aback; they might fear identity theft, they might fear exposure of immigration status, or—for other reasons—they might not want to give their name to a government agency for any other purpose. So, he reasoned, one possible fix would be to take the person’s name out of the equation. Structurally, Darga said that the primary roles played by person name in the current ACS are to simply “keep people straight while answering the questions” (e.g., to ensure that “Person 3” is actually the same person through the whole questionnaire), and to help follow-up workers clarify missing or contradictory information. It may be feasible to achieve both of those objectives by allowing respondents to use or claim a nickname or an alias; Darga added that deemphasizing the need for reporting names could help the Census Bureau make clear its interest in aggregate information rather than “building a master database of personal information on individuals.”

  • Consider the use of an incentive to help reverse attitudes toward participating in the ACS: Acknowledging that “it is probably not feasible to include a cash incentive payment in the Census Bureau’s budget” for the ACS, Darga suggested “many politicians—and taxpayers—do like tax cuts.” Darga suggested that some small tax credit for people who have submitted a complete ACS form could be a reasonable way to offset a sample household’s time and effort in completing the survey. Indeed, he remarked, “we might even start to see people complaining that they haven’t received an ACS form instead of complaining that they have.”

8–E RESPONDENT COMPLAINTS AND CONGRESSIONAL REACTION

Acknowledging that he had been asked by the workshop planners to serve as a sort of “designated complainer,” Stephen Tordella (Decision Demographics, Inc.) opened his remarks by stating that “the ACS really is a burden; there is no way of getting around that.” But, he continued, his remarks are meant to underscore two basic points, the first being that the “burden” of the ACS is—and should be—-partially borne by Congress, one of the survey’s most important stakeholders. As to the second, he recalled that he used to work for a sales-driven organization, in which the constant mantra was “nothing happens until somebody makes a sale.” Tordella said that it is equally true that, for the census and the ACS, “nothing happens until people send in their responses.” Hence, his second major point—that respondents should be viewed as “the most valuable commodity we have”—“they should be revered and treasured, not threatened,” and they deserve more prominence in census and ACS operations.

First, specific to the burden argument, Tordella said that he had talked to a lot of people in the weeks before the workshop, to get their reactions to some of



The National Academies | 500 Fifth St. N.W. | Washington, D.C. 20001
Copyright © National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved.
Terms of Use and Privacy Statement