Will the American Community Survey Be De-funded?

Stats in Action Video:  Target

This is not the typical forum for addressing political issues, but one of the major sources of demographic data for our Excel add-in, CDXZipStream, is on the congressional chopping block.  The American Community Survey (ACS) is an annual survey performed by the U.S. Census Bureau, and is a significant source of social, economic, and housing data for government, business, and non-profits.  As of May 9, 2012, the House of Representatives voted to remove funding for the ACS, and although the Senate is unlikely to do the same, a compromise measure may radically change the current survey.

The ACS used to be called the "long form" of the ten-year census that was sent to only selected households.  The long form was abolished after the 2000 Census, and became an annual survey so the data would be more timely and be able to more effectively direct government budgeting.  

Both cost and constitutionality seem to be issues driving the de-funding, although some form of the survey has been in place since the 1800’s and constitutionality has previously been upheld by the courts.  There are also concerns about the possible intrusive nature of the survey questions.

 “This is a program that intrudes on people’s lives, just like the Environmental Protection Agency or the bank regulators,” said Daniel Webster, a first-term Republican congressman who sponsored the amendment that removed it from the House budget.

A major concern is that a compromise measure with the Senate will make the ACS a voluntary survey and result in much lower participation rates.   Ironically, this means costs go up as more census workers are required to go into the field to boost participation; if participation does not reach levels required for statistical significance, the data is effectively useless.   

Private companies, business and industry groups, academia, and economic development organizations have all voiced opposition to the Webster ammendment.  For example, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce states the ACS data allows its users “to make informed decisions regarding strategic development opportunities that strengthen our communities, provide for the efficient and effective delivery of goods and services, create jobs, and ultimately drive economic growth.”  To see how a company like Target uses the ACS, please click on the video shown at the top of this post.

To voice your opinion on the American Community Survey, please consider contacting your U.S. Senator or Representative.  Contact resources are available at the following links:

U.S. House of Representatives

U.S. Senate

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