Cross-post, U.S. Census Bureau's Director's Blog by John H. Thompson
Every month of every year, and in every county across the nation, a relatively small number of households receive notice that they have been randomly selected to receive the Census Bureau’s American Community Survey.
The American Community Survey, or ACS, is the lesser known part of the every-ten-year census. To produce more timely statistics between census years, the former “census long form” questions were moved to this rolling survey format after the 2000 Census.
Many of the detailed socio-economic and housing questions on the American Community Survey can trace their genesis back to the 19th century, some even earlier. James Madison, Father of the Constitution and fourth U.S. president, ensured that the Constitution authorized Congress to include questions in the census that provided the level of detail needed to effectively govern the new country.
“In order to accommodate our laws to the real situation of our constituents,” he explained, “we ought to be acquainted with that situation.”
Today, the American Community Survey provides the objective basis for the distribution of more than $400 billion in federal programming decisions. ACS statistics are used by all communities to more clearly plan for investments and services.
Quality ACS statistics are dependent on the participation of all households in the survey. The survey takes time to fill out, with more than 70 questions on dozens of topics.