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Summary of Results - Housing Questions

New and Modified Content on the 2008 ACS Questionnaire: Results of Testing Prior to Implementation

Housing Questions


Year Built (Housing Question 2)

The primary objective of the 2006 ACS Content Test work on year built was to facilitate the collection of more current data throughout the decade for units built in 2000 or later. The 2006 ACS Content Test compared two versions of the year built question. The control version replicated the 2006 ACS question. The test version modified the year built question by collapsing "2000 to 2004 " and "2005 or later" into "2000 or later " and adding a write-in field and instruction "Specify year" as the most recent category.

The 2006 ACS Content Test findings showed no significant differences in overall question item nonresponse rates between the control and test versions. However, among the respondents who indicated built in the year 2000 or later on the test version, approximately 12 percent did not provide a specific year of construction. The overall distribution for year built was not significantly different between the control and test panels.

Rooms (Housing Question 7a)

The primary objectives of the 2006 ACS Content Test work on number of rooms were to provide a definition of a "separate room" and to improve the respondent's understanding that rooms and bedrooms are related; that is, that "bedrooms" is a subset of "total rooms," especially in the case of an efficiency apartment which has only one room and no bedroom. In other words, the number of bedrooms should always be less than or equal to the total number of rooms. The analyses of the results from the Census 2000 and the ACS mail questionnaires suggested that there were inconsistencies between the counts of rooms and bedrooms.

The 2006 ACS Content Test compared two versions of the rooms and bedrooms question set. The control version replicated the 2006 ACS question. The test version modified the question on total number of rooms by

  • adding the word "separate" to the question,
  • adding the instruction that defines a "room,"
  • adding an instruction to include bedrooms and kitchens in the count of rooms,
  • modifying the exclusionary instruction by removing the "half-room" concept and adding the phrase "unfinished basements," and
  • using an open-ended write-in field rather than categories.

The 2006 ACS Content Test findings showed that changes to the questions reduced underreporting of rooms and improved consistency between rooms and bedrooms while maintaining the item response rate.

Bedrooms (Housing Question 7b)

The primary objectives of the 2006 ACS Content Test work on number of bedrooms were to provide a definition of a "separate room" and to improve the respondent's understanding that rooms and bedrooms are related; that is, that "bedrooms" is a subset of "total rooms," especially in the case of an efficiency apartment which has only one room and no bedroom. In other words, the number of bedrooms should always be less than or equal to the total number of rooms. The analyses of the results from the Census 2000 and the ACS mail questionnaires suggested that there were inconsistencies between the counts of rooms and bedrooms.

The 2006 ACS Content Test compared two versions of the rooms and bedrooms question set. The control version replicated the 2006 ACS question. The test version modified the question on number of bedrooms by

  • adding language that explicitly links the total count of rooms and the count of bedrooms,
  • providing the rule to use for defining a bedroom as part of the instruction,
  • providing instructions for efficiency/studio apartments, and
  • using an open-ended write-in field rather than categories.

The 2006 ACS Content Test findings showed that changes to the questions increased reporting of "0" bedrooms and improved consistency between rooms and bedrooms while maintaining the item response rate.

Plumbing Facilities (Housing Questions 8a-8c)

The primary objective of the 2006 ACS Content Test work on plumbing facilities was to improve questions about household facilities, in order to identify specific components of plumbing needed for editing purposes, particularly for vacant units. These data will also be useful for evaluating the quality of housing in Puerto Rico and certain areas within the United States. Another objective was to improve the underreporting of complete plumbing facilities.

The 2006 ACS Content Test compared two versions of the plumbing questions. The control version replicated the 2006 ACS questions. The test version modified the questions by breaking out the specific components into three "yes/no" questions and modernizing the language (e.g. replaced "piped water" with "running water.")

The 2006 ACS Content Test findings showed that the test and control versions had similar percentages of complete/incomplete plumbing facilities and item nonresponse rates, and that editing of the plumbing items will be greatly enhanced. The new component approach allows housing analysts to evaluate the relationship between substandard housing and individual components of plumbing facilities in the United States and Puerto Rico.

