Some mention has been made in the news and online regarding the American Community Survey. You may not be familiar with this document. It replaces the long form version of the U.S. census to be administered in 2010.
We were among the several million lucky households selected to fill out the American Community Survey, known in this household as the Governmental Proctology Exam. Our bulky, multiple-page form arrived in the mail yesterday.
You might be curious as to what kinds of questions you might be asked as part of this survey. Here’s a quick rundown of the questions posed only to Person 1, usually referred to as the Head of Household in previous census documents. These questions are repeated for up to four other people residing in the house, plus additional questions asking about the relationships of Persons 2-5 to Person 1.
You may want to pause here and get yourself a beverage before you begin. Maybe a bathroom break, too. This is going to take a while.
Ready? Here we go.
- First Name, Last Name, Middle Initial
- Date of Birth
- Hispanic, Latino or Spanish Origin
- Race (a list of 15 options, including two fill-in-the-blank options)
- Location of birth
- U.S. citizen?
- If not born in the U.S., when did you come to the U.S.?
- In the last three months did you attend school/college? What grade were you in?
- What was the highest level of schooling completed?
- Bachelor’s degree/majors?
- Ancestry or ethnic origin
- Do you speak anything other than English in the home?
- If yes, what language?
- How well does this person speak English?
- Did this person live here a year ago?
- If not, where did the person live previously? (Address, city and state)
- Covered by insurance? (Current or former employer, insurance purchased personally, Medicare/Medicaid, Tricare/military care, VA, Indian Health Service, other)
- Deaf or difficulty hearing?
- Blind or difficulty seeing?
- Difficulty concentrating or making decisions due to physical, mental or emotional condition?
- Difficulty walking or climbing stairs?
- Difficulty dressing or bathing?
- Difficulty running errands due to physical, mental or emotional condition?
- Current marital status
- 12-month history of marriage/widowed/divorced
- How many times married?
- Year married
- If female, have you given birth in the past 12 months?
- Grandchildren under 18 living in home
- Grandparents responsible for basic needs of grandchild(ren)?
- Length of time grandparent has been financially responsible?
- Military service
- Active duty in various conflicts?
- VA service-connected disability rating
- Last week, did this person work for pay at a job?
- Last week, did this person do any work for pay?
- Address of company where person worked last week
- Method of transportation to get to work last week
- Automobile occupancy going to work last week
- Time person left home to go to work
- Commute time
- Laid off last week?
- Temporarily absent last week? (Vacation, maternity leave, illness, bad weather, etc.)
- Have you been informed that you will be recalled to work within the next 6 months?
- Have you looked for work in the past 4 weeks?
- Last week, could you have started a job if you were offered one?
- When did this person last work, even for a few days?
- During the past 52 weeks, did this person work 50 or more weeks? (Paid time off counts as work)
- In the past 12 months, how many hours per week on average did this person work?)
- Category of current job (8 possible categories)
- Name of employer
- Employment type (what does your employer do or make?)
- Type of work the person does
- Most important activities or duties at work
- Income for the last 12 months (interest, dividends and rental income, Social Security or supplemental income, welfare assistance, retirement/disability pensions, other)
- Total income from all sources
- Describe the building.
- When was it built?
- When did Person 1 move in (month/year)?
- Acreage of lot
- Actual sales of all agricultural products from this property
- Business on the property?
- How many separate rooms are in the house?
- How many are bedrooms?
- Amenities (hot and cold running water, toilet, bathtub/shower, sink with faucet, stove, refrigerator, phone including cell phones)
- Number of automobiles
- Heating fuel for the house
- Last month’s electric bill cost
- Last month’s gas bill cost
- Past 12 months of water/sewage bill costs
- Last month’s fuel usage (oil, coal, kerosene, wood, etc.)
- Past 12 months food stamps benefits
- Is there a condominium fee in addition to rent?
- Ownership of housing?
- Cost of rent
- Does the rent include meals?
- Estimated sale price of property
- Annual real estate taxes on property
- Annual payment for fire, hazard and flood insurance
- Does anyone in the household have a mortgage on the house?
- How much is the mortgage payment?
- Does this payment include real estate taxes?
- Does this payment include fire and flood insurance?
- Does anyone have a second mortgage on the property?
- Monthly amount for secondary mortgage
- Annual cost of property taxes and fees
In short, this is a stalker’s wet dream. Why do the Feds need to know what time I leave the house to go to work? Why do they need a 12-month history of my marital status? What do they want with last month’s electricity bill? Is it any of their business whether I have difficulty dressing or bathing? (Are they offering to come help me bathe? If so, I have a two-word answer for them, and it ain’t Happy Birthday.)
I can understand their desire to obtain this information. But just because they want it doesn’t give them the right to demand it from me. This survey arrived with an implicit legal threat on the outer envelope: “YOUR RESPONSE IS REQUIRED BY LAW.” It did not explain the nature of my required response. Fortunately, I have a passing familiarity with the U.S. Constitution, Article 1, Section 2. The only information I am required to give the Census Bureau, by the supreme law of the land, is the number of people living in this dwelling. And that’s exactly what information I gave them. That cut down the “estimated time to complete this survey” from 38 minutes to 30 seconds.
We live in the Age of Information. More and more businesses, companies, and of course government entities are recognizing that your information is valuable, and they try to get you to give it away for free. Consider for a moment: how much is this information worth? How dare anyone, let alone the federal government, demand that you give them this valuable information for free?
But even if the Feds wanted to pay me to obtain this information, I would refuse–because I believe in a limited federal government, not in a nanny state that feeds me, burps me and changes my diapers every day of my life. I am an adult citizen, and not an infantile subject.