A Worthy Cause Brings Together Strange Bedfellows

What do these groups have in common?

  • The American Public Health Association and the International Council of Shopping Centers
  • The National Alliance to End Homelessness and the Mortgage Bankers Association
  • The U.S. Conference of Mayors and the League of American Bicyclists
  • The National Urban League and Stand Up for Rural America

They, along with Kentucky Youth Advocates and more than 550 other national, state and local organizations, are advocating for the American Community Survey to be protected from elimination.

If you don’t regularly work with data, you are probably wondering what this survey is. Lawmakers created the American Community Survey (ACS) because Congress wanted fewer questions asked of every resident in the United States during the Decennial Census. They also recognized the need for detailed data on the population and wanted it more than just once every decade. The result was the ACS, which surveys millions of households every year and collects information on demographics, housing and socioeconomic status.

What makes the ACS so important is the fact that it is the ONLY annual source for this comprehensive data about Americans. ACS data is used by governments to decide how to efficiently and effectively distribute more than $400 billion in federal and state funds, by businesses to make decisions about where to operate and what to sell, and by communities to discover community needs and make decisions on local programs and services.

ACS data is particularly important to Kentucky, because it provides us with data for even our least populated counties. Due to the number of years the ACS has been in existence, and its ongoing data collection process, the Census Bureau is able to provide us with reliable data for even our smallest geographies by averaging five years of data together. We no longer have to guess how our rural counties compare to our urban or suburban counties! In our quest to make sure every Kentucky child has the same opportunity to succeed, we must know if there are unique circumstances keeping some children trailing behind their peers in other counties.

Unfortunately, some members of Congress do not recognize the importance of the ACS. The most extreme idea involves eliminating all funding for the ACS. There is also a proposal calling to make participation in the ACS voluntary, even though all identifying information is kept confidential. This would make it difficult for the Census Bureau to secure the diverse, large sample size it needs. These factors ensure the data is high-quality and useful.  Making the survey voluntary would also increase administrative costs due to the additional steps Census workers would have to take.

Eliminating funding for the ACS would make it more difficult for lawmakers to learn about their constituents, for advocates to learn how policies affect people, for business-owners to make strategic decisions about their operations, and for communities to make good decisions about what their communities need to flourish.

Those wanting to learn more about these Congressional actions should check out the Census Project. The Senate will be voting soon about the future of the ACS. Please let Kentucky Senators Mitch McConnell and Rand Paul know how you want them to cast their vote.

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