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COPAFS Focuses on Statistical Activities

1 August 2009 1,814 views No Comment
Stephanie Shipp, ASA Representative to COPAFS for 2008–2009, and Stephen Cohen, ASA Representative to COPAFS for 2009–2010


COPAFS is the Council of Professional Associations on Federal Statistics and comprised of the membership of 60 organizations, including professional organizations, businesses, research institutes, and others interested in federal statistics. As a member of COPAFS, the ASA has two representatives from the Government Statistics Section who attend the quarterly COPAFS meetings and report back to the ASA membership. Highlights of the June 5, 2009, meeting, held at the Bureau of Labor Statistics, follow.

COPAFS Executive Director Ed Spar reported that the confirmation of Bob Groves as the U.S. Census Bureau’s director is on hold. He also expressed caution, but noted that the 2010 budget numbers look good. If the Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA) gets the amount of money requested, it will reinstitute county employment data and backfill to years for which data were not provided. If the National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS) gets its requested amount, it will be able to return the Health Interview Survey to full sample.

Spar also reported that the Committee on National Statistics (CNSTAT) recently released a report on the National Crime Victimization Survey, noting there seems to be congressional support for added funding, and that the Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) is working on creative ways to improve the system.

Spar had no observations about the census budget, but commented that the Longitudinal Employer-Household Dynamics (LEHD) program may be the most interesting thing going on at the U.S. Census Bureau. LEHD not only tracks employment at the local level, but produces synthetic data—an approach that many surveys may adopt in response to disclosure concerns. A presentation on LEHD is scheduled for the next COPAFS meeting.

The remaining 2009 COPAFS meetings will be on September 11 and December 4.

Changes in American Community Survey Products

David Johnson of the U.S. Census Bureau noted he is not with the American Community Survey (ACS) office and that his giving an ACS presentation is evidence of how wide ACS involvement is at the bureau. He explained that changes in ACS products are in response to recommendations and feedback from the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), U.S. Census Bureau, and inter-agency council, as well as input from data users. The goal is to incorporate changes while minimizing disruptions to data consistency.

Scott Boggess, also from the U.S. Census Bureau, said many of the ACS product changes were necessitated by changes to the questionnaire and the additional questions on new topics such as marital history, health insurance coverage, and service-connected disability. More than half of the changes relate to changes in the general disability questions, and none of the disability tables will be comparable to previous years, including the most basic count of persons with a disability. Many disability tables are being replaced by new tables that will look like the originals, but provide fundamentally different measures such as percents calculated with different denominators.

U.S. Census Bureau staff members are just now getting a look at data collected from the new questions and will release relatively few tables until they become more familiar with the new data. Also, because of the differences introduced in 2008, there will be no disability data in the 2006–2008 three-year ACS data products. The first five-year data will be those reflecting data collected in 2008–2012.

Changes to other ACS topics include employment, relationship, educational attainment, year of naturalization, and food stamp amounts. The ancestry tables will look the same, but the data will be different due to the correction of processing errors. For example, it was found that the inclusion of Irish-Scotch with Scotch-Irish is incorrect. Some tables will reflect new industry codes, and there will be two new tables for multigenerational households.

Boggess pointed out that there also might be discontinuities in employment estimates due to changes in the questions to make them more comparable with those on the Current Population Survey (CPS). If the new questions provide data more consistent with the CPS, the bureau will likely expand the number of ACS employment tables provided.

Despite all the changes, Boggess noted that the 2008 changes are actually small compared to previous years, but he said we can expect more changes next year with the expansion of the disability, health insurance, employment, and group quarters data product packages. There also will be the addition of race-iterated data for disability, health insurance, marital history, and a new topic: field of degree.

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