Requests for Comment on Federal Data Collections

 

Economists’ capacity to produce meaningful, reproducible, impactful analyses is a function of their access to current, reliable, detailed data. The Federal government is a major supplier of data used in economic research – particularly via the U.S. Census Bureau, Bureau of Labor Statistics, and Bureau of Economic Analysis.

When Federal statistical agencies want to revise existing data collections or launch new ones, they are required by the Paperwork Reduction Act to clear their plans through the White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB). As part of this process, agencies issue requests for comment on planned changes in data collections. Requests may solicit input on specific survey questions, data collection methods, plans for data release and access, or methods of preventing disclosure of respondents’ identities. Or they may ask general questions about the utility of the data and how it could be improved. Some open requests for comment on data collections that may be of broad-based interest are listed on this page. Additional requests are posted on EconSpark.

In the experience of AEA’s Committee on Economic Statistics (AEAStat), knowledgeable comments from AEA members are highly valued by federal agencies, especially when they address data-collection features that complicate researchers’ ability to use the data to answer important questions, and when they identify changes that will improve the utility of the data for meeting information needs. To help AEA members make the most of opportunities to comment, AEAStat has developed a primer on the public comment process, which explains the why, what, and how of providing comments.

Please consider replying to requests that are up your alley! Your knowledgeable, thoughtful, actionable comments can help improve data quality, increase data access, open up new research opportunities, and contribute to ever-more robust economic research.  

Census Bureau

Date posted

Notice

Closing date

EconSpark post

8/17/2022

2030 Preliminary Census
The Census Bureau is in the early stages of planning the 2030 census; an initial “big picture” plan is expected for 2024. Census invites comments on how to improve the public’s experience in the 2030 Census, especially with respect to:

  • Reaching and motivating everyone
  • Technological advancements that could make responding more user-friendly
  • New data sources that could reduce the public burden of responding
  • Effective contact strategies
  • Providing support for responding, including for people with disabilities

11/15/2022

Link

9/13/2022

American Community Survey (ACS)
The ACS is a large-scale, annual survey of U.S. households that collects detailed information on U.S. households’ demographics, income, employment, housing, commuting time, and more. For the 2024 ACS, the Census Bureau plans to begin using administrative data as the information source for some variables, starting with housing information available from public records. Some wording changes for questions on condominium costs, energy use, and ride sharing and a new option for self-response of people living in group quarters are also proposed. 

11/14/2022

Link

09/01/2022

Should the Census Bureau use chain-weighted price indexes to compute real incomes and earnings?
The Census Bureau currently uses the BLS Consumer Price Index for All Urban Consumers Research Series (R-CPI-U-RS) to compute real incomes and earnings. Census is considering adopting alternative chain-type price indices produced by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) or Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA) for inflation adjustment. To help inform its decision, Census seeks comments that will help Census weigh advantages and disadvantages of alternative price indices. For additional info, see Appendix D of Income in the U.S., 2021.

10/31/2022

Link

 

Bureau of Labor Statistics

Date posted

Notice

Closing date

EconSpark Post

09/06/2022

QCEW Multiple Worksite Report/Report of Federal Employment and Wages
The Quarterly Census of Employment and Wages (QCEW) is a Federal/State effort to collect data on employment, wages, and business identification from employers subject to state Unemployment Insurance (UI) laws. To complement the QCEW, the Multiple Worksite Report collects additional information on multi-site employers, while the Report of Federal Employment and Wages collects data on Federal establishments covered under UI Compensation for Federal Employees. This data collection provides the primary business sampling frame for BLS surveys. As part of its request for OMB to reauthorize the MWR and RFEW, BLS solicits comments on ways to enhance the quality, clarity, and utility of data collected.

10/06/2022

Link

09/15/2022

Consumer Expenditure Survey (CEX)
The CEX collects data on household incomes, expenditures, demographics, and related data. Data are collected via quarterly interviews with a rotating panel of households as well as a two-week diary survey intended to capture smaller expenditures on everyday items. BLS is proposing to streamline quarterly interview by grouping like items together, rewording some questions, and aggregating some items together; create new sections on family care and education and transportation (including ride share and rental of bikes and scooters) based on questions now asked in separate sections of the interview; and revise the “Expense Patterns” section to simplify the questions on usual weekly expenses for groceries, food or beverages consumed away from home, alcohol consumed at home, cigarettes and tobacco products. BLS is interested in comments on proposed changes, including the extent to which they enhance the quality, utility, and clarity of information to be collected.

11/14/2022

Link

 

Bureau of Economic Analysis

Date posted

Notice

Closing date

EconSpark post

Nov. 2021

BEA Small Business Satellite Account
BEA is developing new statistics to better track the economic health and contributions of the nation’s small businesses. While some federal economic statistics are available by business size, the U.S. as no consistent and comprehensive measure of small business activity. BEA has updated and expanded estimates of small business wages, employment, and gross output by industry and enterprise size. BEA invites all interested data users to send feedback or suggestions for future research to SmallBusiness@bea.gov.

