Estimates of Uninsured Arkansans – New Data Source

In a few weeks we’ll see a flood of new data from the 2010 survey of the U.S. Census Bureau. Since 2000, we’ve relied on smaller samply surveys for estimates on demographics and trends year by year.

For many years, the Current Population Survey (CPS) information on the number of uninsured Americans was the most reliable data source for estimating the number of uninsured Arkansans, both children and adults. However, the number of people who responded to this survey (only 100,000 households nationwide) made the numbers hard to depend on for small states like us. However, we now have a new data source we can use for these estimates.

In 2009, the American Community Survey (ACS) included a question that would provide us with estimates of the uninsured in Arkansas. This data is much more reliable for small states because many more people are reached with this questionnaire (3 million households nationwide.) Because of the number of responses, the Census Bureau recommends that we use the ACS numbers for state-level analysis and for smaller geographic areas like counties and congressional districts. However, the biggest drawback with this data source is the fact that we cannot compare past years of this data. For long-term comparisons and national estimates, the CPS information is still recommended.

There are some differences in the data that have been reported from these two sources. This can come from the fact that the questions from the two surveys ask different questions about health insurance coverage. The CPS asks if people (and the children in their household) were covered by an insurance program last year while the ACS asks if they are currently covered.

For more information on these different data sources visit the Census Bureau here.