Better Data, Better Decisions: How the U.S. Census Bureau's American Community Survey Benefits Business and Government

  • View webcast of congressional briefing (49 minutes)

(March 2011) American industries rely on good data to make targeted, wise investments. These economic, demographic and social data are largely derived from the American Community Survey (ACS). The U.S. Census Bureau implemented the ACS after Census 2000 to replace the decennial census long form and provide annual statistics about the nation’s population and housing. Today, the survey guides the geographic distribution of over $400 billion of federal funding and is a vital component of our nation’s statistical system.

On March 7, 2011, the Annie E. Casey Foundation, in cooperation with Sens. Joseph Lieberman and Kay Bailey Hutchison, and Reps. Danny K. Davis and Carolyn Maloney, sponsored two congressional briefings on the importance of the ACS for business and government. PRB organized the briefings—one for the House and one for Senate—with assistance from Mary Jo Hoeksema, director of government and public affairs for the Population Association of America.

PRB also produced a fact sheet that provides answers to common questions about the ACS and how the data are used by Congress, federal agencies, businesses, and state and local governments (PDF: 587KB).

At the briefings, congressional staff heard presentations from private sector and government leaders about the importance of ACS data:

  • Cindy Guy, associate director for policy research, Annie E. Casey Foundation, moderated the briefings and introduced the speakers. (Time: 0:00-2:55)
  • Terri Ann Lowenthal, legislative and policy consultant, The Census Project, discussed congressional interest in and uses of the ACS. (Presentation: PDF 911KB) (Time: 2:56-20:31)
  • Patrick Jankowski, vice president of research, Greater Houston Partnership explained how local economic development corporations rely on ACS data to attract industries and create jobs. (Presentation: PDF 300KB) (Time: 20:32-32:54)
  • David Crowe, chief economist and senior vice president, National Association of Home Builders, discussed how the housing industry uses ACS data to analyze the real estate market and assess housing policies. (Presentation: PDF 550KB) (Time: 32:55-49:10)
  • Warren Brown, Applied Demography program director at the Carl Vinson Institute of Government, University of Georgia, provided examples of how state agencies use ACS data to determine policies to best serve older persons and to improve the status of children (Presentation: PDF 830KB) (Participated in Senate briefing only; webcast not available)

Organizational cosponsors of the events included the American Sociological Association, American Statistical Association, Association of Population Centers, Association of Public Data Users, Council for Community and Economic Research, Council of Professional Associations on Federal Statistics, Consortium of Social Science Associations, Census Project Coalition, Gerontological Society of America, Greater Houston Partnership, International Council of Shopping Centers, Marketing Research Association, National Association of Counties, National Association of Homebuilders, Population Association of America, Population Reference Bureau, Population Resource Center, Southeast Michigan Census Council, U.S. Chamber of Commerce and U.S. Conference of Mayors.

Warren Brown is the Applied Demography program director at the Carl Vinson Institute of Government, University of Georgia. This initiative provides current demographic data and detailed projections about Georgia’s population to state and local decisionmakers for strategic planning purposes. Before joining the institute, Brown directed Cornell University’s Program on Applied Demographics, producing population estimates and projections for New York State. Brown has worked closely with the U.S. Census Bureau; he is a past chair of the Census Bureau’s Federal State Cooperative for Population Estimates. He was also the research director of Cornell’s Census Research Data Center, one of nine centers in the country providing approved projects with access to internal files of the Census Bureau. Brown’s interest in demography focuses on how population changes affect the demand for and supply of housing, labor, and consumer goods and services. He has a B.A. in religious studies from the University of Virginia, an M.A. in sociology from the New School for Social Research, and a Ph.D. in development sociology from Cornell University.

David Crowe is chief economist and senior vice president at the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB). Crowe is responsible for NAHB’s forecast of housing and economic trends, survey research and analysis of the home-building industry and consumer preferences as well as microeconomic analysis of government policies that affect housing. Prior to NAHB, Crowe was deputy director of the Division of Housing and Demographic Analysis at the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. He has served on federal advisory committees to the Census Bureau and to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. Crowe holds a Ph.D. in economics from the University of Kentucky.

Patrick Jankowski is vice president of research for the Greater Houston Partnership. Jankowski oversees the research department, which provides information gathering, data analysis, database management, economic forecasting, and mapping functions for the partnership’s five divisions. He joined the Houston Chamber of Commerce (predecessor to the partnership) in 1981. He is a member of the Texas Economic and Demographic Association, the Council for Community and Economic Research, the National Association for the Business Economics, and the Commercial Real Estate Research Forum. He is currently president of the Houston Economics Club. Jankowski is a frequent speaker on business and economic issues and has served as an expert witness in cases regarding local business and economic trends. Jankowski received his bachelor’s degree in economics from the University of Texas at Austin.

Terri Ann Lowenthal is an independent legislative and policy consultant specializing in the census and federal statistics. Lowenthal is a consultant to the nonpartisan Census Project, and authors periodic Census News Briefs. Ms. Lowenthal served on the Obama Presidential Transition Team, with responsibility for the Commerce Department’s Economics and Statistics Administration, U.S. Census Bureau, and Bureau of Economic Analysis. Prior to establishing a consulting practice, Lowenthal served from 1981 to 1995 as a congressional staff aide in both the U.S. House of Representatives and Senate. She served for eight years as staff director of the House Subcommittee on Census and Population, where she guided the panel’s oversight of the 1990 Census and the 2000 Census planning process. She also was chief of staff to Rep. Tom Sawyer, an aide to Senator Lowell P. Weicker, Jr., and other Congressional staff positions. Ms. Lowenthal earned her bachelor of arts degree from Cornell University and her juris doctorate from Georgetown University Law Center.