The workshop itself was held on the afternoon of June 14 and the full day of June 15, 2012, at the National Academies’ Keck Center in Washington, DC. The workshop drew roughly 80 attendees across both days, with the first afternoon’s proceedings drawing a particularly strong crowd. The final agenda for the workshop and a list of the contributors to the accompanying case study agenda book are reprinted in Appendix A.
While the workshop agenda was under development—and independent of the workshop and its charge—the ACS drew sudden legislative attention in spring 2012. Ultimately, this attention would set a most unusual context for the workshop: This workshop on the uses of the ACS took place slightly more than one month after one chamber of Congress voted to effectively terminate the survey.
Multiple bills filed in the 111th Congress sought to eliminate or weaken the requirement that response to the ACS be mandatory under law. H.R. 3131 (introduced by Rep. Ted Poe of Texas) would remove any penalty “for refusing or willfully neglecting to answer questions” on the ACS other than respondent name, contact information, “the number of people living or staying at the same address,” and the response date. H.R. 5046 (introduced by Rep. Todd Akin of Missouri) would take a stronger line, making the only mandatory question on the ACS (and the decennial census) to be “the number of individuals living in such individual’s residence.”8 Though the bills acquired some cosponsors (35 for the Poe bill, 8 for the Akin bill), neither advanced beyond referral to subcommittee during the 111th Congress.
In the 112th Congress, Rep. Poe reintroduced his legislation in March 2011 (now numbered H.R. 931), and it was referred to two subcommittees of the House Judiciary Committee as well as to the Oversight and Government Reform Committee (which has primary jurisdiction over the Census Bureau). After no action for 1 year, the House Oversight subcommittee with census jurisdiction9 held a hearing on the topic of a voluntary (rather than mandatory) ACS on March 6, 2012. In addition to Rep. Poe, Census Bureau Director Robert Groves and three ACS data users from the business and economic development
8Filed on April 15, 2010, the Akin bill—even under the speediest of circumstances—could not have applied to the 2010 census, which was then well under way. It would have required placing “on the front of each [questionnaire or survey] in a conspicuous manner” an advisory statement of the form: “Constitutionally, in responding to this survey, you are only required to provide the number of individuals living in your residence. Answers to all other questions contained within this survey are optional.”
9Formally, the Subcommittee on Health Care, District of Columbia, Census and the National Archives.