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ACS Multi-Year Estimates: Impact on State and Federal Programs

Warren Brown, Robert Scardamalia
Component ID: #ti858717140


The objective of this paper is to evaluate the use of American Community Survey results in legislative threshold based state programs. Federal and state legislation and regulations require the use of census data for the determination of eligibility, formula funding, identification of need, and performance evaluation. Traditional long form census data have been used for many of these programs, explicitly and implicitly. In order for the American Community Survey to replace the long-form data it must stand up to the various uses to which census long form data have traditionally been applied.

Language plays an important part in such legislation as program authors don't always refer to census data with technical accuracy. Terms such as "the most recent census data", "current poverty level", "distressed census tracts" are used in program language.i Such use opens the door to a variety of interpretations as to the most appropriate data to be used. This research attempts to evaluate the impact of ACS results on a specific economic development program in the State of New York. However, it should be viewed as an alert to state legislatures and Congress to review existing statutes and reevaluate the appropriateness of their language in a world of American Community Survey data.  

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