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Using the American Community Survey for the National Science Foundation’s Science and Engineering Workforce Statistics Programs 1 Introduction The U.S. National Science Foundation (NSF) has long collected information on the number and characteristics of individuals with education or employment in science and engineering and related fields in the United States. One of the three vehicles employed by NSF for collecting this information is the National Survey of College Graduates (NSCG). This survey is a key component in a group of three surveys of scientists and engineers conducted by the Division of Science Resources Statistics of NSF: the other two are the National Survey of Recent College Graduates (NSRCG) and the Survey of Doctorate Recipients (SDR). The NSCG covers people with at least a bachelor’s degree by a given reference date. The NSRCG complements these data with information on people with recent college degrees at the bachelor’s or master’s level and the SDR covers Ph.D. scientists and engineers in some detail. These workforce surveys make up the Scientists and Engineers Statistical Data System (SESTAT). (For a list of acronyms and abbreviations used in this report, see Box 1-1.) These surveys provide critical information on the education and career outcomes of the nation’s college-educated workforce, including salaries, occupations, and whether the individuals are working in their highest degree field of study. An important motivation for this effort is to fulfill a congressional mandate to monitor the status of women and minorities in the science and engineering workforce. Consequently, many statistics are calculated by race or ethnicity, gender, and disability status.
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Using the American Community Survey for the National Science Foundation’s Science and Engineering Workforce Statistics Programs BOX 1-1 Acronyms and Abbreviations ACS American Community Survey AHS American Housing Survey B&B Baccalaureate and Beyond Survey CAPI computer-assisted personal interviewing CATI computer-assisted telephone interviewing CNSTAT Committee on National Statistics CPS Current Population Survey HREP Human Resources Experts Panel MAF Master Address File NESARC National Epidemiologic Survey on Alcohol and Related Conditions NLS National Longitudinal Survey NSCG National Survey of College Graduates NSF U.S. National Science Foundation NSRCG National Survey of Recent College Graduates OMB Office of Management and Budget OSTP Office of Science and Technology Policy, Executive Office of the President PSID Panel Study of Income Dynamics S&E science and engineering SDR Survey of Doctorate Recipients SED Survey of Earned Doctorates SESTAT Scientists and Engineers Statistical Data System SIPP Survey of Income and Program Participation SRS Division of Science Resources Statistics, U.S. National Science Foundation WMPD Women, Minorities, and Persons with Disabilities Report The three surveys are coordinated to provide complete coverage of the science and engineering workforce every 2-3 years. For more than 25 years, NSF obtained a sample frame for identifying the target population for the NSCG from the list of respondents to the decennial census long form who indicated that they had earned a bachelor’s or higher degree. The probability that an individual was sampled from this list was dependent on both demographic and employment characteristics. The source for the sample frame will no longer be available because the census long form is being replaced as of the 2010 census with the continuous collection of detailed demographic and other information in the new American Community Survey (ACS).
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Using the American Community Survey for the National Science Foundation’s Science and Engineering Workforce Statistics Programs PANEL CHARGE AND APPROACH At the request of NSF’s Division of Science Resources Statistics, the Committee on National Statistics of the National Research Council formed a panel to conduct a workshop and study the issues involved in replacing the decennial census long-form sample with a sample from the ACS to serve as the frame for the NSCG and, perhaps, other science and engineering human resources surveys. The workshop had the specific objective of identifying issues for the collection of field of degree information on the ACS with regard to goals, content, statistical methodology, data quality, and data products. In the context of the workshop, the Panel on Assessing the Benefits of the American Community Survey for the NSF Division of Science Resources Statistics was asked to review NSF’s assessment of the potential of the addition of this information as a screening element for subsequent inquiries such as the NSCG, which now uses level of degree information from the decennial census long form. The panel was charged, as well, with considering the relevance and adequacy of ACS products for meeting current and emerging data needs for NSF, as well as potential analytical uses of information on graduates’ fields of degree that is proposed to be collected on the ACS. These tasks were assigned in order to assist NSF in enhancing the analytical content of the NSCG and meeting the needs of data users. The panel held two meetings and the workshop. At its first meeting, the panel had the benefit of a comprehensive staff paper from NSF (2007) and extensive briefings by representatives of NSF and the Census Bureau. The panel then conducted the workshop, which included presentations from NSF and Census Bureau staff, other subject-matter experts, and interested data users. The workshop participants considered NSF’s assessment of the potential of the addition of the field-of-degree information as a screening element for subsequent inquiries. The participants also considered the relevance and adequacy of ACS planned products for meeting current and emerging science and engineering workforce data needs. The agenda and a workshop summary are in Appendix A. GUIDE TO THE REPORT SESTAT is the key context for understanding the NSCG, so Chapter 2 details the SESTAT data system, its components, and the uses of the SESTAT data. Some of the uses are mandated in law, directives, and tradition, and others are designated for the support of analysis of the science and engineering workforce. Chapter 3 discusses the NSCG, the survey that will be most affected by a change from the census long form to the ACS for the sampling frame, and it provides a broad comparison of the long form and the ACS in that vein.
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Using the American Community Survey for the National Science Foundation’s Science and Engineering Workforce Statistics Programs In Chapter 4 the panel discusses the ACS in more detail, focusing on its potential for changing the SESTAT Program. A very important aspect of the ACS for NSF involves the potential addition of a question on field of degree, which is discussed in this chapter. Chapter 5 examines the issue of adding a field-of-degree question to the ACS, while Chapter 6 discusses in detail the pros and cons of using the ACS with the field-of-degree question as a sampling frame for the NSCG (and other NSF surveys). The final chapter responds to the panel’s charge to consider potential future improvements in the ability to understand the nation’s science and engineering workforce when the ACS is available for sampling and analysis purposes.