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Using the American Community Survey: Benefits and Challenges
the household data collection operation, and poor quality of the GQ data was the result. In particular, missing data rates for most long-form-sample items on GQ questionnaires were very high (20 percent or more for four-fifths of the items and 40 percent or more for one-half of the items). The rates were much higher than missing data rates for household members and considerably higher than missing data rates for GQ residents in the 1990 census (National Research Council, 2004b:Tables 7-9, H-8). Missing data rates were particularly high for people in prisons, nursing homes, and other institutions, perhaps because of heavy reliance on administrative records for collecting the data. These and other problems in 2000 led a Committee on National Statistics panel to recommend that the Census Bureau “redesign the processes related to group quarters populations for the 2010 census, adapting the design as needed to different types of group quarters” (National Research Council, 2004b:156).
The Census Bureau has devoted considerable effort to refining its procedures for collecting data from GQ residents in the ACS, and presumably missing data rates for GQ residents, including inmates of institutions, are much reduced in the 2006 ACS compared with the 2000 long-form sample. Yet the panel is concerned about the costs of collecting high-quality GQ information relative to the benefits of the data.
The argument for collecting information on GQ residents in the ACS is so that the survey will cover the entire population similar to the long-form sample. Most national household surveys, in contrast, cover just the civilian noninstitutional population, including residents of housing units and noninstitutional GQs. The Current Population Survey Annual Social and Economic Supplement (CPS ASEC), which produces official income and poverty statistics, covers the civilian noninstitutional population plus members of the armed forces living with their families in housing units or military barracks. The CPS ASEC does not conduct interviews in college dormitories but asks parents to report college students who reside in dormitories as household members.8
The census will continue to obtain basic demographic information about all types of GQ residents once every 10 years for all size geographic areas. The Census Bureau’s population estimates program could publish annual estimates of GQ residents—total and broken down by institutional and noninstitutional—by age, sex, race, and ethnicity for counties, cities, and townships, although the quality of these estimates is not known. National surveys have targeted some GQ populations, although they do not provide small-area estimates (for example, the periodic National Nursing Home Surveys, sponsored by the National Center for Health Statistics, and