Kitchen Facilities (Housing Questions 8d-8f)

The primary objective of the 2006 ACS Content Test work on kitchen facilities was to improve questions about household facilities in order to identify specific components of kitchen facilities needed for editing purposes, particularly for vacant units. These data will also be useful for evaluating the quality of housing in Puerto Rico and certain areas within the United States. Another objective was to improve the underreporting of complete kitchen facilities.

The 2006 ACS Content Test compared two versions of the kitchen facilities question. The control version replicated the 2006 ACS question. The test version modified the questions by breaking out the specific components into three "yes/no" questions and modernized the language (e.g. replaced "a sink with piped water" with "a sink with a faucet.")

The 2006 ACS Content Test findings showed that the test and control versions had similar percentages of complete/incomplete kitchen facilities and item nonresponse rates, and that editing of the kitchen facilities items will be greatly enhanced. The new component approach allows us to investigate whether vacant units that only lack refrigerators should be classified as lacking complete kitchen facilities. This approach will also allow housing analysts to evaluate the relationship between substandard housing and individual components of kitchen facilities in the United States and Puerto Rico.

Telephone Service Available (Housing Question 8g)

The primary objective of the 2006 ACS Content Test work on telephone service available was to improve questions about household facilities, in order to identify specific components of telephone service availability needed for editing purposes, particularly for vacant units. These data will also be useful for evaluating the quality of housing in Puerto Rico and certain areas within the United States. Another objective was to improve the underreporting of telephone service.

The 2006 ACS Content Test compared two versions of the telephone service question. The control version replicated the 2006 ACS question. The test version of the question changed the phrase from "Is there telephone service available in this house..." to "Does this house,... have telephone service..." Also, an instruction "Include cell phones" was added.

The 2006 ACS Content Test findings showed no significant difference in item nonresponse rates between the test and control versions. Also, the percent of households with telephone service availability for the test version was higher than the percent for the control version. Overall, the results showed that the changes introduced in the test version reduced the proportion of occupied units reporting no telephone service availability when compared with the control version.

Food Stamp Benefits (Housing Question 12)

The primary objective of the 2006 ACS Content Test work on food stamp benefits was to reduce the underreporting of the receipt of food stamps. The 2006 ACS Content Test compared two versions of the food stamps question. The control version replicated the 2006 ACS question. The test version changed the wording of the food stamp question to more closely reflect the wording asked in the Current Population Survey, Annual Social and Economic Supplement (CPS ASEC). The test question was changed to include the additional phrase, "or a food stamp benefit card." Also, the question on the dollar value of food stamps for the prior 12 months was removed since there is no legislative mandate that requires collecting the dollar amount of food stamp benefits received.

The 2006 ACS Content Test findings showed that modifying the wording of the food stamps question, as well as not asking about the value of the amount of food stamps received, increased the proportion of households that reported receiving food stamps. The findings also showed no significant difference in item nonresponse rates between the test and control versions.

Value (Housing Question 16)

The primary objective of the 2006 ACS Content Test work on property value was to introduce more precision to the value distribution. Economists and housing analysts at the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) had encountered considerable difficulty using the bracketed data. The 2006 ACS Content Test compared two versions of the property value question. The control version was not exactly the same as the questionnaire used in 2006 ACS production. Instead, it had updated response categories that incorporated more high-end categories than were shown on the ACS production questionnaire, and it eliminated the open-ended category for those who indicated a value of "$250,000 or more." The test version revised the question wording by adding the word "About" to the beginning of the question and used an open-ended write-in field rather than categories.

The 2006 ACS Content Test findings showed a higher item nonresponse rate for the test version than for the control version for owner-occupied units. There was no significant difference in nonresponse rates for owner-occupied mobile homes. The median values were similar for the ACS test and control versions. The national median was also similar to the median property value from the 2005 American Housing Survey. Even with the higher item nonresponse rates, the test version allows the collection of more precise data, which serves the need of HUD, the major Federal user of housing statistics.


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Source: U.S. Census Bureau | American Community Survey Office | Email ACS | Last Revised: December 04, 2014
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