Census Bureau: American Community Survey letter is real

The American Community Survey is the nation’s largest household survey. 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 after 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 legit?

THE SOURCES

THE ANSWER

Yes, the American Community Survey is legit.

WHAT WE FOUND

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

In 1940, the census included separate questionnaires for counting the population and collecting data on housing. But the process changed in 1960 when the Bureau combined the population and housing questions into a single questionnaire mailed to households or completed when a census taker visited.

The Census Bureau changed the process again between 1970 and 2000, this time randomly distributing a shorter survey to most households and a longer 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 US households to participate in ACS by phone, mail, online or in person. The survey, which gathers more in-depth data than the traditional census, is sent monthly to one in 480 households in the United States. It includes questions on education, employment, property and household income.

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

On its Survey Key Questions web page, the Census Bureau states 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 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 personnel search. The Census Bureau says its field staff will always show a valid Census Bureau ID and a copy of the letter they sent you.

The Census Bureau conducts more than 130 surveys and programs per year, including the COVID-19 Household Survey. 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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