As I was retiring, the American Community Survey(ACS) was replacing the long-form Census questionnaire. There is merit to the argument that a survey can provide data that is as good as a form that one out of six people fill out – both are, after all, actually surveys. Still, as a rural sociologist whose primary duties were rural demography, I wasn’t comfortable with the American Community Survey results – the sampling size was too small.
Now, I can access data that compiles five years worth of estimates – so here is some data on Rexford, Eureka, Fortine and Trego, by zip code, in two separate five-year conglomerates:
|5 to 9||21||282||34||52|
|10 to 14||35||305||22||49|
|Median (Average) Age||58.0||43.6||50.7||49.2|
|Per capita income||$22,377||$18,799||$21,203||$25,999|
|5 to 9||–||532||12||–|
|10 to 14||50||216||35||20|
|Median (Average) Age||56.0||46.8||47.2||60.4|
|Per capita income||$13,438||$22,867||$28,753||$26,671|
The American Community Survey is a well-conducted survey. The data is correct, in both cases, within the limits of the survey. The small samples, however, can create some large swings and make the data less useful. I have been looking forward to reviewing the Trego data since I was selected to return the ACS survey. Trego’s median age went up 11 years. The population dropped by 15%. The youth population plunged. Meanwhile Fortine incomes increased by 36%, as Rexford plunged into the depths of poverty. All the survey data is correct – but sampling bias, due to the small number of participants, has given us data we can’t use.
I still prefer the old, time-consuming long form results over the ACS.