istrativedata on selected GQ facilities (e.g., nursing homes) through licensing systems. Once an understanding of the limitations associated with the GQ data develops among data users, concerns immediately follow about the potential effects on estimates of the total population characteristics in small areas—and the large impact of what was originally perceived by many to be a problem limited to a small population becomes apparent.
Given the limitations of the GQ data that can be published based on the ACS in its current form, the panel carefully considered whether continuing to collect GQ data as part of the ACS is necessary and justified. The review of data uses by the panel’s consultants and discussions with members of the data user community was by no means a comprehensive or systematic evaluation of all uses or potential uses of the GQ data from the ACS. However, a clear priority emerged from these efforts, which helped inform the panel’s recommendations throughout the report. Specifically, there is little doubt about the importance of incorporating the GQ population into the total population estimates for small areas. There are many data users whose primary interests are in one or more specific GQ types, and they would benefit from more data about the GQ population. However, given the very limited information that can be made available to data users about GQ residents because of the small sample sizes, a more realistic goal that addresses the most pressing need is to ensure that the GQ data are integrated into the estimates of the characteristics of the total population without adversely affecting those estimates, particularly in small areas.
Given that other large-scale national surveys sponsored by the federal government typically limit their study population to housing units and exclude group quarters, the panel initially considered whether it would be possible to envision a similar approach for the ACS. However, it became clear that the ACS fulfills a unique role and meets important needs that no other data collection does in the federal statistical system. The panel thinks that the spirit of the ACS as a program that aims to provide information about the U.S. population—not only those who reside in housing units—for all geographic areas deserves to be preserved. However, improvements to the survey’s design are essential to accomplish the goals set forth for the ACS.
Recommendation 3-1: Data on the characteristics of the total population fulfill an important need, particularly for small geographic areas. The Census Bureau should identify ways of improving the group quarters estimates from the American Community Survey as input to estimates of total population characteristics for small geographic areas.
The reality for the foreseeable future will be that data collection from GQ populations is more resource intensive than data collection from household populations. In subsequent sections of the report, the panel discusses strategies that could improve the quality of GQ estimates from the ACS for