ACS to Retain Marriage, Field of Degree Questions Proposed for Elimination

The Census Bureau will retain several questions in the American Community Survey (ACS) originally identified for removal: Person Question No. 12, undergraduate field of degree, and Person Question Nos. 21-23, which are related to marital history. The questions were proposed for elimination as part of the Bureau’s 2014 Content Review of the ACS and were released to the public for comment in the fall (see Update, November 3, 2014). COSSA objected to the removal of these questions in a written comment, as did many other organizations in the scientific community.

According to Census’ request to the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) for final clearance, it still plans to eliminate Housing Question No. 6, which asks if there is a business or medical office on the respondent’s property. The question was determined to have “no benefit to federal agencies, the federal statistical system, or the nation.”

The Bureau received 625 comments on Person Question No. 12, the field of degree question, coming from “researchers, professors and administrators at many universities, professional associations that represent science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) careers and industries, members of Congress, the National Science Foundation, and many individuals interested in retaining this question.” The Bureau’s review of the comments concluded, “Given the importance of this small population group [STEM graduates] to the economy, the federal statistical system and the nation, bolstered by the new knowledge of historical precedent brought to light by commenters to the Federal Register notice, the Census Bureau therefore plans to retain this question on the 2016 ACS.”

More than 1,300 comments were received in favor of retaining the marital history questions. While the Bureau did not feel that the comments identified a federal regulation or law that requires collection of this information, the size of the response in itself was felt to be a significant argument in favor of keeping the questions.

As part of its ongoing efforts to better explain to the public why the ACS needs the information it collects, the Census Bureau has also released a new infographic, “Why We Ask.”

The Federal Register notice can be read in its entirety here. COSSA thanks all of the organizations who advocated for the importance of these questions to the social and behavioral science community.

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