance on the topic.  Any questions about the differences between ACS and Decennial Census data? Are there still points of confusion?

National Land Cover Data Set: when there’s no Local Land Use GIS data

Co-written by Aaron Herman

Finding land use land cover data is a pain. Unless your project is within an MPO/COG that has historic and current land use shapefiles that are easy for your GIS guru to access, you can be up a creek without a paddle when it comes to finding good land use data.

Despite the data challenges, many planners HAVE to have land use data for their projects. For example, over 90% percent of transportation environmental impact statements address land use impacts in their indirect impacts analyses according to an unscientific survey. So what should you do if your project is in an area that doesn’t have local land use data? Or what if you have a giant project area and the land use data set for one area doesn’t jive with the land use data set for another area?

USGS Land Use Data

If you can’t find good land use data from the typical local venues (I’ll blog about “typical local venues for land use data” next week), check out the US Geological Survey’s 2001 National Land Cover Data Set (or USGS NLCD 2001). The USGS 2001 National Land Cover Data Set is the latest, most accurate, nearest-to-complete and standardized land use coverage for the entire United States. Yup, you can get land cover data for the whole USA enchilada.

2001 National Land Cover Data Set

Positives of the USGS 2001 National Land Cover Data Set

  • Nationwide land use data for the entire United States
  • Standardized land use types makes for easy apples-to-apples comparisons
  • Have historic data & are working on more current data set (2006) for visualizing land use trends over time

There is a USGS NLCD 1992 data set. And the land use experts over at the Multi-Resolution Land Characteristics Consortium are working on a USGS NLCD 2006 data set. You can use these USGS National Land Cover Data Sets to visualize land use changes over time.

Visualizing Land Use Change Over Time with National Land Cover Data Sets
Visualizing Land Use Change Over Time with National Land Cover Data Sets

Negatives of the USGS 2001 National Land Cover Data Set

  • 2001 is old
  • National land use data won’t be as detailed or current as local land use data
  • The data is provided as a image. While it’s possible to convert the image to acreage estimates, it’s technically difficult to do and would involve custom scripting.

Head to Head Battle: Local Data vs. USGS 2001 National Land Cover Data

Generalized Land Use 2005, Twin Cities Metropolitan Council
Generalized Land Use 2005, Twin Cities Metropolitan Council
2001 NLCD Data
2001 NLCD Data

Let’s compare the land use data provided by Twin Cities’ Metropolitan Council and the USGS NLCD 2001. I was able to download Generalized Land Use 2005 data from the Metropolitan Council for the seven-county area. For comparison, displayed below is the USGS 2001 National Land Cover data for roughly the same area. These images are pretty small–if you need bigger images or want more information about land use land cover data sources, scroll down to the end of the blog post where you can get more information in a pdf.

You can get much more specified data with the local Metropolitan Council data set. For example, I can determine Single Family Attached versus Single Family Detached versus Mobile Homes using the Metropolitan Council’s data. The USGS 2001 National Land Cover data provides generalized data on Developed High Density, Developed Low Density and Developed Medium Density. But not every project area has good, accessible land use data like the Metropolitan Council data. And that’s where USGS 2001 National Land Cover Data comes in handy.

Bottom Line

If you have a small project in an area that has good local land use data, local data is your best bet. If you have a large project area (think multi-county, multi-MPO/COG, especially multi-state) or you can’t find good local data, then check out the USGS 2001 National Land Cover Data Set.

If you need more information about where to get land use land cover data, Aaron Herman researched and wrote an excellent whitepaper on the subject. This blog post is based on his research. If you want a pdf of his whitepaper, contact me here and I’ll send it to you.

Do you have another favorite back-up land use data set that you use? Leave a comment so we can check it out.

Road Miles by State

Photo by Dan Gold on Unsplash

This blog post was updated on April 30, 2021. I find myself googling for this data once a month or so. I just can’t seem to remember where to find it on the Federal Highway Administration’s website. Below are states by total 2019 lane miles–which is the most recent dataset available today and is dated September 2020.

Road Miles by State: Sorted from Most to Least

New York240,489
North Carolina229,011
North Dakota178,845
South Dakota166,635
South Carolina166,594
New Mexico150,216
New Jersey85,108
West Virginia80,167
New Hampshire33,391
Rhode Island12,664
District of Columbia3,445
Source: U.S. Department of Transportation Federal Highway Administration. Office of Highway Policy Information. Highway Statistics Series. Functional System Lane-Length – 2019. Released September 30, 2020. You can download an Excel or PDF version of this data here.

Pie Graph Showing 2019 Lane Miles by State
And just for fun, here’s a pie graph of this table.

Helpful Links with Road Miles by State data
If you need historic data like lane miles for 1980 to 2007, check out Functional System Data; Estimated Lane – Length page. If you need Function System data for 2008 (i.e. interstates, freeways, arterial, collectors and local), check out FHWA’s Functional System Lane-Length – 2008 Lane-Miles page.

And below are links to FHWA’s Functional System Lane-Length by year. You can download PDF and Excel versions of the data on these pages.

Got questions? Email us.