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June 24 -- The Census Bureau invites public comments to OMB by July 26, 2021 on its proposal to conduct American Community Survey (ACS) Methods Panel Tests through 2024.

The ACS is an ongoing monthly survey that collects detailed housing and socioeconomic data from about 3.5 million addresses in the United States and about 36,000 addresses in Puerto Rico each year. The ACS also collects detailed socioeconomic data from about 195,000 residents living in group quarters (GQ) facilities in the United States and Puerto Rico. Resulting tabulations from this data collection are provided on a yearly basis. The ACS allows the Census Bureau to provide timely and relevant housing and socioeconomic statistics, even for low levels of geography.

An ongoing data collection effort with an annual sample of this magnitude requires that the ACS continue research, testing, and evaluations aimed at improving data quality, reducing data collection costs, and improving the ACS questionnaire content and related data collection materials. The ACS Methods Panel is a research program designed to address and respond to survey issues and needs. As part of the Decennial Census Program, the ACS also provides an opportunity to research and test elements of survey data collection that relate to the decennial census. As such, the ACS Methods Panel can serve as a testbed for the decennial census. From 2021 to 2024, the ACS Methods Panel may test ACS and decennial census methods for reducing survey cost, addressing respondent burden, and improving survey response, data quality, and survey efficiencies. Testing may also include revising content or testing new questions. The ACS Methods Panel may also address other emerging needs of the programs. Currently, plans are in place to propose several tests:

Content Testing is conducted by the Census Bureau periodically to improve data quality. The current proposal includes changes to the following questions: Household roster, educational attainment, health insurance, disability, means of transportation to work, income, weeks worked, Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), condominium fees, and home heating fuel. Additionally, three new questions on solar panels, electric vehicles, and sewage disposal are proposed. The objective of content testing is to determine the impact of changing question wording and response categories, as well as redefining underlying constructs, on the quality of the data collected.

The Use of Administrative Data to reduce burden of existing questions by allowing for modification of the questions will be tested. A field test is proposed for questions that may need to remain on the questionnaire but be modified in conjunction with the use of administrative records.

Self-Response Mail Messaging and Contact Strategies Testing are focused on studying methods to increase self-response. The proposed tests would evaluate changes to the mailings, such as using plain language to improve communication, changing the look and feel of the materials, updating messages to motivate response, and adding or removing materials included in the mailings. Changes to the contact method, the number of contacts, and the timing of the contacts may also be tested. The Strategic Framework Field Test will be conducted in the fall of 2021 to test new mail materials that were developed building on research Start Printed Page 33217into best practices in messages. The test will identify which set of new mail materials is most successful at increasing self-response.

The Respondent Feedback Pilot is designed to collect respondent feedback at the time of the interview, with the pilot focusing on internet respondents. Respondents will not be required to answer the feedback question.

Group Quarters Testing will focus on evaluating an internet version of the ACS available to non-institutional group quarters residents, especially in college dorms, military barracks, and group homes.

Internet Instrument Testing is proposed to test and evaluate revised features of the internet instrument.

Respondent Help Testing will focus on methods to answer respondent questions about the survey and improve operational efficiency, specifically testing updates to the Interactive Voice Recognition (IVR) system as well as exploring the use of other methods such as online chat.

Nonresponse Followup Data Collection Testing is proposed to evaluate the use of adaptive survey design techniques for the ACS Computer-Assisted Personal Interviewing (CAPI) Nonresponse Followup operation.

ACS Methods Panel Tests proposal submission to OMB: https://www.reginfo.gov/public/do/PRAViewICR?ref_nbr=202106-0607-002 For technical documentation, click on IC List and View Supporting Statement
FR notice inviting comments: https://www.federalregister.gov/documents/2021/06/24/2021-13429/agency-information-collection-activities-submission-to-the-office-of-management-and-budget-omb-for

Point of contact: Joan Hill, Assistant Division Chief for Experiments and Evaluations, Decennial Statistical Studies Division joan.marie.hill@census.gov (301) 763-4286

For AEA members wishing to submit comments to OMB, "A Primer on How to Respond to Calls for Comment on Federal Data Collections" is available at https://www.aeaweb.org/content/file?id=5806

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