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Researching Administrative Record Usage for ACS Income Question

Amy O'Hara, Adam Bee, and Joshua Mitchell

As detailed in the report, “Agility in Action: A Snapshot of Enhancements to the American Community Survey” (Census Bureau, 2015), the Census Bureau is investigating ways to reduce the difficulty and length of the American Community Survey (ACS) using administrative records to address the burden survey participation places on respondents. One of the questions we are investigating is the ACS income question. This research will begin the determination of whether there are administrative record sources with data of sufficient coverage and quality that would allow parts of the income question on the ACS to be removed. Alternatively, we may find that there are administrative record sources sufficient only to serve as a supplement to data provided by respondents to fill in missing responses or to enhance editing routines. A Census Bureau team will use this report and conduct additional research to make recommendations on whether each question is a good candidate for removal with the use of external data sources in its place.

This report explores coverage of Internal Revenue Service (IRS) income data for ACS respondents. Among ACS respondents aged 15 and older, 94.3 percent have sufficient identifying information to allow linkage to administrative records. Eighty-eight percent of linkable respondents aged 18 to 64 have at least one of the eight common types of IRS information returns that are currently available to the Census Bureau. Of those 65 and older, 98 percent have an information return.


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