Is the American Community Survey legitimate? Is it really from the United States Census Bureau? Do I really have to answer the questions?
The answers, in order, are yes, yes and yes.
The American Community Survey provides information on a yearly basis about the United States and its people. Information from the survey generates data to determine how more than $675 billion in federal and state funds are distributed.
The ACS provides information about jobs and occupations, educational attainment, veterans, whether people own or rent their homes and other topics.
A passage from the ACS website says, “When you respond to the ACS, you are doing your part to help your community plan for hospitals and schools, support school lunch programs, improve emergency services, build bridges, inform businesses looking to add jobs and expand to new markets, and more.”
If you don’t answer survey, Census Bureau will follow up in person
Don O’Brien, regional director of the Better Business Bureau in Quincy, has received many inquiries about the American Community Survey. He says it’s legitimate. People have a legal obligation to answer the survey questions.
“Some people people do not feel comfortable with answering the survey. They’re kind of skittish,” O’Brien said. “Now, if you just decide to put that in the circular file and throw it away, the Census Bureau will follow up in person.
“I had a call maybe six weeks ago from someone who had a census worker show up at their doorstep, because they wanted to get the information for this survey. If someone shows up at your doorstep saying they’re with the Census Bureau, make sure you get credentials and information. If they are legitimate, they’re going to give you their name and whatever identification number they might have. You can always follow up with the with the Census Bureau.”
The initial mailing for the ACS provides instructions for completing the survey online. People preferring not to respond online will receive a paper questionnaire in the mail. A Census employee will visit some hard-to-reach addresses, such as remote Alaska, to allow people to fill out the form.
If a person does not respond through the Internet or through a paper questionnaire, a field representative may visit to conduct an interview in person.
Call 1-800-354-7271 if you believe the American Community Survey has contacted your household and to verify the survey is legitimate.
Addresses selected randomly to participate in survey
Unlike the census done every 10 years, the American Community Survey continues all year every year. The Census Bureau randomly selects addresses in every state, as well as the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico. It annually selects about 3.5 million addresses.
Every question has a required purpose and many statistical uses.
“I received this five or six years ago, and the questions they asked are not that invasive, although some people think they are,” O’Brien sad. “They’re asking how many people you have in your family, what your household income is, things of that nature. Some people don’t like to answer that.”
People typically fill out the survey online. If someone doesn’t own a computer or would rather fill out a paper survey, O’Brien recommends contacting the Census Bureau.
O’Brien also knows of instances where scammers sent emails trying to impersonate the Census Bureau.
“If you receive an email, always look at who it’s from,” he said. “If it’s from a random Gmail or Yahoo email account, that’s a fake. No one with the Census Bureau is going to use a Gmail account to get a hold of you to ask you information.”
People with more questions about the American Community Survey can contact O’Brien at 217-209-3972 or email@example.com.
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