I was disappointed with the fact that Decennial Census got rid of the Long Form. ACS is good because it is annual, but it is not as precise for smaller geographies (e.g. block) as Decennial Census. If smaller geography is not the main purpose of the ACS, then there are already many population level surveys that collect data on demographics and economy. What we need is both: ACS and the Long Form on the Decennial Census, and no less.
Gyanesh Lama, Ph.D.
EAST-WEST GATEWAY COUNCIL OF GOVERNMENTS
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>>> Ed Christopher <email@example.com> 05/11/2012 8:03 AM >>>
I got this from long time friend Terri Ann Lowenthal who has been my
expert contact to Census Legislative issues. Terri Ann is a consultant
for the Census Project and below is what the latest is on the ACS and
Census Bureau cuts.
Thursday, May 10 @ 11:30PM
Census Project colleagues:
A quick update now that the House has passed its version of the
Commerce, Justice, and Science Appropriations bill.
First, in the chaos over the votes to make ACS response voluntary and
then eliminate the survey entirely, we missed another amendment,
sponsored by Rep. Corrine Brown (D-FL), that shifted $20M from the
Periodic Censuses account to a Justice Department local law enforcement
program. That's on top of the $4 million cut through the Lynch amendment.
Combined with the Appropriations Committee cut to the Periodics account,
the Census Bureau says (in the new Bloomberg BusinessWeek article below)
that the Economic Census is at risk again, as is planning for the 2020
With regard to the vote to eliminate the ACS entirely, I know some folks
think that the final C-J-S funding bill would never include such a
provision. That is probably correct, but it also is possible (and, I am
told, the Census Bureau fears) that the vote will be used as a
bargaining chip in conference. House Republicans will agree to fund the
ACS if conferees make response voluntary. And if that happens, the
Census Bureau obviously won't have the additional funds ($60M???) needed
to ensure reliable small area data, so stakeholders will lose census
tract data and possibly more. The situation is not good, folks, despite
the fact that it appears right now that members of the House (all of
them!) were playing politics with the census.
The Census Project is drafting a sign-on letter to all Senators,
expressing strong (STRONG!) opposition both to the House funding cuts
and, of course, the votes to make the ACS voluntary and then eliminate
the survey. We will circulate the letter sometime on Friday. If the
Senate takes up the Commerce Appropriations bill next week, we will
have to put a short deadline on it again. If consideration is put off
until after Memorial Day, as some are now saying, then we have extra time.
Unlike past sign-on letters, we will try to get a very large number of
organizational (not individual) signers from the national, state, and
local level, and will list them all simply alphabetically.
If you have state and local affiliates that want to get more involved
(in addition to signing the letter), please refer them first to the
Census Project website. They can look at past letters and fact sheets,
as well as the blog, for basic information on the key issues at hand.
We (at the Census Project) are pedaling as fast as we can but are having
a hard time keeping up with requests for background information and
strategic advice this week. This is a modestly funded project, so
please be patient with us.
Thanks for all you are doing to step up to the plate in support of the
Census Bureau's programs and reliable data to guide policymaking and
resource allocation. There is no question the Census Bureau needs to
contain the cost of the 2020 Census, but pulling the rug out from under
them makes that goal less reachable.
Terri Ann Lowenthal | Consultant | TerriAnn2K@aol.com
(h/o) 203-353-4364 | (c) 202-258-2425
Bloomberg BusinessWeek (on-line)
Killing the American Community Survey Blinds Business
By Matthew Philips on May 10, 2012
Last week we wrote about how funding for economic data-gathering
agencies such as the U.S. Census Bureau was under threat from House
Republicans looking for ways to cut spending. Apparently, they mean
On May 9 the House voted to kill the American Community Survey, which
collects data on some 3 million households each year and is the largest
survey next to the decennial census. The ACS—which has a long bipartisan
history, including its funding in the mid-1990s and full implementation
in 2005—provides data that help determine how more than $400 billion in
federal and state funds are spent annually. Businesses also rely heavily
on it to do such things as decide where to build new stores, hire new
employees, and get valuable insights on consumer spending habits. Check
out this video of Target (TGT) executives talking about how much they
use ACS data.
Initially, it looked like the House might simply repealthe survey’s
mandatory requirement, something the Census Bureau has said would just
make it more expensive since they’d have to send more agents into the
field to collect the data manually, rather than being able to legally
require people who receive the survey to fill it out. Representative
Daniel Webster (R-Fla.) went a step further, leading the charge to
dismantle the ACS entirely on the grounds that it’s unconstitutional.
Webster gained his seat as part of the 2010 Tea Party revolution that
won Republicans control of the House. Apress release on his website
criticizes the ACS for invading people’s privacy by requiring them to
answer questions such as what time they leave for work, how long their
commute is, and whether they need help going shopping. Those who receive
a survey and fail to respond are subject to fines of as much as $5,000.
The fight over cutting funds for data-gathering agencies has opened up a
rift in the deficit-hawk crowd. A handful of organizations that
generally support big fiscal spending cuts have voiced their support for
fully funding the three main data-gathering agencies: Census, the Bureau
of Labor Statistics, and the Bureau of Economic Analysis.
The Chamber of Commerce, for example, strongly advocates funding them,
since its members rely so much on the information they provide on basic
things such as household spending, per capita income, and population
estimates. The ACS is of particular value to them, says Martin Regalia,
Commerce’s chief economist. “It is especially important to some of our
bigger members for trying to understand geographic distinctions and
other granularity in the economy.”
Tom Beers, executive director of the National Association of Business
Economists, says that without good economic data, businesses would be
“flying blind.” He adds: “You end up in a guessing game about what’s
going on in the economy. The types of losses that result are far worse
than what you end up spending to fund these surveys.”
Webster says ending the ACS could save $2.5 billion over the next
decade. Asked to respond to concerns from the business community over
the impact of stopping the ACS, Webster’s communications staff referred
me to his comments on the House floor, which don’t address those concerns.
Proponents of the ACS argue that the survey is particularly important
since it forms the basis of so much other data. “The loss of the
American Community Survey will cause chaos and inefficiency in the
operations of business and government in the U.S.,” says Andrew Reamer.
In 2010, Reamer published a report for the Brookings Institution
measuring the overall impact of the ACS.
In a statement released on May 10, the Census Bureau said eliminating
the ACS would “mark the first time in the country’s history that we
would not collect and share vital economic and demographic measures of
the country. These cuts would also keep us from conducting the 2012
economic census. Eliminating the American Community Survey would make it
extremely difficult if not impossible to contain the costs of the 2020
Contacted last week, economists at conservative think tanks Cato
Institute, American Enterprise Institute, and the Heritage Foundation
all expressed support for the data-gathering agencies since all three
rely heavily on the statistics they produce to study the economy. “Those
agencies are essential,” says Phillip Swagel, an economist and
nonresident scholar at AEI. “The data they provide really tell us what’s
going on in the economy. This shouldn’t be a political issue.”
Philips is an associate editor for Bloomberg Businessweek.
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