The American Community Survey – Do you have difficulty dressing or bathing?

One of our readers sent the following to us concerning The American Community Survey distributed randomly by the U.S. Department of Commerce. If you refuse or willfully neglect to take the survey, your subject to a fine between $500 and $5,000.

I wrote earlier week about the 2010 Census and provided you details on the 10 questions that would be asked this year. This census data collection is not the only survey tool the federal government uses to collect private information from citizens. The American Community Survey (PDF, 420 kb) is designed to

…  provide communities a fresh look at how they are changing. It is a critical element in the Census Bureau’s reengineered decennial census program. The ACS collects and produces population and housing information every year instead of every ten years.

Here is the note we received from RVO reader Dan P.

I just received the American Community Survey from the US Department of Commerce. Here’s a sampling of the questions:

  • Name, including phone number, birth date, and race
  • Housing, including date built, number of rooms, does the house have toilets, showers, stoves, refrigerators, telephones, number of automobiles/trucks, primary fuel for heating, request for cost of electricity, gas, water/sewer, ownership?, monthly rent/mortgage, estimated value of home, real estate and other taxes
  • For each person list the citizenship, level of education, for Bachelor’s degree list the specific college major, proficiency in English, previous address, type of insurance coverage, list physical impairments (including difficulty in concentrating or making decisions), married?, number of times, if/when active service in military, work for pay last week? Where (specific address)? How you commute, time departing for work, commuting time, How many weeks worked in last year, For whom you work (specific name), type of business activity, what kind of work do you do (general job description), most important activities, work, income, dividends, and other sources of revenue.

Purportedly, this 28 page survey – which is supposed to take 38 minutes – is randomly distributed. Although some questions are appropriate, i.e., number of people within the household, many questions go well beyond appropriate boundaries or ask for info readily available elsewhere.

All towns/cities will have info regarding the value of homes within their boundaries. Show me a utility that doesn’t publish their rates, but the question appears. Why do they need to know our mortgage payments, other than to combine that with our other payments, compare to our income, and determine how much additional taxes we could absorb?

The questions on citizenship may be warranted. However, President Obama is likely to make that a mute point later this year when he grants blanket immunities. The government should already have the information on health care insurance. Otherwise, they shouldn’t be trying to push the massive health care insurance “reforms.”

The questions on physical impairments are interesting – particularly the questions related to difficulty in concentrating or making decisions. How long did it take Obama to make a decision on troop deployment to Afghanistan? Does that suggest a “physical, mental, or emotional condition?”

The question related to military service would certainly help Homeland Security Secretary Napolitano in determining which individuals pose a potential threat to the Government.

The purpose of asking us to identify our college majors and present work responsibilities is a question that only a lost Big Brother would ask. The universities are already tracking the numbers for each college major, and use that to project shortages in the workforce.

Commuting distance is what it is. With the exception of towns or small cities built around large manufacturing or petrochemical manufacturing plants, people living in most neighborhoods have a diversity of career choices, making it difficult for many next door neighbors to carpool. Public transportation may work well in some older American cities, but are not practical in the newer cities that were built around automobiles.

Just think of a middle age employee in Houston. Although busses and trains run to downtown, it won’t help those working around the town. Envision working next to a coworker who walked 1-2 miles from the major bus lines to their places of work under the muggy summer sun. Instead, the questionnaire should solicit suggestions for improving car pooling programs, such as offering tax incentives to companies for establishing such programs.

The question on our income, dividends, and other sources of income confirms my suspicions. Every April 15, we submit forms and payments to the IRS. The Department of Commerce obviously doesn’t “talk” with the Internal Revenue Service, much like our intelligence agencies.

We’ve got a monumental responsibility required by U.S. law to answer the 28 page questionnaire and provide redundant personal information to the data-starved bureaucrats. In this era of escalating identity thief, I can hardly wait to submit my forms.

If a few acorn shell fragments land amongst the pages, perhaps there will be even more to the data crunching.

Don’t feel like answering personal questions? Neither did Bob Hammer at Big Government, who wrote about the survey last summer.

According to the FAQ on the website, the government needs to know all these answers for their government programs. Maybe the reason I’m balking at answering is because we seem to have too many programs as it is…. but they don’t ask my opinion on that issue in the survey.

Finally, if you get the ACS in the mail, you’re required by law to complete it. Of course, they assure you confidential information is protected by the oh-so-grand government … but didn’t the State of California just screw up and put Social Security numbers on the address labels of mail sent to almost 50,000 residents?

The American Community Survey is conducted under the authority of Title 13, United States Code, Sections 141 and 193, and response is mandatory. According to Section 221, persons who do not respond shall be fined not more than $100. Title 18 U.S.C. Section 3571 and Section 3559, in effect amends Title 13 U.S.C. Section 221 by changing the fine for anyone over 18 years old who refuses or willfully neglects to complete the questionnaire or answer questions posed by census takers from a fine of not more than $100 to not more than $5,000. The U.S. Census Bureau may use this information only for statistical purposes. We can assure you that your confidentiality is protected. Title 13 requires the Census Bureau to keep all information about you and all other respondents strictly confidential. Any Census Bureau employee who violates these provisions is subject to a fine of up to $250,000 or a prison sentence of up to five years, or both.

I’m sorry sir, I’ve never heard of the American Community Survey…

4 replies
  1. TriplB
    TriplB says:

    Just because you are required to answer the questions doesn't mean you have to answer them honestly.  But seriously, is there any entity out there like the ACLU that would take on this issue based on the violation of privacy and unconstitutionality of of the fine?

  2. phil
    phil says:

    Should I be honored by receipt of this very fine privacy intrusion,  I will of course fill in the blanks.  With what, I can't guarantee.

  3. Dimsdale
    Dimsdale says:

    I "didn't get" three copies of that last summer, nor did I get several harrassing phone calls from someone claiming to be from the US Census.


    The government "won't use this information" the same way that it is illegal to use Social Security numbers for identification.


    And if you are wondering why they ask things like what your mortgage is etc., look up "imputed income" for a real hair raiser.  The ultimate in liberal socialist "fairness".

  4. Odonna
    Odonna says:

    It's amazing to me how the "right to privacy" is inviolate if I wanted to kill my unborn baby, but if Big Brother wants my money or my personal information then it's "privacy–?  What right to privacy?"

Comments are closed.