Renewed Threats to the American Community Survey

by John Sides on April 24, 2013 · 29 comments

in Other social science,Public opinion

The bill is here, sponsored by Rep. Jeff Duncan (R-SC).  The key language:

Beginning on the date of the enactment of this Act, the Secretary of Commerce and the Bureau of the Census—

(1) are not authorized to carry out any activities with respect to—

(A) a census conducted under chapter 3, subchapter I or subchapter III of chapter 5, or section 141(d) of such title, as in effect on the day before the date of the enactment of this Act; or

(B) a survey (including the survey, conducted by the Secretary of Commerce, which is commonly referred to as the “American Community Survey’‘), sampling, or other questionnaire conducted under such title;

(2) shall terminate any activities being carried out with respect to any such census, survey, sampling, or questionnaire; and

(3) may only conduct the decennial census of population, as authorized under section 141 of title 13, United States Code.


This is not the first time this has been tried.  See Andrew R.’s post from 2012 and links therein.  Eliminating the ACS would be a real blow not only to social science but to many others, including private businesses, who use these data.

Hat tip to Ryan Enos and Kevin Collins.

{ 29 comments }

Nameless April 24, 2013 at 10:53 pm

Elimination of ACS is a small part of it. As I understand the language, it eliminates pretty much all census activity between decennial censuses, and it restricts decennial censuses to basic population counts (banning all other questions, from ancestry to income to the number of bathrooms.)

John Sides April 24, 2013 at 11:00 pm

Good point.

Sopater September 5, 2013 at 1:08 pm

Why is it even necessary to try and pass a law that says that the Federal government is limited to the powers delegated to it by the states in the US Constitution? That should be a given.

eric April 25, 2013 at 1:30 am

Somebody please remind me of the motivation behind this? It’s just maddening.

Dr. Skeep April 25, 2013 at 6:29 pm

Because they depend on a limited, language reality, Eric, authoritarian regimes necessarily attempt to inhibit information flow. Such regimes rely on absolutes and are threatened by conditionals, by analysis. Information flow promotes change, analysis, conditionality. The acquisition of additional data permits and encourages challenges to the subject status quo. In this nation, fundamentalist religions are the prime example. They tend to limit relevant/acceptable information to one source and discount new data. For these regimes, new information is negative by definition because it means looking at the reigning absolutes in a new way. The ACS is just one of many examples in our post-fact culture.

WhoWhatWhere April 26, 2013 at 8:55 am

You are 100% incorrect in your analysis. You are a useful idiot, who has an inverted (and perverted) sense of reality.

Authoritarian governments REQUIRE obedience – a submission to the demands of government. Authoritarian regimes require obedient sheeple to fill out its forms and return the information. If not filled out, authoritarians will send in the police to force you to do your obedient service to the government.

Authoritarian regimes set up governmental-business partnerships to pursue their statist/corporatist monopolies.

Conservatives are “liberal” – they seek freedom and a less intrusive government.
“Progressives” are the new authoritarians as they want to use the police to force people to give information to the statists.

What you seem to desire is technocratic totalitarianism, where everyone is data-driven, but towards a single goal. There is little value of freedom in your worldview, and therefore YOU are the authoritarian.

Alex May 8, 2013 at 9:06 pm

Conservatives only want freedom and less intrusive government when it benefits large corporations or fundamentalist religious groups. Progressives want freedom and less government when it benefits pretty much everyone else. Libertarians want both, but often make exceptions for conservative causes, like opposition to women’s rights, due to the fusion between libertarianism and conservatism in the U.S.

There will always be a trade off between liberty and government, unless you’re a pure anarchist or pure authoritarian. The question is merely how much and in what circumstances is it justified.

Jason May 17, 2013 at 12:54 am

Extremely stupid and stereotypical comment on Conservatives…reflection on your lack of knowledge??

Miles Eggimann May 28, 2013 at 2:31 pm

Correctomundo, Jason…Alex is an MSNBC robomoron, one of a class of millions of post-American Obamatrons who don’t know what they want (other than as much of our stuff transferred to them for free), but they are 100% sure what it is they HATE – they know, because their betters at the DNC, together with their fellow-travelers at the alphabet networks, America’s broadsheets and Hollywood have spelled it out with such unmistakeable clarity, nauseating frequency and ear-shattering volume.

