Overall, there is no doubt that the ACS can be of great benefit to many users, not only in the short term, but also over time as the survey is improved and new measures and applications are developed.
To achieve these goals will require sustained and even expanded resources and effort on a continuing basis, not only for collection and production of the ACS data, but also for user education and outreach and methodological research and evaluation. The Census Bureau should seek adequate funding for the ACS as a top priority. The panel hopes that the user community will express its support and that Congress will provide the needed annual funding as the ACS comes fully online.
Recommendation 7-1: The Census Bureau should continue to make sufficient funding of the ACS one of its top priorities. It should seek adequate funding on a continuing basis, not only for data collection and production, but also for ongoing programs of methodological research and evaluation and user outreach and education.
The Census Bureau has already devoted considerable resources to methodological research and data product design as part of the developmental work for the ACS over the past 10 years. Yet this work cannot stop with full implementation. On the contrary, the sheer volume of estimates means that the full ACS is in many ways brand new to the Census Bureau and the user community, even though the ACS concept and test data have been around for a period of years. Now is therefore the time to expand the resources for evaluation of the full production ACS and for methodological research and experimentation to improve the survey to reflect the evaluation results. Now is also the time to significantly expand the resources to educate and receive feedback from users, as over the next few years they experience for the first time the full panoply of 1-year, 3-year, and 5-year period data products from the ACS.
The purpose of this chapter is to outline this needed effort so that the ACS can evolve to meet its full potential. The chapter starts by describing an education program that is needed to inform users about what the ACS is, how to use its data products, and how interactions between the Census Bureau and the ACS user community can mutually benefit the ACS. The next section reviews the requirements for continued monitoring of basic indicators of data quality. The third section outlines areas for research and evaluation so that the ACS design, data collection, and estimation procedures can be continually improved and users can be more fully informed regarding sampling and nonsampling errors in the data. This section indicates the panel’s priorities for where limited resources can be most usefully directed in the next few years. The final section briefly describes a vision of what the ACS could become as it not only supports applications that