As I went through a large stack of what seemed to be junk mail, I opened a large envelope from the Census Bureau. Turns out my household was randomly selected to respond (BY LAW) to their American Community Survey. For many people this might seem like a pain- but I'm thrilled! I don't see census surveys to be a burden or an invasion of privacy, the information is valuable for our decision makers to understand the makeup of the areas they represent. From a family history perspective, it helps us have a greater understanding of our community and track social change . I feel honored to be able to leave my mark in society! This survey is particularly important because it helps fill in the long 10 year gap between the US Censuses, which is not frequent enough for our rapidly changing country.
What is the American Community Survey?
The American Community Survey (ACS) is an ongoing survey that provides data every year -- giving communities the current information they need to plan investments and services. Information from the survey generates data that help determine how more than $400 billion in federal and state funds are distributed each year. (US Census Bureau Website)
This annual survey is sent to a random sample of about 3 million households.
Visualize Survey Results
I've shared my love for mapping genealogy and infographics, so you can imagine how excited I was to find this awesome interactive map from the NYT "Mapping America: Every City, Every Block". You can search any city, zoom in/out, and view different types of maps. The 4 different map categories are: Race and Ethnicity, Income, Housing and Families, and Education. The data is from the 2005-2009 American Community Survey results. Remember! The data represented is from a sample of the population, providing estimates for the whole. I encourage you to see what the survey results say about your community! You can also view thematic maps created by the Census Bureau from survey results.
What does the survey ask?
The beginning of the survey reminded me of the 2010 Census, covering basic personal questions about age and race. The second part was about housing, I had to include my monthly rent, how many rooms (excluding bathrooms) my apartment has, and last month's electricity and gas bills. Wouldn't it be nice if they let me know if I'm overpaying in my community?! The final section asked detailed questions for each person living in the household, education, employment, disabilities, income...view the 2011 survey.
One question I found interesting: Personal Question #13- What is your Ancestry? There is a box for you to write in your answer, with a few examples to give you an idea of what they are looking for. A guide came with the survey and for this question it gives the following definition of Ancestry:
"Ancestry refers to the person's ethnic origin or descent, "roots", or heritage. Ancestry may also refer to the country of birth of the person of the person's parents or ancestors before their arrival in the United States. Do not report a religious group as one's ancestry. Persons who have more than one origin and cannot identify with a single ancestry group may report two ancestry groups (for example: German, Irish)."
I'd love to see results from this question, I couldn't find a simple breakdown of ancestry results. I remember reading somewhere that many people describe their ancestry as "American". It was hard for me to narrow it down to 2, my ancestry has quite a mix! Might be helpful if there was a box for paternal ancestry and maternal ancestry.
Worried about the confidentiality of your information? According to the Census Bureau, all of their employees take an oath of nondisclosure. If broken, the individual would be subject to a fine of up to $250,000, imprisonment of up to 5 years, or both. I just hope it doesn't get lost in the mail!
What are you feelings about census surveys? Do you fill them out?