Census QuestionsOn December 30th 2014, the comment period will close on a proposal to remove questions from the American Community Survey of the US Census. Among the questions slated for removal from the ACS are undergraduate field of study, and multiple questions about current and past marital status. Please join us and tell the Census Bureau to keep these questions! (See sample email from CJC below, or tweak the sample message from the National Equity Atlas.)

In the post, “Tell the Census to Keep Important Questions on the ACS,” Justin Scoggins of the National Equity Atlas explains what we stand to lose without these questions.

These data points are critical for understanding—and developing policy solutions for—some of the country’s most pressing challenges.

Here are some of the equitable economy-related questions that we will not be able to answer if these cuts go forward:

-Are America’s students learning the skills that are in increasing demand by employers?

-Are we reducing racial inequities for students of color and female students in access to STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) education

-​Which undergraduate fields of study lead to good-paying jobs? In which fields is there greater pay equity by race and gender?

There are many ways for job seekers to develop job skills besides college. And while college isn’t right for everyone, everyone does deserve transparent evaluations of the educational options available to them. Organizations serving job seekers with barriers to employment benefit when we have more information about how, where, and how well our workforce is gaining skills. Without this question, we lose some of that data.

The Census is also the only organization that maintains up-to-date, detailed information about marriage and family structure in the United States. If the Census doesn’t keep track of marriage patterns, then our picture of families struggling through poverty and unemployment will get a little bit fuzzier.

Tell the Census to keep these important questions! Email Jennifer Jessup at the Department of Commerce (which houses the Census Bureau). Ask her not to cut the question about undergraduate field of study, or the questions about marital status.

Sample message from CJC:

Dear Ms. Jessup,

Thank you for the opportunity to comment on the questions slated for removal from the American Community Survey, as outlined in Document 2014-25912 of the Federal Register. Chicago Jobs Council advocates for job seekers with barriers to employment and the organizations that directly serve them. By supporting frontline service providers, we work to ensure access to employment and career advancement for people living in poverty. On behalf of our members—over 100 organizations and individuals in and around Chicago—we ask that you do not eliminate the questions regarding undergraduate field of study and marital history.

We understand that the Census Bureau must carefully chose which questions to include and discontinue, and that time and resources limit the questions you ask. However, the elimination of these questions will leave advocates and service providers with questions that we cannot answer. Service providers and non-profits like our members rely on data from the US Census constantly. The data you collect from these questions provide the basis for invaluable research into the changing structure of American families, the differing benefits of a wide variety of career paths, the equity of opportunities in our communities, and many others.

In the face of increasing inequality, and levels of poverty that refuse to decline at the same rate our economy as a whole is recovering, we need more information about working families and where they gain skills for the workforce—not less. Eliminating these questions would reduce our ability as a country to evaluate how, where, and how well our workforce is gaining the skills and education it needs to succeed.

The current administration made several important commitments to workforce development in the new Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA). Among them are focuses on evaluation of training programs, and on the integration of services that provide skills development and job placement. It would be a shame to discontinue one of the census questions that tells us about skills attainment, just as WIOA prioritizes transparency and evaluation of educational opportunities for the American workforce.

Many agencies need good research into the skills and education of our workforce, and the structure of families in our communities. Please consider keeping these questions in the American Community Survey, which provides us with the best picture of the communities we serve.

Chicago Jobs Council
29 E. Madison St., Suite 1700
Chicago, IL 60602-4415