but also through concerted attention to taxpayer needs and concerns. These days, “even the IRS is kinder and gentler”—surely, he said, there must be ways for the Census Bureau to be kinder and gentler as well.
In the general discussion session following the speakers’ opening statements, Darga’s suggestion of finding some way to incentivize ACS response drew a variety of reactions. Patrick Jankowski (Greater Houston Partnership) asked other session speakers to comment on that specific proposal, and Fecso said that he worried about the idea “snowballing to all the other federal surveys”—ultimately, the financial costs of the incentive might outweigh “what you are getting out” of the incentives in terms of good response. Recalling his immersion in the complaints expressed about the ACS, Tordella replied that people might look at an incentive program and ask “why are we giving away more tax dollars for nothing?”—an incentive might boost response, but it could also create more hard-set opposition to the survey. Brian Harris-Kojetin (U.S. Office of Management and Budget) reminded the workshop audience that—just the week before the workshop—the House of Representatives approved an amendment to an appropriations bill (albeit not the Commerce, Justice, and Science bill that funds the Census Bureau) prohibiting the use of money as a respondent incentive in a survey, so the legality of federal survey incentives is a matter of considerable current debate.4 Dan Weinberg (U.S. Census Bureau) argued that even the idea of a tax credit, rather than a cash incentive, is infeasible because the Census Bureau would have to violate its own confidentiality provisions in order to tell the IRS who had completed the survey; Darga countered that some kind of stub or “receipt” from the ACS response could be attached with a tax return if the respondent wanted to claim the credit, but Weinberg argued that simply confirming a person or household’s inclusion in the ACS could constitute a Title 13 violation.
Alan Zaskavsky (Harvard University) addressed a question to Brown and his specific example of estimating service-connected disability ratings among veterans (though, he noted, other speakers in the workshop sessions could address it in their own fields). Would clients or end users like the Division of Aging Services accept a move to much more model-based estimates? Such estimates might be smoother and have smaller intervals—at the risk of possibly looking
4On June 6, 2012, the House voted 355–51 in favor of an amendment to H.R. 5325, the Energy and Water appropriations bill for fiscal year 2013, offered by Rep. Scott Tipton (R-Colorado). Motivated specifically by $2 and $20 incentives offered in a 1,000-household Bureau of Reclamation survey on attitudes toward removing dams on the Klamath River, the amendment’s language swept wider: “None of the funds made available by this Act may be used to conduct a survey in which money is included or provided for the benefit of the responder.” The whole bill, as amended, was passed that same day, and awaits consideration in the Senate.