Wednesday, May 16, 2012

House votes to de-fund American Community Survey as tea-party forces raise privacy issue

Last week the U.S. House, with the votes of most Republicans and four Democrats, passed an amendment to cease funding the Census Bureau's American Community Survey. The survey is a continuous update of American's economic, demographic and housing data, as described by homeowners, and, explains The New York Times, "is widely considered a vital tool for business decision makers." In 2006, the Republican-led House touted the ACS program as good for business and communities, yet now sees it as "an unconstitutional breach of privacy." It's an example of the influence of the tea party, which sent dozens of Republicans to the House in 2010.

The Washington Post notes, "The decennial census paints a portrait of the country only in very broad strokes — and only every 10 years, at that. Information from the survey generates data that help determine how more than $400 billion in federal and state funds are distributed each year, according to the Census Bureau." UPDATE, May 22: "It is unclear what data the federal government would use to allocate billions in grant money, if the survey is discontinued," Christine Vestal of Stateline reports.

In rural counties, a 2009 Census Bureau report explained, a consortium of human services agencies use ACS data on age, poverty, disability and access to transportation to examine issues of health, aging and rural poverty. They use ACS data to compete for a variety of human services grants and loans. Local public health departments can use the data -- age, race/ethnicity, poverty, education level of parents and single parents) as key indicators of populations at risk for diabetes and asthma. They can help target education and intervention programs through community organizations and school systems. The data can also help evaluate the need and supply of affordable housing.

1 comment:

DEM said...

We use ACS data to plan investments in community transportation in a rural region in Upstate NY. Over time, we will use ACS to measure the impact of new mobility services on how people commute to work. I guess the House majority disapproves of market research using timely & convenient public sector data to develop public & private services.