Miles Eggimann May 28, 2013 at 2:40 pm

Hey Alex the Obamatron: would you deign to stoop briefly from the intellectual stratosphere which you habituate long enough to explain to the earthbound simpletons what, exactly, are those “women’s rights” which you claim that conservatives and libertarians have ganged up to deprive women of?
You wouldn’t be referring the rights of the tiny women who, before they are even allowed to be born, suffer the routine marginalization of their rights when their confused and misinformed mothers consent to have them ripped barbarically from their uteruses by abortionists with little or no training in “clinics” with all the hygiene of a prison sewer…do you mean those women;s rights?

Donna Cunningham August 19, 2013 at 5:17 pm

Honestly Miles Egghead it’s you that is misinformed and confused because you aren’t a Woman. Men have no right deciding what women do for their health. I’m sure if your daughter was raped or another family member had raped her you would change your view very quickly. Or maybe if they don’t abort they will die. Instead we’ll have young women getting back alley abortions or coat hanger abortions just like in the dark ages you seem to want to go back to. Your a man you know nothing about women or carrying a child. Of course your confused your an oppressor and oppression is ignorance, oh the fancy words don’t impress anyone except yourself.

John April 25, 2013 at 12:12 pm

For those of us of the questionable persuasion that letters to your legislators matter, I find Popvox to be the easiest way to contact them en masse.

Al May 22, 2013 at 9:39 pm

The ACS demands an incredible amount of detailed information that is otherwise prohibited for the government to collect inter privacy laws.

Dr. Skeep is an incredible moron: he assumes that if the government can’t collect your information, it somehow limits what information is in the public square and that benefits…the government? Tortured logic.

If big business wants your info, let them pay to collect it–voluntarily, without the threat of government sanction.

Rosey June 3, 2013 at 10:22 pm

Just today, an agent from the American Community Survey appeared at my door because I hadn’t completed and returned the form. He introduced himself by stating that he practically grew up in this house playing with the kids who lived here years ago and actually made a move that indicated he wanted to see the house. This is a small town, so who’s to say. Almost believable till I found out why he was standing in my living room. Basically I said, yeah, so you’re the guy they sent. I told him the questions were invasive. He wanted to know which ones, and I said since the survey was supposed to be random, the first one was my name, which shouldn’t matter at all. I then told him the questions and tactics were unconstitutional. He got psst and stormed out my front door. I’m sure they’ll send someone else by. Let them do what they will, I’m not answering their questions. The only question I’ll answer is how many live in my house. If they want to play, I’ll play along with a civil rights attorney.

Paco June 8, 2013 at 4:55 pm

If you haven’t taken the survey, then you have no idea what you are supporting. I assure you that if you were forced to answer these intrusive questions about your children and give details about “what time you are leaving for work”… You would be against this survey.

Anyone who has been subjected to answering these overly invasive questions will absolutely agree that this survey is very personal and not at all anonymous. If you have any doubt at all, look up the questions. I refuse. I will pay the fine first. In pennies with the news cameras running. I have found my cause if they try to force me.

Rosey June 9, 2013 at 7:59 am

This is the American Community Survey: http://www.census.gov/acs/www/Downloads/questionnaires/2013/Quest13.pdf

Oh, and here is your handy dandy guide for filling it out, complete with questions “you” ask and the self answered government responses:

http://www.census.gov/acs/www/Downloads/questionnaires/2013/Guide13.pdf

Before believing that it’s something for the benefit of the public, read this survey keeping in mind your Bill of Rights as a guideline as to whether these questions are intrusive. As soon as I looked through the questionnaire, the hairs on the back of my neck stood up. That prickly feeling that something wasn’t quite right here. These are questions my insurance agent didn’t ask just to insure my home.

They will tell you that, through this survey, they will have all the information necessary for guaranteeing government grants to your state and community. In actuality, it’s the job of your State and Counties to collect any information they need to qualify for these grants. Which I’d just as soon they not provide to the Feds anyway and let the people take care of their own communities.

But wait! That’s not all! This very personal, CONFIDENTIAL, information is shared with all of Corporate America in order to serve your needs better with the targeting of their products. Why is Corporate America not doing their own work and gathering their own information? Instead, Corporate America and the government are walking hand in hand using each other as a means of gathering sensitive and private information about every individual and the reason their giving you is that it’s for your good and your benefits.

Oh, and they want your NAME and Phone Number (so if you don’t fill it out right, they can further harass you for the information.)

So, what we really have here is the government gathering information about us and giving Corporate America a ride-along into your private life, all for the paltry sum of hmmmm . . . political and back patting donations.

