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BACKGROUND: Our objective was to evaluate the reliability and predictability of ten socioeconomic indicators obtained from the 2006-2013 annual and multi-year ACS data cycles for unintentional drowning and submersion injury surveillance.

METHODS: Each indicator was evaluated using its margin of error and coefficient of variation. For the multi-year data cycles we calculated the frequency that estimates for the same geographic areas from consecutive surveys were statistically significantly different. Relative risk estimates of drowning-related deaths were constructed using the National Center for Health Statistics compressed mortality file. All analyses were derived using census counties.

RESULTS: Five of the ten socioeconomic indicators derived from the annual and multi-year data cycles produced high reliability CV estimates for at least 85 % of all US counties. On average, differences in socioeconomic characteristics for the same geographic areas for consecutive 3- and 5-year data cycles were unlikely to be caused by sampling error in only 17 % (5-89 %) and 21 % (5-93 %) of all counties. No indicator produced statistically significant relative risk estimates across all data cycles and survey years.

CONCLUSIONS: The reliability of the annual and multi-year county-level ACS data cycles varies by census indicator. More than 75 % of the differences in estimates between consecutive multi-year surveys are likely to have occurred as a result of sampling error, suggesting that researchers should be judicious when interpreting overlapping survey data as reflective of real changes in socioeconomic conditions. Although no indicator predicted disparities in drowning-related injury mortality across all data cycles and years, further studies are needed to determine if these associations remain consistent at different geographic scales and for injury morbidity.

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© 2015 Bell and Cai. Open Access This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source, provide a link to the Creative Commons license, and indicate if changes were made.

APA Citation

Bell, N., & Cai, B. (2015). Reliability of the American Community Survey for unintentional drowning and submersion injury surveillance: A comprehensive assessment of 10 socioeconomic indicators derived from the 2006–2013 annual and multi-year data cycles. Injury Epidemiology, 2.

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