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Census Bureau Considers Removing Bachelor Degree Field From ACS Data Collection
 
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November 2014

On October 31, the Federal Register published a notice from the Census Bureau detailing a plan to remove seven questions from the American Community Survey (ACS), the current version of the long form of the census. One of the questions is on respondents’ undergraduate field of degree.

The National Science Foundation’s National Center for Science and Engineering Statistics uses this variable for its National Survey of College Graduates, College Graduates in Science and Engineering. Prior to using ACS data for this purpose, the NSF spent $17 million to collect the relevant data.

According to the notice, the suggestion to remove this question, as well as five questions on marital status and one on whether a business or medical facility is located on the respondent’s property, is based on an analysis of the questions as part of the 2014 ACS Content Review.

The Census Bureau examined the current questions on the ACS in light of the uses and justifications provided by the agencies and categorized them by three uses: mandatory, regulatory, and programmatic.  While transparent and intentional, the process used to assess the value of the field-of-degree variable does not treat STEM as a federal program, therefore missing the opportunity to measure its value to the U.S. government.

The Census Bureau is accepting comments on the removal of these questions. Comments are due by December 30, 2014, and should be sent to Jennifer Jessup, Departmental Paperwork Clearance Officer, Department of Commerce, at jjessup@doc.gov. If submitting comments, please share them with AERA, at govrelations@aera.net, so that they can be incorporated as part of the AERA response.

 
 
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