Tag Archives: Census

The ACS 3-year Demographic Estimates Are History

by Ken Poole:

Census Director John Thompson and Acting Director for the 2020 Census Lisa Blumerman spoke with a group of Census stakeholders today about Census plans regarding the American Community Survey.   My take from the conversation: the ACS 3-year demographic estimates are history.  When Census first developed the ACS in the 1990s, the goal was to replace data from the Census long-form (available every 10 years) with 5-years of aggregated data combined to provide a “rolling average.”  Starting up a program with 5-year rolling averages took quite a long time to move from research and fieldwork (which all needed Congressional support) to useful data placed in the hands of practitioners.  Ultimately, we all knew that annual releases of 5-year estimates would make data available to communities of every size for each and every year (not every decade as before).

But, the fiscal headwinds at the time made patience a virtue that we ironically could ill afford.  The 3-year estimates were designed to get Census data out to many “medium-sized” communities (20,000 to 65,000) two years earlier than the first available 5-year estimates.  As a result, we created the three-part ACS with 1-year estimates for the largest communities, 3-year estimates for medium and large communities, and 5-year estimates for all communities.

Today, Census leaders described the hard decisions they have to make when allocating their limited resources.  Essentially, the 3-year estimates will not be published next fall for 2012-2014 due to the $15 million shortage resulting from the $124 million cut to the Census budget, all coming from the Periodic Programs and Censuses account.

The decision to eliminate the 3-year estimate was part of a series of moves including cuts to follow-up operations support, field representative refresher training, and ACS interviewer observations.   Furthermore, the President’s budget proposal released yesterday did not seek the estimated $2.4 million that would be required to re-instate the 3-year data product in the FY 2016 (so no 2013-2015 estimates would be made either).

Census plans to continue to release 1-year and 5-year estimates and to focus its resources on activities that ensure data quality.  During our discussion, the 5-year estimates were identified as the primary annual data element that ACS promises to provide to every community as part of its mandate.

It is unclear what advocacy on behalf of the 3-year estimates might beget from a Congress that continues to engage in debates about whether responses to the ACS should be voluntary or remain mandatory (or whether the ACS should exist at all).

Suffice it to say that, with no new 3-year averages being published, any users relying on those data will need to start making adjustments now.  The expectation is that once we adjust, the 3-year estimates will go the way of other data products remembered fondly.

June 12: This week in data legislation

Writing on The Census Project blog, Terri Ann Lowenthal recounts the beating Census took in the House recently, when the Appropriations committee attached the dreaded Poe amendment and cut more than $200 million from the bureau’s budget request. On the Senate side, things look a slightly better for the Bureau, even if that isn’t saying much considering the House’s apparent view of the Census.

APDU Board member Steve Pierson lays out some of the concerns with the House’s action relative to the National Center for Education Statistics. A bill (HE 4366, “SETRA”) passed in May could affect the stature of the agency – one move is to ditch the presidential appointment of the NCES commissioner, transferring that authority to another already existing office (IES). It’s unclear what the Senate plans to do with their version of the SETRA bill.

Last week, the Federal Trade Commission released a report that data brokers (private sector companies who collect massive amounts of big data) are operating without transparency.  That FTC report recommends that Congress enact legislation that requires the companies to disclose more information about themselves and the data they collect. According to a spokesperson at the Direct Marketing Assn, what the report doesn’t do is find actual harm to consumers.

In Vermont, a new law requires the state’s chief performance officer to oversee the collection of a variety of measures, such as median household income, the percent of adults who smoke, and the percent of the population living in poverty.

At the local level, New York City Council members passed a bill that would require the Department of Education to publish demographic and academic information about co-located schools. The required statistics would include breakdowns of each school by race and ethnicity, English language learners, students with special needs, and students eligible for free or reduced price lunch. According to the legislation, the academic data must include state exam scores. The Department of Education [note: assuming the story means the NY Dept of Ed] has expressed support for the law, as did the charter sector.

Finally, what does the new DATA Act mean? Find out through an APDU webinar on Weds June 25 (rescheduled from last month).

Is your group working on data-related legislation? Please send along any tips or stories to info@apdu.org.

Thompson discusses ACS: mandatory vs. voluntary

Census Bureau Director John Thompson delivered the morning keynote on the final day of last week’s Council for Community and Economic Research’s (C2ER) 54th Annual Conference.

As part of his remarks, Thompson discussed the American Community Survey and the implications of the survey being made voluntary versus remaining mandatory. You can watch a  video of his comments here, which includes an analysis of the responses rates and data quality of each scenario:

You can access Thompson’s slides from the keynote.

Thompson addressed concerns about the ACS’s future in a blog post on his Director’s Blog at Census.

Data takes center stage in Washington DC

It’s been a busy week in data-related issues in Washington DC:

The Census Project looks at where Census FY2015 funding levels stand after the House Appropriations Committee markup last week. Terri Ann Lowenthal has broken out some of the numbers. The revised budget goes to the full House for a vote on May 28.

On Wednesday, May 7th, the House approved the Strengthening Education through Research Act (H.R. 4366), which “will reauthorize the Education Sciences Reform Act and improve the federal research structure to better provide states with access to useful data that can help raise student achievement levels in the classroom”. Among other things, the bill specifically reauthorizes the Institute of Education Sciences, which includes the National Center for Education Statistics and three other centers.

On May 9th, President Obama enacted the nation’s first open data law, The Digital Accountability and Transparency (DATA) Act of 2014. The DATA Act requires federal agencies to publish their spending data in a standardized, machine-readable format that the public can access through USASpending.gov. APDU will be hosting a webinar on Wednesday, May 28th, “What The New DATA Act Means for Data Users” as part of Public Data University’s Special Topics / 301 series.

On the same day as the DATA Act signing, the Administration issued its new US Open Data Action Plan, calling for agencies to solicit feedback from government data users to improve the quality of government data and prioritize its release to the public. Information Week examines the four actions aimed at advancing the usability of open government data. Outside DC, Nashville is latest city to join open data movement.

As cited in last week’s APDU Weekly, the White House released their report Big Data: Seizing Opportunities, Preserving Values. Here’s one take on reactions to the report and another take on why it matters.

Finally, the current draft of the Senate transportation bill “flat funds” the Bureau of Transportation Statistics through 2020. Back in March, APDU board member Steve Pierson from ASA took a look at the budget trends of the mid-size statistical agencies. BTS in particular has not seen a marked increase in the past decade.

Public data making the rounds in the media

As the appropriations process gears up on Capitol Hill, government officials, advocates, and journalists are making the case for preserving public data.

APDU Joins 100+ Orgs in Defense of ACS

Good news from the Hill: the move to re-introduce an unpopular bill in committee that would affect the Census Bureau’s American Community Survey has failed.

Late last week, word leaked that House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA) would present the bill for markup on Wednesday, March 12. Organized by The Census Project, APDU joined over 100 other organizations in a letter to the committee leadership urging the Census Bureau’s authorizing committee not to bring up the Poe bill, which would make ACS response voluntary, for a vote this week.

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