Then, they (the government on their 27 page, 48 question form) will tell you how it’s against the law not to complete this form and that you can be fined up to $500 or $600. The government continues to make laws bypassing the Constitution, and to be quite honest, people today just don’t know when their civil liberties are being trashed. They just go along, like good little doobies, because after all, it “for our own good” and “they’re just trying to help everyone”.

Here are your liberties by way of the Bill of Rights, that are being infringed upon by forcing you to fill out and return this questionnaire:

The Fourth Amendment Article [IV]

“The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.”

They will say that this questionnaire falls under the guidelines for the Decennial Census which is mailed out every 10 years in years ending with a “0″. The American Community Survey is not a decennial census, which only counts the movement of the population in order to ascertain tax monies received from Federal revenue. 10 Yr Decennial Census is the only one necessary for this purpose. They do not need to know how many rooms in your house or what time you leave for work, or YOUR NAME.

In actuality, this census does not fall under, nor is it protected by the laws governing the decennial census. The government has and is making up laws with the mere swipe of a pen that erode the rights of the people as put forth in the United States Constitution Bill of Rights.

It is time that the American people were given a shake to wake up before our Constitution and Rights are abolished forever. Stop being a sheeple. Know what your rights are. And stop giving them away to the government by way of complacency.

Midnight June 9, 2013 at 2:05 pm

I agree wholeheartedly!! I figured I would fill it out, but as I got started the questions became more & more intrusive. The whole reason for the survey is knowing family makeup, family income, whether you use mass transit ( Hell no!!). These bastards have access to all of this information already. I think I’m going to fight it also!

Lori Dremel June 12, 2013 at 7:50 pm

I fully support efforts to get rid of this horrible invasion of privacy. This thing is sent randomly to people, including the elderly and mentally incompetent. It is an invasion of privacy, unconstitutional, and serves only to gather data for the furthering of an agenda that seems bent on spying and targeting people. If one doesn’t answer, they are fined or thrown in jail. Now that just isn’t right now matter how one looks at it. How can you justify it for “social science” !!!! You are insane!

Rosey June 12, 2013 at 8:08 pm

I truly hope more and more people read this thread. For all out there who are skeptical about people against this survey, I urge and encourage you to download your copy from the above link and look for yourself.

I’ve just recently had my second visit from a second agent who warned me that I could be fined umpteen $$$. I just said, well then, then I’ll just have to get myself a civil liberties attorney and hope for some notoriety for us both, Or, y’all can randomly select someone who doesn’t care about their civil liberties or know when they’re being violated. In the end, I knew more about the agent than he/she knew about me. It was a pretty nice visit and I told her to have a nice day. ;)

Srara June 15, 2013 at 4:08 pm

all that is “legally” required is how many people (sheeple) lving in the home. thats it.

all this intrusive, invasive gestapo type questions and questions and questions–just ask the japanese what those census bureaus did that “private” info in WWII.

let the clueless sheeple give away private info. NOT us.

R. July 22, 2013 at 12:03 pm

Thank you all for your comments. I was getting nervous about how to handle my ACS package that I received in the mail. I think that the ACS questions are not related to the main topic of the decennial census, which is a count of the population. The ACS questions are invasive and intrusive and, to my understanding, not really legal! Thank you all!

Carl Roberts August 15, 2013 at 3:02 am

Just Imagine a government without any information on its citizens. Imagine that all the decisions your government make is based mostly on what they think might be going on. Imagine they spend you hard earned tax money on what corporations want them to spend it on (not like they don’t do this already but I’m being cynical) without any hard facts to back their decisions.
Imagine not knowing how many people have to drive to work every morning and if it takes them a reasonable amount of time to get to work. Imagine if they build a highway in the middle of nowhere simply because they think that is where the traffic combustion is. Imagine if they did not know how many disable veterans moved from California to Arizona and lost their VA benefits because of bureaucratic loopholes.
Just imagine depending on information gathered ten years ago before smartphones tablets and how would you know if the recession is getting better simply by what you think is happening.
If you have an ounce of brain and know that things don’t magically happen and that every good public project depends on smart people with reliable information you might want to work to improve the Census data gathering mechanism not eliminate it.

