ing on certain lines of the census schedule. The 1960 census formalized the process, creating a separate long-form questionnaire; most households received the short-form questionnaire containing only basic data items while a roughly one-sixth sample received the more detailed long form.

As the 2000 census approached, a notion originally advanced in the early 1940s as a possible replacement for the census began to gain traction, albeit as a replacement for the long-form sample rather than the entire census. Sociologist and demographer Philip Hauser, working at the Census Bureau in 1941, is generally credited with first advancing the idea of an “annual sample census” to generate small-area estimates. Increasing calls for more timely estimates led, in part, to Congress amending Title 13 of the U.S. Code in 1976 to authorize a mid-decade census in years ending in 5, but no action was taken under the new law. In 1981, statistician Leslie Kish proposed mounting a continuous sample survey, creating “rolling” samples by accumulating one or more years of collected data and using those samples to create estimates; the Decade Census Program suggested by Roger Herriot and others in the late 1980s advanced similar notions of using rolling samples for state-level estimates (Herriot et al., 1989). Drawing from these ideas, the Census Bureau’s Charles Alexander took the lead in assessing options to replace the long-form sample, which had become a greater drain on census resources (and whose quality had arguably slipped, conducted as an adjunct to the main census). Alexander’s proposed Continuous Measurement Survey would pick up a new moniker—the American Community Survey—as it entered very early pilot testing in four counties in 1996. The number of test sites (counties or groups of counties) was slowly ramped up until 2000. In that year, one of the formal experiments associated with the 2000 census was to dramatically scale up ACS coverage to roughly one-third of all counties—mainly as a test of feasibility of conducting both the ACS and a decennial census simultaneously. Bolstered by favorable results, the ACS continued collection at these so-called Census 2000 Supplementary Survey levels (after the name of the 2000 census experiment) until 2005, when the ACS began operations in all counties nationwide.

To secure approval for the full-scale ACS, the ACS was made an integral part of plans for the 2010 decennial census—the basic bargain being that shifting the historical long-form content to the ACS would free the main 2010 census to be conducted as a “short-form only” count. In this spirit, the content and questions of the ACS were closely patterned after the long-form sample questionnaire used in the 2000 census. As years have passed, new questions have gradually been added to the survey. For instance, questions on health insurance coverage (discussed more fully in Chapter 2) and marital history were added after testing in 2006, and the Census Bureau plans to add a question on Inter-



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