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Edward J. Welniak Jr., Amanda R. Noss, Kirby G. Posey
Component ID: #ti1811693861

Test Objective

In late August through mid-December 2010, the Census Bureau conducted a field test of new and revised content in the 2010 American Community Survey (ACS) Content Test. The results of that testing will help determine the content to be incorporated into the ACS in 2013.

Research shows that the receipt of cash public assistance (PA) or welfare in the ACS is much lower than administrative counts (see Lynch et. al., 2008). Program eligibility can vary by household structure and depends on the presence of children and householder. Participation can also be sporadic throughout the year. Researchers believe that the ACS question does not make it clear to the respondent that they should include participation on behalf of children or that they should report even single month participation in a cash PA program.


There were unfavorable results in terms of higher item missing data rates for amounts and higher net difference rates for recipiency for Hispanics. Despite some other positive results, these two unfavorable results were in opposition to the original intent of the question change and the goal of obtaining more recipiency was not met.

Based on the test results, it was apparent there were no clear advantages to changing the cash public assistance question. It is recommended that the public assistance question remain as currently asked and continue to be asked the same in all modes (CATI, CAPI and mail).

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