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2016-2020 American Community Survey 5-year estimates are now available, including the Public Use Microdata Sample (PUMS) Files and Variance Replicate Estimate (VRE) Tables.

Content Review FAQs

What is the American Community Survey Content Review?

The American Community Survey (ACS) Content Review is a process to ensure that topics and questions on the survey produce the highest quality data with the least burden to the public. The 2014 ACS Content Review is independent of previous reviews conducted by the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) and the Census Bureau.

Why is this review taking place now?

The American Community Survey (ACS), launched in 2005, is the long form of the census, which is now asked each year. In December of 2010, five years after its launch, the American Community Survey (ACS) program accomplished all of its primary objectives with the release of its first set of estimates for every area of the nation. As a result, the Director of the Census Bureau concluded it was an appropriate time to conduct a comprehensive assessment of the ACS program, including an initiative to examine and confirm the value of each question on the ACS.

Previous formal efforts to solicit feedback from federal agencies regarding the justifications for questions they sponsor on the ACS did not provide the level of detailed information needed to demonstrate why an agency's questions should be included. Also, there have been concerns from respondents themselves or from their congressional representatives that a few of the survey questions are perceived as sensitive, intrusive, or require too much effort to provide a response. These factors, combined with concerns of Congress and the Department of Commerce (DOC) about the issue of respondent burden, have led to a need to review the justifications for ACS questions in more detail.

How and when will this review will be implemented?

Throughout 2014, the Census Bureau will review every question on the ACS questionnaire and make recommendations regarding the findings to OMB. The first phase of this project collects and incorporates information from federal agencies and applies evaluation criteria developed by the OMB Interagency Council on Statistical Policy (ICSP) Sub-Committee for the American Community Survey (ACS).

As this information is collected and analyzed, the Census Bureau is analyzing information from a survey of field representatives, and examining internal information about the estimates and respondent burden. The results of this analysis inform recommendations about which questions could be retained in their current form, which could be removed from the survey, and which could be candidates for further research. These recommendations will be published in a Federal Register notice this October.

In addition to federal agencies and their stakeholders, who else is involved in the content review?

The Census Bureau has received input from a special working group of the Census Bureau's National Advisory Committee on Racial, Ethnic, and Other Populations (NAC) convened especially for this effort. Additionally, over 900 data users submitted feedback via an online feedback form on the Content Review page.

What questions pose the most concern for the Census Bureau? Why isn't the Census Bureau focused on those questions rather than subjecting all the ACS questions to a review using content review criteria?

The Census Bureau has evidence based on letters, e-mail messages, and phone calls that approximately a half dozen American Community Survey (ACS) questions are especially sensitive for respondents. Those questions will be considered a priority for elimination if their inclusion on the ACS cannot be justified as part of the content review, or if plans cannot be developed to test alternative wording for these questions. However, to systematically identify and measure the burden of ACS questions, a more robust methodology is being used that subjects all questions to the same review metrics. These criteria were developed to address the need for a consistent measurement of burden across all ACS questions in the context of the overall benefits of a question to federal agencies.

What is the schedule for providing the information being sought as part of the Content Review? What if my federal agency is not able to meet the deadlines for participating and submitting documentation?

The Census Bureau's recommendations will be published in a Federal Register notice this October. The next phase of this project will consider responses to the Federal Register notice, research findings, input from data users and stakeholders, and the availability and viability of alternative sources of these estimates. The resulting recommendations will be presented to Congress and submitted to OMB in early 2015. Assuming a final determination is received from OMB by June, use of the modified ACS questionnaire will begin in January 2016.

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