The American Community Survey
(ACS) is an ongoing statistical survey by the U.S. Census Bureau, sent to approximately 250,000 addresses monthly (or 3 million per year) . It regularly gathers information previously contained only in the long form of the decennial census
The United States Census is a decennial census mandated by the United States Constitution. The population is enumerated every 10 years and the results are used to allocate Congressional seats , electoral votes, and government program funding. The United States Census Bureau The United States Census...
. It is the largest survey other than the decennial census that the Census Bureau administers.
Many Americans found filling out the long form to be burdensome and intrusive, and its unpopularity was a factor in the declining response rate to the decennial census. In 1995, the Bureau began the process of changing the means of obtaining the demographic, housing, social, and economic information from the census long form to the ACS. Testing began in 1996, and the ACS program began producing test data in 2000, 2001, and 2002. The survey was fully implemented in 2005. The following year, the Census Bureau released estimates for all areas with populations of 65,000 or more using the data collected from January to December of 2005. In 2010, The ACS produced its first set of estimates for areas of all population sizes, using information collected from January 2005 through December 2009.
The American Community Survey cite Title 13, United States Code (U.S.C.), Sections 141 and 193 as their authority to request the information and .
The ACS has an initial sample of approximately 3 million housing unit addresses and group quarters in the United States, with sample selected from all counties and county-equivalents, American Indian and Alaska Native area, and Hawaiian Homeland
Hawaiian Homelands were lands dedicated to Native Hawaiians by legislation known as the Hawaiian Homes Commission Act of 1921.-History:Upon the 1893 Overthrow of the Hawaiian Kingdom, the idea for "Hawaiian Homelands" was first born...
, and in Puerto Rico
Puerto Rico , officially the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico , is an unincorporated territory of the United States, located in the northeastern Caribbean, east of the Dominican Republic and west of both the United States Virgin Islands and the British Virgin Islands.Puerto Rico comprises an...
annually. Data are collected primarily by mail, with follow-ups by telephone and personal visit. Approximately one third of those who do not respond to the survey by mail or telephone are randomly selected for in-person interviews, and the final response rate for that group was 98 percent in 2009. Because approximately two-thirds of mail/telephone nonrespondents are not selected for in-person follow-up interviews, the ACS only includes approximately 2 million final interviews per year. In 2009, completed ACS interviews represented 66.2 percent of the housing units initially selected for inclusion in the sample.
The Department of Commerce has stated that those who receive a survey form are legally obligated to answer all the questions as accurately as possible. Those who decline to complete the survey may receive follow-up phone calls and/or visits to their homes from Census Bureau personnel. Section 221 of Title 13 U.S.C., makes it a misdemeanor to refuse or willfully neglect to complete the questionnaire or answer questions posed by census takers and imposes a fine of not more than $100. This fine was changed by the Sentencing Reform Act of 1984 from $100 to not more than $5,000. The Census Bureau prefers to gain cooperation by convincing respondents of the importance of participation. To date, no person has ever been charged with a crime for refusing to answer the ACS. The Department of Commerce states that it is "not an enforcement agency."
The processed information provides yearly estimates for all states, as well as all cities, counties, metropolitan areas, and population groups of 65,000 people or more. For smaller areas, it is necessary to combine multiple survey years to obtain reliable estimates: three survey years in areas with 20,000 to 65,000 people, and five survey years in areas with fewer than 20,000 people. The quality of these samples was originally intended to match that of the decennial census long form, but because the sample size of the ACS is smaller than originally expected, ACS estimates are less precise than the comparable estimates from Census 2000 and prior decennial census years.
- Mail: Self-enumeration
- Computer Assisted Telephone Interviewing (CATI), approximately 3 weeks after the mailout
- Computer Assisted Personal Interviewing (CAPI) by Census Bureau field representatives.
The survey asks for more information, and at a higher frequency, than the simple enumeration required by U.S. Constitution Article I Section 2. Several U.S. Representatives have challenged the ACS as unauthorized by the Census Act and violative of the Right to Financial Privacy Act
The Right to Financial Privacy Act is a United States federal law that gives the customers of financial institutions the right to some level of privacy from government searches. Before the Act was passed, the United States government did not have to tell customers that it was accessing their...
. Congressman Ron Paul
Ronald Ernest "Ron" Paul is an American physician, author and United States Congressman who is seeking to be the Republican Party candidate in the 2012 presidential election. Paul represents Texas's 14th congressional district, which covers an area south and southwest of Houston that includes...
of Texas, who opposes the ACS, said of it that the founding fathers of the United States "never authorized the federal government to continuously survey the American people. More importantly, they never envisioned a nation where the people would roll over and submit to every government demand."
- Survey of Income and Program Participation
The Survey of Income and Program Participation is a statistical survey conducted by the United States Census Bureau. The main objective of the SIPP is to provide accurate and comprehensive information about the income of American individuals and households and the participation of these people in...
- Current Population Survey
The Current Population Survey is a statistical survey conducted by the United States Census Bureau for the Bureau of Labor Statistics . The BLS uses the data to provide a monthly report on the Employment Situation. This report provides estimates of the number of unemployed people in the United...
- National Household Survey, a similar survey that is a successor to the 2011 long-form Canadian census
The Canada 2011 Census is a detailed enumeration of the Canadian population on May 10, 2011. Statistics Canada—an agency of the Canadian government—conducts a nationwide census every five years...