Why Every Business Needs the Census Bureau
Every ten years the Census Bureau provides a count of all people living in the United States. More importantly, the Census Bureau and other agencies conduct ongoing surveys of the population to document crucial facts and figures about who we are.
And every year, it seems, these agencies come under attack from politicians who would like to do away with all public goods. This year it is the American Community Survey that is under attack, as described in this article from The Wall Street Journal. Prominent professional and business groups (including AAPOR, The American Association of Public Opinion Research, of which we are members) of all political and non-political persuasions are working to fend off the attack.
Here are two reasons why you and your company should aggressively support our efforts to protect the Bureau’s data collection efforts:
1. The data are amazingly useful and important. We regularly consult and work with this data for almost every client who hires us. It tells us how many people, of what ages and incomes, live in what counties and zip codes. It gives us information about their family composition, so if we need to help you understand a market of working moms with kids, we know how to do this efficiently. It gives us solid information about peoples’ health and financial well-being, which all of our customers care about for all kinds of reasons. It provides critical statistical benchmarks for understanding your data and analyzing it correctly.
2. The Census Bureau leads important innovations. Few market research firms (and few academics) do research as methodologically rigorous and as statistically robust as the Census Bureau. It is difficult, costly, and time-consuming. Research of this caliber is not usually an investment our customers want (or should) make. But we and they benefit enormously from the development of methods that become the gold standard for social and market research. Currently one of the most important innovations underway is the study and development of statistical techniques to transform large datasets that preserve data structure while stripping away the ability to identify individual cases. As these innovations make their way into the private sector, every business will benefit from techniques that help them protect the confidentiality of their data and that of their customers.
Census and other government agency data are one of the most outstanding and useful public goods available for businesses. They allow you to function and innovate in informed ways, and to deliver goods and services to customers who need them. They are as important as roads and bridges.
Do what you can to protect this public good, and to ensure a continuing public investment in a resource that benefits you.
—Joe Hopper, Ph.D.