Thanks for sharing your experience with the Summary File Retrieval Tool.
I assisted a user to use the retrieval tool to get ACS block group level data a while ago.
However the GEOID in the output spreadsheets were all wrong. I complained this issue to
the Census staff during the ACS program Federal users review and probably they have fixed
this issue. But I never got the chance to test it. Did you use the tool for the Block
Group level data? If so, how did it go?
From: ctpp-news-bounces(a)chrispy.net [ctpp-news-bounces(a)chrispy.net] on behalf of GREENWALD
Michael J [MGREENWALD(a)lcog.org]
Sent: Tuesday, October 23, 2012 4:20 PM
Subject: Re: [CTPP] An Alternative to Access ACS 5-year Block Group Data
Thanks to Liang for these links. I, too, have found FactFinder and DataFerrett to be less
than intuitive. Building on Liang’s message, in addition to ACS Alchemist, US Census also
puts out a data retrieval tool that does a pretty good job of retrieving the 1, 3 and/or 5
year data sets. Look at the links for the Summary File Retrieval Tool under “Tools for
Using the ACS Summary File” at the following link:
The difference between something like ACS Alchemist or the Summary File Retrieval Tool is
a matter of both task and personal preference. For example, some of my tasks involve
dealing with both the ACS Estimate and the Margin of Error (two different data columns),
so I like the fact that the Summary File Retrieval tool can be easily set up to
consolidate both of those pieces of data. I also like the fact that the Summary File
Retrieval Tool automatically loads the ACS table names and column definition in a Metadata
tab, so you can easily turn to the documentation in the middle of your data assembly
That said, it does take some extra steps to get the data into a nice, clean format that
plugs into a GIS; ACS Alchemist may handle a lot of those tasks on the back end. So, it
is a question of how one wants to access the data. I would be interested in hearing from
others what experience they’ve had with the Summary File Retrieval Tool. Any thoughts?
Michael J. Greenwald
Senior Transportation Planner
Lane Council of Governments
859 Willamette Street, Suite 500
Eugene, OR 97402
From: ctpp-news-bounces(a)chrispy.net [mailto:email@example.com] On Behalf Of
Sent: Tuesday, October 23, 2012 11:55 AM
Subject: [CTPP] An Alternative to Access ACS 5-year Block Group Data
If you are frustrated by getting the ACS 5-year block group level data via Census Bureau
ftpsite or DataFerrett, ACS Alchemist may be a good alternative.
I just tested ACS Achemist that was developed by Azavea & Temple University and I
think it's easy to use. But keep in mind that only ACS 2005-2009 and ACS 2006-2010
data are available in the ACS Alchemist. If you are looking for 1-year or 3-year data,
you still need Census Bureau data access tools including American Fact finder and
ACS Achemist is an open source tool that enables the extraction of ACS 2005-2009 and ACS
2006-2010 data on different level of geographic aggregation, i.e., counties, county
sub-division, tracts, blockgroups, etc. . The user interface is very straightforward and
is a simple step-by-step process. The thing I like most is that output is saved as the
shapefile and you can process your data in the GIS. The think I like least is that uses
will have to create a variable file to define which data they want to get. The sample of
a variable file can be find in the readme document which is included in the software
installation package, but I attached one here for your convenience.
Here is the link to the ACS Alchemist home page:
Here is the link to download the software package:
Cambridge Systematics, Inc.
4800 Hampden Lane
Bethesda, MD 20814
tel 301 347 9141
fax 301 347 0101