The Senate debates the American Community Survey

The following is a compilation of editorials related to the American Community Survey. The Senate will be voting for an appropriations bill, which includes funding for the Census Bureau. In the House version of this bill, the ACS was scrapped – not just made voluntary. Search on “data/ACS Census” for previous posts on the ACS funding saga.

Census Bureau information requests are redundant [Letter to the Editor]
R E Laraway | Morning Sun [Mt. Pleasant, MI]
July 25, 2012
This letter writer is against the ACS because he sees redundancies in surveys. He argues that much of the information asked in surveys the government already has – like the IRS.

These ongoing surveys ask many of the same questions that were asked on the 10-year census survey. However, the same government regulations that control all these surveys also prohibit sharing responses across surveys. In other words the government continually uses our tax dollars to get information from us that they already have. (IRS for example).

As I stated earlier federal law requires participation in the 10-year census. I’m told by the U.S. Census Bureau that participation in the ongoing “Current Population Survey” and the “Consumer Expenditure Survey” are not required by law. I will keep that in mind when next contacted I understand the need for most, not all, but most of the information requested.

I do not understand nor will I support the redundant efforts, questions, and expense involved in the current methods of surveys.

Census questions fulfill important purpose
Ken Prewitt | USA Today
July 24, 2012
This is a letter to the editor by a former Census Bureau director, in response to Daniel Webster’s, R-FL editorial opposing the American Community Survey. Webster is also the author of the amendment that de-funded the ACS in the House appropriations bill.

Indiana gubernatorial candidate keeps up attack on opponent’s voting record
Eric Bradner | Evansville Courier & Press
July 22, 2012

Good data leads to good decisions: Save the ACS
Pamela Herd | Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
July 21, 2012
This editorial has a nice paragraph for the not-so-statistically-literate public, which might also include Congress:

Webster also argued for the cut stating that the ACS “is not a scientific survey, it’s a random survey.” This is wrong. Randomization is what makes the survey scientific. Just like a physician doesn’t need to withdraw all of your blood to accurately assess your health, the ACS doesn’t need to interview the entire population. However, the portion of the population interviewed must be chosen at random to ensure that the sample represents the population as a whole.

Candidate Pence Disagrees with Congressman Pence… Again
Gregg for Governor |
July 20, 2012
The ACS is being used in a political campaign by challenger John Gregg against Mike Pence in the Indiana governor’s race.

Census Surveys: Information that we need
Robert Groves | The Washington Post
July 20, 2012
Great closing statement:

A strong country is strong because it knows itself. Statistical information is central to that strength.

This editorial was repeated in full by the Daily Herald [Utah].

The American Community Survey stirs up Controversy
Al Macias | KJZZ Live [with text & audio]
July 19, 2012
[with text & audio]

Eliminating America’s playbook
Dr. Frances Deviney [Texas Lone Star Forum] | Waxahachie Daily
July 18, 2012

Waxahachie is in Texas and the author uses a nice Friday Night Lights analogy to express what it would be like for businesses, planners, non-profits, state/local governments, etc. to operate without the American Community Survey. Here’s a taste:

Football is a longstanding tradition in Texas, with high expectations for rigor, skill, and success. But what if I told you that one day, all of the playbooks and player stats would just disappear? Coaches would no longer have information on how the opposing team is performing. Or, worse yet, how their own team was performing, or what types of players they might need to add to develop a winning game plan. And if you don’t have good statistics, you can’t know if what you are doing is making conditions better or worse.

That, my friends, is exactly what will happen for businesses, governments, and nonprofits if Congress stops funding the Census Bureau’s American Community Survey.

The following point might be tongue-in-cheek as many House members who voted to de-fund the ACS link to ACS-generated characteristics about their Congressional District from their websites:

It is inspiring to see that Senator Hutchison and Senator Cornyn believe in the value of the American Community Survey data so much that they link to the data from their official U.S. Senate websites as a way to inform their constituents.

We hope Texans from across the state will ask Senators Hutchison and Cornyn to continue showing their support by voting to fully fund the American Community Survey and keep our playbook intact.

Keeping Survey would boost employment
Katharine Donato | The Tennessean
July 17, 2012

But first we have to rescue the program from political assassination. All business people know you can’t solve problems or allocate resources rationally without metrics. We should demand our senators show that they know it, too, and vote to preserve the ACS.

Critical Senate vote could save Census plan
Bill Thompson | Ocala Star Banner
July 17, 2012
Note: This is the hometown paper of Daniel Webster, R-FL, who sponsored the amendment in the House that de-funded the ACS. This paper responded negatively to that action back in May.

Another View: Census survey essential to business, government decision-making
Op-Ed | The Alexandria Town Talk
July 17, 2012
This is a Gannett newspaper, which explains why this op-ed is a copy of the USA Today “Save the Census American Community Survey” editorial.

Save the Census American Community Survey
Editorial | USA Today
July 16, 2012

Census survey is intrusive and expensive
Daniel Webster | USA Today
July 16, 2012

Note: Daniel Webster is the author of the amendment that de-authorized funding for the ACS – at least in the House’s appropriations bill.

Survey helps us make informed decisions
Jennifer Glick | The Arizona Republic
July 15, 2012

Data Dilemmas: What we Don’t know about School and Work
Amy Southerland | The Atlantic
July 12, 2012

This essay evaluates sources of data for understanding higher education in the US. She touches on the importance of the ACS and concludes:

Granted, data isn’t sexy. It doesn’t hold a lot of popular appeal. Nobody is going to run for president on a “More data! Better data!” platform. And as Oscar Wilde reminds us, “The truth is rarely pure and never simple.” Gathering good data is challenging. Making sense of data is even more so, especially in complex social contexts.

Nonetheless, we need to get at the truth the best we can, using the best data possible, so that policymakers, educators, philanthropists and community leaders can make informed decisions. So I’ll say it, even if I don’t have the stump: “More data! Better data!”

Survey Respondents: Mercenaries or Slaves?
Casey Mulligan | The New York Times
June 27, 2012
This entry from the Economix blog discusses issues associated with making the ACS voluntary. The companion “voluntary ACS” bill on the Senate side is sponsored by Rand Paul [S. 3079]. Two quotes from his piece summarize his view:

Economic data is valuable, which is why survey respondents should be paid for their efforts.

Economic data would be of better quality if supplied, as Milton Friedman put it, by mercenaries rather than by slaves.

Census’ American Community Survey May be Gutted by Senate, Advocates Fear
Michael McAuliff | Huffington Post
June 1, 2012
This piece discusses the issues the ACS faces in the Senate, including Rand Paul’s bill to make it voluntary (companion to Ted Poe’s bill in the House).

The American Community Survey is Under Attack
Kristina Costa | Center for American Progress
May 15, 2012

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