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Community Survey: What is it, and why is it in the spotlight?

How important is the U.S. Census Bureau-compiled Community Survey?

Before many people in Maryland and elsewhere weigh in on that question, they might seek a bit of clarification, namely this:

What is it?

If you’ve ever responded to the survey, you certainly remember its contours and what it is closely focused upon. If not, here is a bit of relevant information.

The survey is a multi-page document that is regularly distributed to select Americans, with the Census Bureau culling and analyzing the data that comes back.

The information that is solicited is about the family, with the government seeking responses concerning family size, marriage, divorce and other topics. Demographers then scrutinize the information, breaking down responses by gender, race, age and education.

What emerges, say many supporters of the survey, is a valuable reservoir of data that helps clarify important social trends and other information about families across the country.

One economist writing for the New York Times notes that he and other researchers, along with policy makers, academics and many other interested parties, are thus concerned with a recent Census Bureau announcement regarding the survey.

What that writer notes in an article on the tracking of relevant family information is that much is on the line regarding the bureau’s recent proposal to stop asking for such data.

In fact, Justin Wolfers says that critically important information concerning same-sex marriage, welfare reform and other family-related topics “will proceed in a statistical void” if the bureau curtails its data-gathering efforts.

One reason for that: Some states don’t even compile divorce-linked information.

Wolfers and other critics of the bureau’s proposal are calling upon the government agency to reconsider such a move.

One of those critics says that implementing the change “would severely damage our ability to understand ongoing changes in American society and to implement effect policy responses.”

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