BOX 7-1

Print Media Treatment of the 2005 American Community Survey

Panel staff reviewed 57 articles in 44 newspapers around the United States, published August 15–16, 2006, that featured the initial release of data from the 2005 ACS on social and demographic characteristics of areas with at least 65,000 people. The newspapers covered included major national papers, such as the New York Times, the Washington Post, and USA Today, other major metropolitan newspapers (for example, the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, the Houston Chronicle), and smaller newspapers (for example, the Anchorage Daily News, the Lexington Herald-Leader, the Toledo Blade).

Six conclusions are drawn from this review:

  1. Interest is high in these data, principally because of their currency and the light they shed on such salient features of American life as increasing racial and ethnic diversity and immigration.

  2. Change over time is of key interest. Three-fourths of the articles featured estimates of change from 2000 to 2005 in total population or characteristics. Most of the articles appeared to use the 2000 long-form sample as the comparison point; two articles used the Census 2000 Supplementary Survey or the 2002 ACS test survey. (Comparisons with the test surveys can be done only for areas with at least 250,000 people or, in the ACS test sites, for areas with at least 65,000 people.) Only two articles expressed caution about ACS comparisons with the long-form sample.

  3. Population numbers are of key interest. Even though the Census Bureau emphasizes the use of the ACS for characteristics, not population counts, one-fifth of the articles explicitly focused on growth or decline in total population from 2000 to 2005. None of the articles discussed that, for many areas, population figures

tion available to decision makers and will become an important national asset if it is used appropriately and to its full potential. Cultivating a data user network that helps users navigate their way through this new maze of methods and issues will help the Census Bureau ensure that all will rise to the challenge of using this valuable tool of the nation’s statistical system.

Recommendation 7-2: The Census Bureau should develop a comprehensive program of user education, outreach, and feedback for the ACS. Two goals of the program should be (1) to educate users in the basics of the ACS, how it differs from the census long-form sample and other data sources, and appropriate methods to use the data; and (2) to develop paths for systematic feedback from users to improve the training materials, identify potential problems with the data, and sug-

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