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Bill Before Congress Would Shut Down ACS

February 20 2024

In Congress, New Jersey Republican representative Jeff Van Drew has introduced legislation which would close down the annual American Community Survey (ACS), which replaced the old decennial census long form in 2005 and is described as 'essential to the development of representative samples'.

The Census Project logoIntroduced in the House on Thursday and with the reference H.R. 7399, the bill would prohibit the Commerce Secretary or the Census Bureau from carrying out the ACS and require that 'no Federal funds may be obligated or expended to carry out such Survey (or any similar survey)'. According to The Census Project, a coalition of national, state and local organizations supporting an inclusive and accurate 2030 Census (and ACS), this move would 'shut down America's most essential data', removing 'the premier source for information about America's changing population, households, and workforce, and a crucial component of the American democracy'.

The ACS collects data from 3.5 million households every year and participation is required by law. Campaigners have also resisted attempts to make the survey voluntary which they say would completely undermine its usefulness. In the 2012-3 sitting of Congress, the House voted to eliminate the ACS altogether, but this was never carried through.

Howard Fienberg, Senior VP Advocacy for the Insights Association is a co-director of The Census Project, and the IA has already responded to the threat posed by the bill, stating that among other impacts, 'Without ACS data, private and public sector insights professionals could not develop representative statistical samples for studies across the country'. The association also points out that 'Respondent burden is low: approximately 40 minutes per household every 40 years'; and that 'Ben Franklin, James Madison and Thomas Jefferson started adding extra questions to the first Census in 1790', in fulfilment of Madison's vision that the 1790 Census should add questions beyond 'bare enumeration' so that Congress might 'adapt the public measures to the particular circumstances of the community'.

Van Drew is a former dentist who defected from the Democratic party four years ago when he opposed the impeachment of Donald Trump. H.R. 7399 is co-sponsored by Reps. Adrian Smith and Jeff Duncan, and has been submitted to the House Oversight & Accountability Committee for its next action.

The Census Project's coverage, with links to more information, is at www.thecensusproject.org/2024/02/20/h-r-7399-would-shut-down-americas-most-essential-data .

All articles 2006-23 written and edited by Mel Crowther and/or Nick Thomas, 2024- by Nick Thomas, unless otherwise stated.

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