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Committee on National Statistics Releases Report on Reducing Burden in the American Community Survey

The Committee on National Statistics of the Division of Behavioral and Social Science and Education (DBASSE) at the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine has published a report on their March workshop dedicated to improving the American Community Survey (ACS). The workshop examined different approaches to reducing the burden on respondents, including reducing the number of questions asked to individual respondents though matrix sampling, eliminating the need for some questions by using administrative records, increasing cooperation with the survey, reducing the length of the survey. The full report is available here.

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Posted in Issue 20 (October 18), Update, Volume 35 (2016)

National Academies Holds Workshop on ACS Respondent Burden

In March, the Committee on National Statistics (CNSTAT) of the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine held a “Workshop on Respondent Burden in the American Community Survey,” which brought together experts from the Census Bureau and the broader statistical community to discuss how to make the American Community Survey (ACS) a more pleasant, less intrusive experience for respondents. (more…)

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Posted in Issue 8 (April 19), Update, Volume 35 (2016)

Census Releases New ACS Estimates

The Census Bureau has released a new set of annual data from the American Community Survey (ACS). The 2014 1-Year estimates provide information for all 50 states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico on the dozens of economic, housing, social, and demographic topics covered by the ACS. The new data can be accessed here.

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Posted in Issue 17 (September 22), Update, Volume 34 (2015)

ACS Launches New Website

The American Community Survey (ACS) has a new website.  The new site, according to the ACS office, “has a look and feel consistent with census.gov,” and should allow for easy user navigation.

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Posted in Issue 12 (June 30), Update, Volume 34 (2015)

House Passes FY16 NSF, Census, Justice Spending Bill

After two days of debate and consideration of dozens of amendments, the House passed the fiscal year (FY) 2016 Commerce, Justice, Science and Related Agencies (CJS) appropriations bill this evening on June 4 by a vote of 242 to 183. Twelve Democrats voted in favor of the bill with 10 Republicans voting against.

As previously reported, this annual spending bill–which provides funding for the National Science Foundation (NSF), Department of Justice (DOJ) research programs, and the Census Bureau and other federal statistical agencies–includes very troubling provisions impacting social and behavioral science research (see COSSA’s analysis for full details).

There were no amendments offered, positive or negative, to the NSF section of the bill, leaving the section unchanged from the version that was approved by the House Appropriations Committee on May 20.

However, several amendments passed impacting the budget of the Census Bureau, including:

  • $100 million from Periodic Censuses and Programs to increase funding for justice assistance grants (Rep. David Reichert, R-WA)
  • $17.3 million from Periodic Censuses and Programs for sex trafficking victims services in DOJ (Rep. Ted Poe, R-TX)
  • $4 million from Current Surveys and Programs to increase DOJ’s Office of Justice Programs (Rep. Richard Nugent, R-FL)

In addition, Rep. Poe continued his assault on the Census Bureau’s American Community Survey (ACS) by offering an amendment to make the ACS voluntary; the amendment passed by voice vote, but not before CJS Subcommittee Ranking Member Chaka Fattah (D-PA) keenly articulated the importance of a mandatory survey.

While no amendments were offered impacting NSF, several Members of Congress took to the House floor to object to problematic report language in the bill that would direct 70 percent of NSF research funding to engineering and physical, biological and computer science, thereby undercutting funding to the Social, Behavioral and Economic Sciences (SBE) directorate (as well as the Geosciences directorate) (video can be viewed here). Rep. Daniel Lipinski (D-IL) (video at 05:17:06) called these cuts to SBE “misguided” and highlighted several examples of social science research that has led to major breakthroughs impacting the health and prosperity of the nation. In addition, Rep. David Price (D-NC) (video at 10:35:39) asked CJS Subcommittee Chairman John Culberson (R-TX) for a commitment to work together to fix this language and preserve NSF’s discretion to decide what grants to fund, to which Culberson expressed his intent to work with the Congressman. House Appropriations Committee Ranking Member Nita Lowey (D-NY) (video at 04:46:20) and Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX) (video at 05:13:13), Ranking Member of the House Science, Space and Technology Committee, also expressed their objection to the NSF language and cuts to Census.

Science Committee Chairman Lamar Smith (R-TX) (video at 05:21:35) took to the floor to defend the NSF language, acknowledging that he worked directly with CJS Subcommittee staff to incorporate it into the committee report. He reiterated his concerns about NSF’s responsibility to be accountable to taxpayers and fund grants that are in the “national interest.”

The next step in the FY 2016 funding of these agencies is Senate consideration of its version of the CJS appropriations bill, which could occur as early as next week with a possible markup in the Senate CJS Subcommittee.

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Posted in Issue 11 (June 16), Update, Volume 34 (2015)

Census Bureau Outlines Content Changes to American Community Survey

The Census Bureau issued a Federal Register Notice on May 29 outlining its proposal for updating the content and methodologies of the American Community Survey (ACS). As previously reported the Census Bureau proposes to retain the field of degree and marriage questions originally slated for elimination from the ACS beginning in 2016.  In addition, the proposal plans to remove a couple of other questions that have been deemed of no or low benefit.  The Notice states these changes are an “initial step in a multi-faceted approach to reducing respondent burden.”

