Content changes proposed for the 2019 American Community Survey — and a call for comments

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The Census Bureau periodically reviews the content of the American Community Survey (ACS). One aspect is validating that the survey continues to prioritize policy and program information needs. Beyond that, the Bureau works to assess and improve how questions are asked — including question wording, response categories, and any instructions provided — in order to capture the most complete and accurate information.

In a notice last month, the Bureau describes final changes proposed for the 2019 American Community Survey. The specific changes and new elements have been under consideration for three years or more. And an initial batch of recommended changes was tested through the 2016 ACS content test. The complete review and revision process is documented in section II of the Census Bureau’s recent notice. ( )

For the 2019 ACS, the Bureau proposes question changes or new questions in nine sections of the survey:

  • Telephone service: a redesigned question that defines telephone service.
  • Health insurance: a new question on premiums paid and any subsidies received.
  • Journey to work: revised question wording and updating descriptions of three types of public transit.
  • Weeks worked: revised question instructions and revision of response levels.
  • Class of worker: revised question instructions, wording, and response categories.
  • Industry and occupation: revised question instructions and wording, in order to elicit better descriptions.
  • Retirement income: revised question instructions and wording, expanding scope of retirement income considered.
  • Relationship to “person 1”: new response categories to clearly distinguish opposite-sex spouses, same-sex spouses, opposite-sex partners, and same-sex partners.
  • Race and Hispanic origin: a streamlined, unified categorization is proposed.

A draft 2019 ACS questionnaire with all these changes can be found here. Some of these changes are discussed in a blog post on

At this time, the Census Bureau is seeking the final approvals for the 2019 American Community Survey — and the Bureau invites public comment. Per the Federal Register notice:

“The public is invited to comment on all questions on the ACS; however, the Census Bureau is particularly interested in comments on the wording changes to the nine ACS questions… which are proposed to be changed based on the results of the 2016 ACS Content Test.” ( )

If you wish to comment on the ACS, now is your chance. The easiest options for providing input are:

  1. emailing the Department of Commerce (, or
  2. completing the “” online comment form that is linked to the Federal Register notice. Look for the “Submit a Formal Comment” button. Please expect that the online form will limit the length of your comments.

The deadline for comments is February 12, 2018.

One thought on “Content changes proposed for the 2019 American Community Survey — and a call for comments

    sotatodd responded:
    January 16, 2018 at 5:12 pm

    This post has been updated to include a link to a draft 2019 ACS questionnaire with the changes proposed.

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