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Apr 8 -- The U.S. Census Bureau invites public comment to OMB by May 8, 2024 regarding proposed Census Household Panel Topical 7, Topical 8, and Topical 9 Operations.

The Census Household Panel is designed to ensure availability of frequent data collection for nationwide estimates on a variety of topics for a variety of subgroups of the population. This notice serves to inform of the Department's intent to request clearance from OMB to conduct topical operations 7, 8, and 9.

The Topical 7 (May) questionnaire will ask respondents about their opinions on government data collection and data use. The June survey (Topical 8) will test changes to the Current Population Survey's Annual Social and Economic Supplement (ASEC) interviewer administered questions for suitability in internet self-response mode. Specifically, the items tested include questions on health insurance, out-of-pocket medical costs, migration, and child care. Similarly, for the July topical questionnaire (Topical 9), interviewer administered ASEC questions will be tested for suitability in internet self-response mode. These items include pensions, retirement (withdrawals, interest, and contributions), and SNAP and school meal receipt, which are key income sources used to measure the level of poverty in the U.S.

The Census Household Panel is a probability-based nationwide nationally-representative survey panel designed to test the methods to collect data on a variety of topics of interest, and for conducting experimentation on alternative question wording and methodological approaches. The goal of the Census Household Panel is to ensure availability of frequent data collection for nationwide estimates on a variety of topics and a variety of subgroups of the population, meeting standards for transparent quality reporting of the Federal Statistical Agencies and the Office of Management and Budget (OMB).

Panelists and households selected for the Panel were recruited from the Census Bureau's gold standard Master Address File. This ensures the Panel is rooted in this rigorously developed and maintained frame and available for linkage to administrative records securely maintained and curated by the Census Bureau. Invitations to complete the monthly surveys will be sent via email and SMS messages. Questionnaires will be mainly internet self-response.

Early research and development work has demonstrated the value of a high-quality panel to improve representativeness and significantly reduce burden on households in the interests of collecting high-frequency data. Census Household Panel participants responded to a baseline survey and will be asked to respond to a series of different survey requests (topical surveys). Importantly, some of these surveys will essentially function as the same survey over time to produce longitudinal data that measure change over time. Development of this Panel at the Census Bureau allows the agency to draw representative samples accurately and quickly, responding to the need for timely insights on an array of topics and improving data outputs inclusive of historically undercounted populations.

This Panel will become integral to rapidly providing insight on national events that may impact social, economic, or demographic characteristics of the population. Traditionally, Federal surveys are designed to collect and disseminate data on a slower timetable to produce statistically robust key measures of the society and economy. In keeping with growing needs for more timely information, however, the Census Bureau seeks to complement these important, established surveys with new mechanisms such as the Census Household Panel which can produce data much closer to real time as the information needs develop. The Panel will also help us research questions related to surveys. For example, this Panel will allow us to conduct nationally representative field tests to test content changes in an efficient and reliable fashion in support of other surveys.

Leveraging its experience reaching and engaging households, and its reputation for statistical rigor and transparency in the production of Federal statistics, the Census Bureau will build the Census Household Panel in-house in a manner that affords users a full understanding of the methodology in keeping with Federal statistical standards, including response rates and weighting. This transparency into the way in which the statistics are developed will provide Federal agencies the confidence necessary to use the data in their policy making.

The Census Bureau conducted the initial recruitment operation for the Panel. The original goal for the size of the Panel was 15,000 panelists and households selected from the Census Bureau’s gold standard Master Address File. This ensures the Panel is rooted in this rigorously developed and maintained frame and available for linkage to administrative records securely maintained and curated by the Census Bureau. This foundation and the incorporation of the Panel into the Title 13 infrastructure at the Census Bureau allows for the Census Bureau and partner agencies to leverage administrative records and other non-survey data in combination with data from the Panel to create a platform for a high-quality integrated data program. The recruitment operation resulted in 12,225 households included in the Panel. With the March sample replenishment, the new sample size is expected to increase to approximately 17,630 households. The Panel will maintain representativeness by allowing respondents who do not use the internet to respond via in-bound computer-assisted telephone interviewing (CATI). All panelists will receive an incentive for each complete questionnaire. Periodic replenishment samples will maintain representativeness and panelists will be replaced after a period of three years.

Data products for the panel are expected to be comparable to those developed for high-frequency survey programs (e.g., the Household Pulse Survey). Examples include Tables in Excel format posted on the Census Bureau’s Experimental Data page, a Public Use Microdata File (PUF), and reports. Processing will include minimal edits and basic weighting.

Specific data products will be negotiated with topical survey sponsors. As with all Census Bureau products and public use data files, data will be reviewed and approved for release by the Census Bureau Disclosure Review Board (DRB). Census Bureau staff with appropriate business need to know can receive raw data if requested.  

The topical survey that will field in May (Topical 7) will ask respondents about their opinions on government data collection and data use. The June topical (Topical 8) will test changes to the Current Population Survey’s Annual Social and Economic Supplement (ASEC) interviewer administered questions for suitability in internet self-response mode. Specifically, the items tested include questions on health insurance, out-of-pocket medical costs, migration, and child care. Similarly, for July the topical questionnaire (Topical 9), interviewer administered ASEC questions will be tested for suitability in internet self-response mode. These items include pensions, retirement (withdrawals, interest, and contributions), and SNAP and school meal receipt, which are key income sources used to measure the level of poverty in the U.S.

Household Pulse Survey: https://www.census.gov/householdpulsedata
Census submission to OMB: https://www.reginfo.gov/public/do/PRAViewICR?ref_nbr=202404-0607-001 Click IC List for data collection instruments, View Supporting Statement for newly added technical documentation. Submit comments through this webpage.
FRN: https://www.federalregister.gov/d/2024-07406

For AEA members wishing to submit comments, "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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