Census Bureau: American Community Survey letter is real

The American Community Survey is the largest household survey in the country. Each year, the US Census Bureau contacts more than 3.5 million households to participate.

Every 10 years, the US Census Bureau is required to conduct a census to determine the number of people living in the country. The 2020 census results were released last summer following a series of delays due to the coronavirus pandemic. But VERIFY viewer Brenda said she recently received a letter claiming to be from the Census Bureau for something called the “American Community Survey,” and she wanted to know if it was real.

THE QUESTION

Is the American Community Survey legitimate?

THE SOURCES

THE ANSWER

Yes, the American Community Survey is legitimate.

WHAT WE FOUND

For decades, lawmakers and the US Census Bureau have debated how to balance accurate data and timeliness.

In 1940, the census included separate questionnaires to enumerate the population and collect housing data. But the process changed in 1960 when the Bureau combined the population and housing questions into a single questionnaire that was mailed to households or completed during a visit by an enumerator.

The Census Bureau again changed the process between 1970 and 2000, this time randomly distributing a shorter survey to most households and a more in-depth survey to others, the agency said.

In 2005, the Census Bureau launched the American Community Survey (ACS). It is now considered the largest household survey in the country. Each year, the Census Bureau contacts more than 3.5 million U.S. households to participate in ACS by phone, mail, online, or in person. The survey, which collects more in-depth data than the traditional census, is sent to one in 480 households in the United States each month. It includes questions on education, employment, property and household income.

If you’ve been contacted to participate in the survey, but have concerns about the authenticity of the request, there are ways to verify its legitimacy.

On its Top Questions About the Survey web page, the Census Bureau says that if your household has been contacted to complete the ACS and you want to verify that the survey is legitimate, you can call 1-800-354-7271.

If a census field representative has visited your address and you want to verify that the visit is legitimate, you can call your regional census office. You can also confirm that the person is a Census Bureau employee by entering their name in the Census Bureau Staff Search. The Census Bureau says its field staff will always show valid Census Bureau ID and a copy of the letter it sent you.

The Census Bureau conducts more than 130 surveys and programs each year, including the Household Pulse Survey on COVID-19. You can visit the Census Bureau website to verify if a letter, text message, or link claiming to be from the Census Bureau is real.

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