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Top Questions About the Survey

Every year, the U.S. Census Bureau contacts over 3.5 million households across the country to participate in the American Community Survey. When you respond to the survey, you are doing your part to ensure decisions about your community can be made using the best data available.

If your household was contacted by the Census Bureau and you would like to learn more about the American Community Survey, click on an item of interest below and view our short video.

We collect responses to the American Community Survey in four different ways: internet, mail, telephone, and in-person interviews. Learn more about the different response options available to you and how you can respond to the survey today.

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The American Community Survey is a legitimate survey conducted by the Census Bureau.

Unlike the every-10-year census, this survey continues all year, every year. We randomly sample addresses in every state, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico.

Answers are collected to create up-to-date statistics used by many federal, state, tribal, and local leaders. Some American Community Survey questions have been asked in the decennial census since it first began in 1790.

Do you want to verify that mail, phone calls or in-person interviews are legitimate?

If your household has been contacted to complete the American Community Survey and you would like to verify that this survey is legitimate, you can call toll-free 1-800-354-7271.

If someone has called you about the American Community Survey and you would like to verify that the phone call is legitimate, you can call one of our telephone centers directly:

  • Jeffersonville, IN: 1-800-523-3205
  • Tucson, AZ: 1-800-642-0469

If someone has visited your address, and you would like to verify that this visit is legitimate, you can call your Census Regional Office, and you can also confirm that he or she is a Census Bureau employee by entering his or her name into the Census Bureau Staff Search. Our field staff will always show a valid Census Bureau ID and a copy of the letter we sent you.

For more information, please see our recognition tips for phone calls and personal visits.

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If your address was selected for the American Community Survey, you are legally obligated to answer all the questions, as accurately as you can. The relevant laws are Title 18 U.S.C Section 3571 and Section 3559, which amends Title 13 U.S.C. Section 221.

Your answers are important. The American Community Survey is sent to a small percentage of our population on a rotating basis. As part of a sample, you represent many other people. Learn how you can respond to the survey today.

Why is the ACS required by law?

Response to the survey is required by law because the American Community Survey is part of the decennial census, replacing the "long form" that previously was sent to a percentage of households once every 10 years. Learn more about what would happen to the American Community Survey if it was not required.

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Your address was randomly selected through a process of scientific sampling and represents thousands of other households like yours. We randomly select about 3.5 million addresses each year to respond to the survey.

Can my address be removed?

An address may not be removed from the American Community Survey sample as the validity of the sample data would quickly deteriorate if selected households were exempted.

We try to keep the number of households in the sample as small as possible in order to limit the cost of the survey and reduce the impact on respondents. We also take steps to reduce the chance that a household will get the survey more than once in a 5-year period.

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Data from the American Community Survey helps your community. The information that the Census Bureau collects helps inform how trillions of dollars in federal funds are distributed each year. Through the ACS, we know more about jobs and occupations, educational attainment, veterans, whether people own or rent their home, and many other topics. Public officials, planners, and entrepreneurs use this information to assess the past and plan the future.

When you respond to the ACS, you are doing your part to help your community plan hospitals and schools, support school lunch programs, improve emergency services, build bridges, inform businesses looking to add jobs and expand to new markets, and more.

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Every question has a required purpose and many statistical uses. Results from the American Community Survey help federal agencies make data driven decisions. Visit our collection of why we ask webpages for details on why a specific question is included in the American Community Survey.

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The Census Bureau is legally bound to strict confidentiality requirements and we never reveal your identity to anybody else. When you respond to the American Community Survey, your individual records are not shared with anyone, including federal agencies and law enforcement entities. By law, the Census Bureau cannot share respondents' answers with anyone, -- not the IRS, not the FBI, not the CIA, and not with any other government agency.

All Census Bureau employees take an oath of nondisclosure and are sworn for life to protect all information that could identify individuals. Any employee who violates the provisions of the oath is subject to a fine up to $250,000 or a prison sentence up to 5 years, or both.

To protect your privacy, the American Community Survey NEVER asks for:

  • your Social Security number
  • your mother’s maiden name
  • your personal information through email
  • money or donations
  • credit card or bank account information

If a field representative comes to your home to help you complete the American Community Survey, he or she will ALWAYS have official Census ID. Learn more about how to identify a field representative.

We never reveal your identity to anybody else. When we process the information collected on the American Community Survey (ACS), individuals' names and other personal identifiers are deleted from the files used to tabulate these data. We do not maintain a national database with the names, addresses, and personal information collected by the ACS.

Additionally, we employ statistical methodologies to ensure that the statistics we release do not identify individuals or businesses. These methods include extensive review and analysis of all our data products, as well as disclosure avoidance methodologies (such as data suppression and modification) to screen out data that might identify a specific individual or business.

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To find answers to more frequently asked questions about responding to the American Community Survey, please visit our How to Respond – FAQs page.

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Information from the IRS are not as current as the information we collect. The Census Bureau uses data from other government agencies for research and evaluations to improve our surveys and censuses, reduce survey costs, respondent burden, and to better understand the information we are collecting. We also use this information to help develop estimates of the population between census years. The Census Bureau cannot rely solely on other agencies’ data instead of your responses for several reasons:

First, these data–called administrative records–do not contain the data for everyone.

Second, we cannot obtain all of the required data from administrative records.

Third, data may not be usable because of differences in collection periods or definitions.

We designed the ACS to provide up-to-date information for federal and state agencies. 

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Thank you for your time and effort. It makes a difference!

Page Last Revised - June 27, 2023
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