Every year, the Census Bureau sends the American Community Survey to 3.5 million households in the US. The answers from this survey help in the proper distribution of the billions of dollars in federal funds.
However, the survey has a few questions that may be deemed a breach of privacy by some people. This leads to one major question: why is the American Community Survey required by law?
Since the information collected from this survey is used to distribute funds, it’s your legal duty to fill the form.
Additionally, you can be fined $5000 for not responding to the ACS, as per the law.
Contents of the American Community Survey
It helps to know the contents of the ACS to be able to fill it correctly. The survey focuses on all aspects of the community: social, economic, housing, and demographic.
The social field asks about disability status, citizenship, language, marital status, etc. Likewise, in the economic field, you’re required to mention your working class and employment status.
Additionally, the survey asks about health insurance plans, income, poverty status, and food stamps, among other things. This is a community survey and not a paid survey.
Using this information, the government decides how they will spend the federal funds for the year. According to the Census’ website, this survey directs the distribution of funds on:
- Building infrastructure
- Creating employment opportunities
- Funding higher education
One of the sections of the ACS that people find problematic is housing. Here, you have to fill in details about everything from your kitchen facilities to people living in each room. Lastly, the ACS enquires about your age, sex, and race for demographic analysis.
The survey aims to collect information about the US population, their needs, and economic status. The government then uses this information to ensure that they are using the taxpayer’s money for their wellbeing.
Moreover, this information determines the number of a state’s seats in Congress.
Many people are uncomfortable with sharing their information. However, there’s no need to worry. The Census Bureau is bound by law not to disclose your personal information.
In 2020, for the first time, people will respond to the ACS in three ways:
Why is this Asked?
Now that you know the legal importance of the ACS let’s discuss different things asked in the survey and why they’re there.
The first box in the survey asks for your name. Naming ensures that one person does not appear many times in the total count.
Relationship to Person 1
Person 1, either the owner or the renter of a particular building, fills the survey. You have to fill in the relationship of every person in the house to Person 1.
This information gives the government a snapshot of household trends in society. For instance, it provides an idea of how many college students live with their parents or the number of people living with extended family.
Everyone filling the ACS must fill in their gender. The government uses this data to give funds for higher education.
However, a reservation that most people have with the ACS is that it only includes male and female as the two options. Unfortunately, it does not include other genders.
The ACS collects information about race to spend money on all communities accordingly. Besides, it shows how many people are eligible for certain programs, like the Indian Health Service.
Stay Safe from Census Scam
Be watchful of census fraud as scammers pry on your personal information to steal from you.
Here are a few warning signals to look out for.
- You might get an email from a fake email address claiming to be the Census Bureau. Check if it is the same email address as that given by the Census Bureau.
- A fake census agent will ask you for personal information, such as bank details and credit card numbers. Do not provide such information as the government will never ask you for it.
- Some scammers threaten you with jail time. As mentioned earlier, filling the ACS is a legal duty, and you can be fined for not responding. However, you will never face jail time for it.
Never give your bank account details or social security numbers to anyone claiming to be a census agent. The government doesn’t need this information and will never ask for it.
Also, do not reply to suspicious emails. If you think it’s a scam email, report it to the Census Bureau immediately.
Some scammers also call you, asking for personal information. Do not respond unless you’re sure that it’s a legit number.
By now, you should know: why is the American Community Survey required by law. In 2020, for the first time, you’ll have the option to respond through the mail, phone, or online. Thus, you’ll have to be extra careful.
Previously, census agents came to your house. So, it was easier to filter scammers from legit agents. However, now, you can respond through call and online portals. Make sure that you only respond to the email address and phone number on the government’s website.
Participate in the survey to help the government and yourself. Otherwise, you’ll be doing the community a disservice while putting yourself at risk of a $5000 fine.