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A Quality Assessment of Data Collected in the American Community Survey (ACS) from Households with Low English Proficiency

Pamela D. McGovern



According to the results from the Census 2000 Supplementary Survey (C2SS), the foreign born population grew by 57 percent since 1990 and approximately 45 million people aged five years and older spoke a language other than English at home. Currently, there is little research investigating differences in data quality between English and non-English speaking households in the American Community Survey (ACS). To better understand if differences exist, this paper reports results from quantitative assessments of data collected from English and non-English speaking households in the ACS. This research addresses key questions about whether existing methods are resulting in the collection of incomplete data in the ACS due to language barriers.

The ACS is a new household survey that is being designed to produce timely demographic, socioeconomic, and housing data for the nation. Survey data are collected by mail, telephone, and personal visit methodologies providing varying degrees of language assistance. This research was undertaken to assess data quality for non-English speaking households by analyzing levels of item nonresponse. The research focuses on households that speak a language other than English with the lowest levels of English-speaking proficiency because we expect that these households face the greatest challenges in understanding and answering survey questions. Where appropriate, other related factors such as the demographic characteristics of the respondents are also examined.


Source: U.S. Census Bureau, Statistical Research Division

Created: 22-JUN-2004

Source: U.S. Census Bureau | Statistical Research Division | (301) 763-3215 (or |   Last Revised: October 08, 2010