Census Bureau may drop some questions about marriage


Planning a big wedding? Your guests might like to know when and where, but the Census Bureau may not think twice about it any longer. It has announced a plan to drop seven questions from its annual American Community Survey (ACS), five of them related to marriage.

This survey has been a pretty big one in the past. With a sample of more than 3 million U.S. households each year, it’s the largest survey of its kind outside of the official U.S. Census, which is taken only once every ten years.

The questionnaire covers a variety of things from incomes and housing arrangements to daily commutes and relationship status, among others. The purpose of the questions is to determine funding for government programs. It also is a marker for trends within society.

Researchers use the information to gauge Americans and their lifestyles. Jim Treat, the census official responsible for the American Community Survey, told a blogger for the New York Times, Justin Wolfers, that he did not know whether there would be any other way to measure the national divorce rate if his agency stopped collecting the information.

Treat justified the shorter survey when he spoke to Politifact saying that the reason for the change wasn’t that his agency thinks marriage is unworthy of study. It just wanted to make the survey shorter, and when they polled other government agencies to determine which questions they could cut, they were told that the marriage data was the least useful to the majority of agencies.

Not everyone approves

Not everyone thinks this is a great idea.

“Marriage patterns are changing more rapidly than in any time in our history, without this data, we would have no idea that a third of the people who are 20 to 24 years old now will never get married. We wouldn’t know that divorce has surged among Baby Boomers,” said Steve Ruggles, a population researcher with the Population Association of America.

The Population Association of America’s (PAA) Committee on Population Statistics (COPS) and Association of Population Centers (APC) sent a letter stating the effect they feel the lack of information will have on the population.

“If these questions are now dropped, the United States will become the only country in the developed world that does not generate annual age-specific rates of marriage and divorce,” the letter states.

The lack of info would also present difficulties for actuaries and economists inside the Social Security Administration as they will only be able to rely on speculation.



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