Public comment on the proposal is due by June 28; the proposal will be submitted to the White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB) for clearance.

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Posted in Issue 10 (June 2), Update, Volume 34 (2015)

The Census Project Sheds Light on the American Community Survey

The Census Project held an informational briefing, The Census Bureau’s American Community Survey: Ten Years of Delivering Data for Smart Decision-Making, on May 27 that focused on the wide use of data from the Census Bureau’s American Community Survey (ACS) and the reasons to support keeping the survey mandatory. COSSA was one of the cosponsors of this event.  (more…)

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Posted in Issue 10 (June 2), Update, Volume 34 (2015)

House FY 2016 CJS Bill Advances to the Floor

On May 20, the House Appropriations Committee passed the FY 2016 Commerce, Justice, Science and Related Agencies (CJS) Appropriations bill by voice vote.  Amendments to increase funding for the National Science Foundation and make other improvements to the bill were either defeated or withdrawn.  The bill now heads to the House floor.

The CJS bill totals $51.4 billion, which is a 2.5 percent increase over the FY 2015 CJS bill. CJS Subcommittee chairman John Culberson (R-TX) noted during the May 14 Subcommittee markup that this amount “is sufficient to fund essential programs.” The bill keeps within the spending caps currently tamping down discretionary spending, making the FY 2016 appropriations bills even more challenging than usual. President Obama has threatened to veto any appropriations bill that adheres to these caps, making the House CJS bill a non-starter with the White House.

While the National Science Foundation would see a small increase in the House proposal, the real winner in the bill is NASA, which happens to be a favorite of the chairman. The heavy focus and emphasis on NASA is one of the visible changes we are seeing with the new chairman, who replaced Rep. Frank Wolf (R-VA), a long-time, staunch supporter of NSF, this year. NSF is largely downplayed in the House CJS bill when compared to recent years. As you will read in our analysis, the FY 2016 CJS bill differs from previous bills in several other ways as well.

In general, agencies and programs that support social and behavioral science research would fare quite poorly in the bill. Among the many challenging provisions, the bill seeks to limit support for social science research funding at NSF, would enable potentially deep cuts to the National Institute of Justice and Bureau of Justice Statistics, and would degrade the American Community Survey within the Census Bureau.

Read on for COSSA’s full analysis of the bill.

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Posted in Issue 10 (June 2), Update, Volume 34 (2015)

ACS to Retain Marriage, Field of Degree Questions Proposed for Elimination

The Census Bureau will retain several questions in the American Community Survey (ACS) originally identified for removal: Person Question No. 12, undergraduate field of degree, and Person Question Nos. 21-23, which are related to marital history. The questions were proposed for elimination as part of the Bureau’s 2014 Content Review of the ACS and were released to the public for comment in the fall (see Update, November 3, 2014). COSSA objected to the removal of these questions in a written comment, as did many other organizations in the scientific community.

According to Census’ request to the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) for final clearance, it still plans to eliminate Housing Question No. 6, which asks if there is a business or medical office on the respondent’s property. The question was determined to have “no benefit to federal agencies, the federal statistical system, or the nation.”

The Bureau received 625 comments on Person Question No. 12, the field of degree question, coming from “researchers, professors and administrators at many universities, professional associations that represent science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) careers and industries, members of Congress, the National Science Foundation, and many individuals interested in retaining this question.” The Bureau’s review of the comments concluded, “Given the importance of this small population group [STEM graduates] to the economy, the federal statistical system and the nation, bolstered by the new knowledge of historical precedent brought to light by commenters to the Federal Register notice, the Census Bureau therefore plans to retain this question on the 2016 ACS.”

More than 1,300 comments were received in favor of retaining the marital history questions. While the Bureau did not feel that the comments identified a federal regulation or law that requires collection of this information, the size of the response in itself was felt to be a significant argument in favor of keeping the questions.

As part of its ongoing efforts to better explain to the public why the ACS needs the information it collects, the Census Bureau has also released a new infographic, “Why We Ask.”

The Federal Register notice can be read in its entirety here. COSSA thanks all of the organizations who advocated for the importance of these questions to the social and behavioral science community.

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Posted in Issue 8 (May 5), Update, Volume 34 (2015)

COSSA Urges Census to Maintain Field of Degree, Marriage Questions in ACS

On December 9, COSSA submitted public comment to the U.S. Department of Commerce urging the decision to remove several questions from the 2016 American Community Survey (ACS) be reversed. As previously reported, the ACS recently underwent a comprehensive review of its current 72 questions, which resulted in a proposal to remove questions deemed of “low benefit.” COSSA’s comments outline the importance of Person Question No. 12—Undergraduate Field of Degree—and Person Questions No. 21-23, relating to marital history, to the social science research community. The Council of Professional Associations on Federal Statistics (COPAFS), a COSSA sister organization, also submitted public comment.

More information on the questions identified for removal and the call for public comment can be found in the Federal Register Notice. Comments are due December 30, 2014.

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Posted in Issue 23 (December 19), Update, Volume 33 (2014)

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