I’ve been blessed with The American Community Survey from the U.S. Census Bureau — a meandering 24 page monstrosity with hundreds of invasive personal questions about me and my family.
The American Community Survey is a nationwide survey designed to provide communities a fresh look at how they are changing. It will replace the decennial long form in future censuses and is a critical element in the Census Bureau’s reengineered 2010 census.
The decennial census has two parts: 1) the short form, which counts the population; and 2) the long form, which obtains demographic, housing, social, and economic information from a 1-in-6 sample of households. Information from the long form is used for the administration of federal programs and the distribution of billions of federal dollars.
Since this is done only once every 10 years, long-form information becomes out of date. Planners and other data users are reluctant to rely on it for decisions that are expensive and affect the quality of life of thousands of people. The American Community Survey is a way to provide the data communities need every year instead of once in ten years.
Oh, one more thing. It is mandatory, and the penalty for refusing to answer all of the questions can be up to $5,000. So really it’s not a survey so much as an interrogation.
Here are some of the highlights. Keep in mind that all these questions are mandatory:
- How much do you make?
- Are you using food stamps?
- Do you bathe yourself, or does someone have to help you?
- Are you having sex with any of the people in your house?
- If so, are you two married, or are you living in sin?
- Did you get her pregnant this year?
- Is she also a grandmother?
- Did she graduate from high school, or is she still in elementary school?
- Is she “ethnic”?
- Is she an illegal alien?
- How’s her English?
- Dude, are you screwing a blind chick?
- Is she a shut-in?
- How many wars has your sex partner fought in?
- Where does she work?
- Does your sex buddy take a ferryboat to work?
- How hard does she work?
- Is the government giving her money?
So how is this legal?
The American Community Survey is conducted under the authority of Title 13, United States Code, Sections 141 and 193, and response is mandatory. According to Section 221, persons who do not respond shall be fined not more than $100. Title 18 U.S.C. Section 3571 and Section 3559, in effect amends Title 13 U.S.C. Section 221 by changing the fine for anyone over 18 years old who refuses or willfully neglects to complete the questionnaire or answer questions posed by census takers from a fine of not more than $100 to not more than $5,000.
Yikes, sounds pretty serious. What does the Constitution have to say about this?
The actual Enumeration shall be made within three Years after the first Meeting of the Congress of the United States, and within every subsequent Term of ten Years, in such Manner as they shall by Law direct.
“Enumeration” means “counting.” An enumeration is required every 10 years, but can be performed more frequently. So back to the survey about my private life: is this covered by “in such Manner as they shall by Law direct” ? No. Because it is only an enumeration that shall be made in a manner directed by law. Anything more would be more than an enumeration. So really, there’s only one question that needs to be answered: “number of people in this household.” The answer is two. And other than filling out today’s date, that is all I’m putting on the survey.
And hey, that took me a lot less time than the 38 minutes they had allotted!