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Why am I in a Survey?

Component ID: #ti1359583740

  1. I thought that the Census Bureau operated only every ten years when it counted people. What is the Census Bureau doing now?
  2. Why was I selected?
  3. You were here two years ago. Why are you coming back?
  4. How do you protect my privacy?
  5. Is the American Housing Survey legitimate?
  6. What is the legal authority behind the American Housing Survey?
  7. How do I verify that the phone call or visit is legitimate?
  8. Why should I participate?
  9. How can I respond to the survey or get help?
  10. How long will it take?


I thought that the Census Bureau operated only every ten years when it counted people. What is the Census Bureau doing now? back to top

Besides the decennial census, which is conducted every ten years, the Census Bureau collects many different kinds of data through other censuses and surveys. The Census Bureau conducts other censuses regularly, including censuses of business and manufacturers and censuses of state and local governments. In addition, data is collected on a monthly basis to provide current information on such topics as unemployment rates, retail and wholesale trade, various manufacturing activities, and new housing construction, as well as yearly surveys on business, manufacturing, governments, family income, health, and education. Because the Census Bureau has vast experience in data collection and processing, it also conducts surveys for many other agencies, including the Department of Housing and Urban Development, the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the National Center for Education Statistics, the National Science Foundation, and many more.

Why was I selected? back to top

The Census Bureau chose your address, not you personally, from a scientifically selected sample of addresses from a list of ALL the residential addresses in the country. Only a sample is selected because interviewing every address in the country would cost too much and take too long. Additionally, addresses from several metropolitan areas are randomly chosen for participation to supplement the national sample.

You were here two years ago. Why are you coming back? back to top

The AHS is a longitudinal housing unit survey, which means it re-interviews the same housing units every other year to gather data. Census Bureau field representatives return to obtain a measure of the changes (or lack of changes) that have taken place in the number of houses available in the United States, the physical condition of the housing, and the characteristics of the occupants. As a result, a field representative may contact this address again in a few years. If you should move away, the new occupants would be interviewed.

How do you protect my privacy? back to top

The Census Bureau is legally bound to strict confidentiality requirements. Individual records are not shared with anyone, including other federal agencies or 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 federal, state, or local government agency.

All Census Bureau employees take an oath of nondisclosure and are sworn for life to protect all information that could identify individuals. Disclosing ANY information that could identify you or your family means 5 years in prison, or $250,000 in fines, or both.

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

  • your Social Security number
  • your personal information via email
  • money or donations
  • credit card information

If you have received a letter requesting you to participate in the survey, a Census Bureau field representative will be contacting you to help complete the survey. He or she will always show you an official Census ID or provide you with his or her name and interviewer code to confirm employment with the Census Bureau.

We never reveal your identity to anybody else. Ever.

All information that individuals give to the Census Bureau is held in the strictest confidence by law (Title 13, U.S.C., Section 9). Although there are no penalties for not answering, each missing answer makes the national figures on housing less accurate. Your answers may be combined with information that you give to other agencies to enhance the statistical use of these data, but all data will be kept strictly confidential. If you wish to request that your information not be combined with information from other agencies, we ask that you notify the field representative at the time of the interview.

Is the American Housing Survey legitimate? back to top

Yes. The American Housing Survey is legitimate. It is a survey sponsored by the Department of Housing and Urban Development and conducted by the U.S. Census Bureau.

Besides the decennial census, which is conducted every ten years, the Census Bureau also collects many different kinds of statistics through other censuses and surveys, on topics such as manufacturing, governments, family income, health, education, unemployment, retail and wholesale trade, and housing. Unlike the 10-year census, the American Housing Survey is conducted every other year. The first AHS was conducted in 1973, under the name of the Annual Housing Survey. Per its name, the survey was conducted on an annual basis from 1973 to 1981, visiting the same housing units year after year. After that, it became biennial, therefore changing names to the American Housing Survey.

What is the legal authority behind the American Housing Survey? back to top

Congress requires the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) to collect this information under the Housing and Urban-Rural Recovery Act of 1983 (Title 12 of the United States Code (U.S.C.), Section 1701z-1, 1701z-2(g), and 1701z-10a. HUD has asked the Census Bureau to conduct the survey. The Census Bureau has the authority to collect and protect this information under Title 13 of the U.S.C., Section 8. All information that individuals give to the Census Bureau is held in the strictest confidence by law (Title 13, U.S.C., Section 9). Although there are no penalties for not answering, each missing answer makes the national figures on housing less accurate.

How do I verify that the phone call or visit is legitimate? back to top

When contacted about the American Housing Survey, a field representative will always show you an official identification card or provide you with his or her name and interviewer code to confirm employment with the Census Bureau. To verify that the phone call or visit is legitimate, please call your Census Bureau regional office and give them the name and/or interviewer code. You can find contact information for your region at www.census.gov/about/regions.html.

Why should I participate? back to top

The data obtained about your residence and household have helped to provide valuable information about the past, current, and future housing needs of the people in the United States.

Because of your cooperation and the cooperation of others, the Census Bureau is able to provide information that will aid the government in planning to meet the housing needs of the people in the United States.

Your answers not only represent your household but thousands of others like yours. The Census Bureau will combine your answers with answers obtained from the other households to produce collective housing information at the national and metropolitan levels. For this reason, your cooperation in this voluntary survey will provide a distinct service to our country. You may decline to answer any or all questions, but each item not answered lessens the quality of the final results. The Census Bureau field representatives need to interview every home in the survey sample to get a complete picture of the housing situation across the country. Your information will be held in the strictest confidence as required by Title 13, Section 9, of the United States Code. Your information will be used for statistical purposes only.

For new respondents, thank you for your time and effort. Your contribution makes a difference!

If this is not the first time you have participated in the American Housing Survey, please accept our gratitude for being a dependable and reliable source of information through the years.

How can I respond to the survey or get help? back to top

A Census Bureau field representative will contact you to help complete the survey. You can respond in one of the following ways:

  • By phone
  • In-person interview

As noted in the letter you received requesting your participation, a Census Bureau field representative will be contacting you to help complete the survey. He or she will show you an official identification card or provide you with his or her name and interviewer code to confirm employment with the Census Bureau. The field representative will ask you questions about your home and household. Some of the items covered include the number of rooms, heating and cooling equipment, and the cost of housing. If you received the letter, you will also notice an enclosed work sheet. Please complete it in advance and keep it until the field representative contacts you. It will help you answer some of the survey questions more easily.

How long will it take? back to top

It will likely take about 45 minutes for you to provide the survey information, but it may be somewhat shorter or longer, depending on your circumstances. If you have any comments on this survey or have recommendations for reducing its length, please send them to the Director, Housing and Demographic Analysis Division, Office of Policy Development and Research, Office of Economic Affairs, Department of Housing and Urban Development, Washington, DC 20410. The Office of Management and Budget (OMB) control number for this survey is 2528-0017. This number confirms that the Census Bureau and HUD have approval from OMB to conduct this survey. Approval for this survey expires on May 31, 2014.

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