Rosey August 19, 2013 at 5:54 pm

For cryin’ out loud. Grow up and get a grip. That’s what they make those machines for they sit on the side of the road with the rubber hose stretched across with clocks inside. They’re called traffic monitors. And all that information in that form is shared with Corporate America for them to decide where to aim all those expensive ads. There are better places for my tax money to go. Corporate America can do their own work instead of paying some agent $18.00 an hour to yap at my door and take 1 1/2 hour lunch breaks. Everything she needs to know is at the courthouse, so she should just do her blinkin’ job without infringing on my rights in my home. And I’m pretty sure that with all the bar codes on all the merchandise out there they can figure out where their target public is at the price they charge for everything, instead of taking it out of my tax money through government worker wages. And that poor excuse of a president doesn’t need to know how many times I flush my toilet or how many of them I have

The VA knows where their disabled VETs are at, cause they all get a disability check. Get a brain.

E Rogers August 22, 2013 at 10:22 pm

Sure Rosey u seem to the smartest person on earth you and your overly aggressive attitude towards government employees im sure their job is a walk in the park dealing with ignorant assholes like yourself.

Rosey September 18, 2013 at 11:46 pm

Ignorant assholes like myself have actually worked for the government and are very aware of their information acquiring techniques. If you think the Government doesn’t know where everyone is, you’r very mistaken. What the hell do you think your SS number is for? Get educated about what’s really going on. Help and resources are readily available and there are people out there willing to provide you with links for information. First, do the research, then criticize. Your remark is empty of any research or knowledge. Don’t be a Troll.

Donna August 19, 2013 at 5:29 pm

The only organization I can think of right now is NSA. More invasion of our privacy and our rights.

Vicki September 18, 2013 at 11:04 pm

After Wikileaks and NSA’s Snowden, the government cannot guarantee this information will remain private, though accompanying literature states that the employees have taken an oath to ensure your privacy. If the government would like the information, it can be obtained by energetic government employees (now that’s an oxymoron) doing research, instead of utilizing the workforce to print, mail and harass people to complete this survey, utilize the same workforce to do the research. Manufacturers can be contacted regarding the sales of computers, cell phones, etc. to geographic areas. Cable companies can be contacted regarding internet access. The County Property Appraiser’s Internet sight can be utilized for information on properties in the area. Insurance companies can also be contacted to obtain information regarding the going rates in an area. Doctors can also be contacted for a head count of physically challenged people that may need funding for transportation. And I’m sure the good old IRS has all sort of demographic reports compiled from our returns. Most of this information can be obtained and represented without attaching it to an individual’s name, his address, phone number and age. I guess common sense is not a requirement for making decisions like these.
It is my belief that the American population in general has become too complacent when it comes to sharing their personal information and does not scrutinize government propaganda. This is what they call “Critical Thinking”, unfortunately it is discouraged in most of our educational institutions. It is much easier to manage a group if they are all like minded. As I stated, this information can be obtained for geographic areas without having a name attached to it. It should be more efficient and less time consuming to work with the Corporations and Agencies who have these reports on file, than compiling all this information from hundreds of thousands of individual forms at a time.

Rosey September 19, 2013 at 12:09 am

The largest organization to date, next to NSA is the medical society. It links every single person to every single other information seeking entity. Obamacare medical records requirements now link all your information and personal data to every other government organization via your SS number on file. Every time you answer a questionnaire seeking non medical personal information, in your Dr’s office, it is reported to the national security database (Homeland Security) via your insurance carrier. Questions like, “Are you depressed”, “Do you feel suicidal”, “Do you sometimes feel like harming other”, etc., — “Do you own a gun”, are all reported to Homeland Security. If you have a gun, or a license to carry, it will all be revoked, depending on your answers to various questions, no matter how light or temporary the nature of your need for any counseling. Our returning Veterans are currently being stripped of their rights due to their combat experience.

By the way, just for the record, as an “energetic” government employee, I never failed to do my job and get my job done. As a tax paying worker, I figure I was just paying myself. I take offense at being labeled and referred to as lazy. If nothing else, I did the job of others that were. Please stop labeling every government worker with your own versions of lackadaisical behavior. I worked two jobs to support my kids and I am not an oxymoron. I helped others to obtain that which was there’s by right and to keep American Citizens safe on the streets.

Vicki September 19, 2013 at 11:04 am

Obamacare…another government vehicle looking to delve into your personal lives. That does not make this survey any less intrusive. When it comes to the service, I am from the Viet Nam War era, so am well versed in returning veterans and abuse, that is the few that did return.
As for government workers, I managed the Social Security Office, so am also well versed in what I refer to as an oxymoron.

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