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that deemphasizes geographic proximity in relation to matching by GQ type, trying out alternatives to the proposed sequence of collapsing the combinations of geography and GQ type. The possibility of using a cluster approach to donor selection should be reevaluated using clusters formed for this purpose based on GQ data from the 2010 census. The Census Bureau should also expand its simulation study of imputation methods to include a sufficiently large number of samples capable of revealing significant differences between the imputation-based and the design-based estimates.

In addition to a smaller-than-optimal sample size of GQ residents in the ACS, several questionnaire items exhibit very high item nonresponse rates for some group quarters (GQ) types. For example, income is missing at very high levels for residents of nursing homes, as well as “other institutional” and “other noninstitutional facilities.” A strategy of omitting selected items for some GQ types could be preferable to including data that are so heavily underreported. One promising approach to accomplishing this goal is for the Census Bureau to abandon the tradition of using the same questionnaire for very disparate populations.

Recommendation 6-5: The Census Bureau should evaluate the possibility of customizing by group quarters (GQ) type the American Community Survey questionnaire for the GQ population with the goal of reducing item imputation rates, improving data quality, and reducing the burden on the GQ respondents who are required to answer questions that are not applicable to their circumstances. Changes to consider should include omitting or revising some of the questions on the GQ questionnaire for some types of group quarters.


The process of improving estimates of the group quarters and total populations for small geographic areas in the American Community Survey will need to involve not only continued research and development by the Census Bureau but also regular feedback from data users. It is the panel’s observation that data users are not yet familiar with the properties of the 5-year ACS estimates for small geographic areas and the limited information that can be provided specifically for GQ residents. If the strategies recommended by the panel and the Census Bureau’s research in the near term do not lead to cost-effective ways of improving the ACS estimates for small areas to the satisfaction of data users, then the role of the ACS in providing information about the total population— including residents of group quarters—will need to be rethought.

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