SE’s Andrew Beveridge Defends the American Community Survey Against the Politicians Who Want to Kill It (in the Gotham Gazette) by Sydney Beveridge
Amidst the usual partisan wranglings in congress, a movement has emerged to end the American Community Survey, the annual detailed data collected by the Census Bureau from a sample of households across the nation.
In his latest Demographics column for the Gotham Gazette “The Attempt to Kill the ACS: Its Implications for New York City,” Social Explorer’s Andrew Beveridge details this proposal and what it could mean for policy makers, researchers, and the public.
Today, the American Community Survey is used across the country by researchers, businesses and policymakers. Almost anything that a person would want to know about the population of the U.S. – from income to disability – can be found from a review of the data.
For New York City or, for that matter, any community across the country, the ACS is a critical tool for understanding demographic change down to the neighborhood level.
Given its importance, then, it might come as a bit of a surprise that the Republican majority in Congress wants to get rid of the ACS – and has even put forward an amendment to do so – arguing that it represents an unconstitutional invasion of privacy.
Beveridge questions the validity of the privacy concerns, discusses the legal mandates behind the survey, and describes a few of its many uses. He goes on to defend the ACS:
But forget about knowing all that if policymakers do away with the ACS. Politicians and researchers will know a whole lot less about who resides in the country, how they are faring and how the country is changing.
This may be the way the GOP House Majority would prefer it – so that politicians and commentators can make their appeals based upon opinion with no chance of contradiction or fact-checking. Of course, they point to cost-saving to tax payers and its supposed impact on privacy.
But the ACS’s demise will deprive the city and the nation of a major source of important information that researchers have relied on for decades.
It would be like asking astronomers to do astronomy without telescopes and physicians and biologists to work without microscopes.