American Community Survey (ACS) Data in Southern California

A First Look at 2017-2021


On Dec. 8, the Census Bureau released the latest American Community Survey (ACS) 5-year data (2017-2021). The 5-year ACS represents data collected over a period which includes time on either side of the COVID-19 pandemic.

This offers a unique advantage to study estimates for smaller geographic areas (e.g., cities, counties, and neighborhoods) and population subgroups (e.g., workers). Drawing on the current ACS data and comparing it to data from the previous five-year ACS, SCAG staff have computed several key variables for the local jurisdictions in the SCAG region.

Some of the key conclusions drawn from this research shows us that commuters who drive alone increased slightly in the SCAG region (+1.0%) from five years ago. This is a more modest increase than was seen in California and the US as a whole, but it varied starkly across the region. The same divergent pattern in drive-alone commuters can be seen across the region’s cities. Among jurisdictions with populations over 25,000, six decreased in the number of driving alone by more than 15%.

The SCAG region also saw the number of people working from home more than double compared to the previous five-year period (+112.0%). This trend is similar to the nation and the state and is in part reflective of the impact of the pandemic on travel mode. Fifteen jurisdictions with populations over 25,000 saw more than a tripling in work from home.

Several SCAG cities (population greater than 25,000) experienced both a substantial decline in driving alone (-10% or more) and increase in working from home (+100% or more). This pattern suggests that telecommuting is becoming an increasingly important alternative to the conventional work trip mode in these large cities. However, this pattern was not universal. Many cities with drive-alone increases also had sizeable work from home increases, while several cities had decreases or only slight increases in working from home. 

The SCAG region saw a slight decrease in the share of renter households compared to five years ago (-1.0%).  The general trend is toward slightly more owner-occupancy. Eight SCAG cities though, with a population of over 25,000, saw a relatively large increase in the share of renter households. 

Click here to view the full American Community Survey 2017-2021 5-Year Data Release.