The American Community Survey: Challenges and Opportunities for HUD
Since 1940 the Census Bureau has used two questionnaires to collect data for the decennial census: (1) a "short form" that counts the population and gathers basic information and (2) a "long form" that obtains more detailed demographic, housing, social, and economic information from a sample of households.
Detailed information about households-their incomes, their education, their employment, their housing-at the state, county, city, and census tract level usually comes from the long form. The Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) uses long-form information to determine program eligibility, allocate funds, target program activities, assess client needs, and evaluate client performance.
The Census Bureau has been planning to conduct a large national survey of households, called the American Community Survey (ACS), which would begin in 2003 and would be conducted every year thereafter. The Census Bureau intends for the ACS to serve the same purposes as the long form and to make the long form unnecessary in future censuses. The continual nature of the ACS is intended to provide more up-to-date information in the future.
This report examines the challenges and opportunities that the ACS presents for HUD. Taking into account the technical, policy, and resource issues raised by the ACS, the document contains three recommendations for how HUD can best integrate the ACS into its ongoing operations:
- HUD should ensure that its managers are well informed about the nature and timing of the ACS so that they can provide their technical staff with the resources and guidance they will need to move from the decennial long form to the ACS.
- HUD should ensure that certain key problems are resolved early on to eliminate confusion and smooth adaptation to ACS data.
- HUD should investigate options to take fuller advantage of the opportunities offered by the ACS.
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