(open)

Link

 

Other agencies

Field

Date posted

Notice

Closing date

EconSpark post

Health

09/06/2022

Medical Expenditure Panel Survey (MEPS)
The Medical Expenditure Panel Survey (MEPS) is a set of large-scale surveys of U.S. households, their medical providers, and employers who offer health insurance. The Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) is requesting OMB approval to continue conducting the insurance component (IC) of the MEPS survey, which measures the extent, cost, and coverage of employer-sponsored health insurance on an annual basis. AHRQ requests comments on how the quality, clarity, and utility of MEPS-IC data could be enhanced and potential ways of reducing respondent burden.

11/07/2022

Link

Criminal justice

09/16/2022

National Prisoner Statistics
The Bureau of Justice Statistics is requesting authorization to renew the National Prisoner Statistics program, which annually collects data on prisoner counts and characteristics from states and U.S. territories. Comments are sought on the quality, clarity, and utility of the data, and potential ways of using technology to reduce respondent burden.

11/18/2022

Link

Housing

09/19/2022

American Housing Survey (AHS)
The AHS is a longitudinal survey providing information on the nation’s housing stock via interviews with residents. It has a national longitudinal sample of ~96,000 housing units, including an oversample of the largest 15 metropolitan areas and ~12,000 HUD-assisted housing units. HUD also plans to collect information from 10 additional metropolitan area longitudinal samples, each with approximately 3,000 housing units; the 10 additional metro samples were last surveyed in 2019.  In addition to “core” survey data, HUD plans to collect supplemental data on health and safety hazards in the home, difficulties affording housing costs, neighborhood changes, sexual orientation and gender, parent's country of birth and previous home ownership, housing characteristics that increase heat vulnerability, and experience and consequences of power outages. HUD requests comments on the quality, clarity, and utility of the proposed 2023 AHS.

11/18/2022

Link

STEM

09/13/2022

National Center for Science and Engineering Statistics (NCSES)
NCSES is conducting a “customer satisfaction” survey, to collect information on how they could improve the data tools via which users can access their statistics on science, tech, and engineering education and employment.

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Link

COMING SOON -- Opportunities to comment on how data on race and ethnicity are collected in Federal Surveys

When collecting information on respondents’ race and ethnicity, all federal surveys must follow minimum standards set by Office of Management and Budget (OMB). The current standards date back to 1997 and take a two-question approach. A first question asks respondents whether their ethnicity is “Hispanic or Latino.” A second asks whether their race is American Indian or Alaska Native, Asian, Black or African American, Native Hawaiian or Other Pacific Islander, or White; more than one race can be selected.

It has been known for some time that people find the current race and ethnicity categories confusing. Rising shares of respondents report themselves as some race other than those specified as OMB categories. Much of this trend comes from Hispanics, who predominate among people who self-report as some other race. But other populations, such as people of Middle Eastern, North African, and Afro-Caribbean origin, also self-report as “some other race,” apparently interpreting the OMB categories as not including a group to which they belong. Researchers commonly “cross” the race and ethnicity variables in empirical analysis to patch together multifaceted identification. For example, Census Bureau analyses of race/ethnicity data from the 2020 Census categorize people as: Hispanic; White alone, non-Hispanic; Black or African American alone, non-Hispanic; American Indian and Alaska Native alone, non-Hispanic; Asian alone, non-Hispanic; Native Hawaiian and Other Pacific Islander alone, non-Hispanic; Some Other Race alone, non-Hispanic; and Multiracial, non-Hispanic. But there is broad-based consensus that, for purposes of measuring the growing diversity of the population and conducting research on how it affects people’s life outcomes, it would be better to change how federal surveys collect information on people’s backgrounds, with respondents choosing how to self-identify and more granular options offered.

To this end, in June 2022, OMB announced that it was launching a formal review of the minimum standards, which are contained in OMB’s “Statistical Policy Directive No. 15: Standards for Maintaining, Collecting, and Presenting Federal Data on Race and Ethnicity.” U.S. Chief Statistician Karin Orvis convened an Interagency Technical Working Group, representing over 20 agencies across the federal government, which is charged with reviewing relevant research and developing a set of recommendations for improving the quality and usefulness of Federal race and ethnicity data. Starting on September 15, 2022, the Working Group will be holding biweekly “listening sessions,” during which members of the public can share information, concerns, knowledge, findings, opinions, etc., relevant to the revision. If you’d like to weigh in, please send a brief email expressing interest to Statistical_Directives@omb.eop.gov.

After the Technical Working Group presents OMB with a recommended proposal, OMB will request comments from the public through a Federal Register Notice. The opportunity to comment will be posted on this page and on EconSpark.