Why You Should Feel Patriotic Pride in Census Data
Do you ever feel a little glow of patriotic pride in your research work? At Versta Research we sometimes do. Here’s why: the United States of America gives us and you—all free, and all easily accessible—one of the most amazing, useful resources available to every person and every business and every researcher: Census Data. It is the most rigorously designed, collected, cleaned, and documented data on the planet. It is crucial to our work, and it is likely crucial to your work, whether you realize it or not.
How can (and should) you be using data from the U.S. Census Bureau? Let me count they ways! Here are three examples of how you can be using a treasure trove of data from Uncle Sam to bolster the rigor and credibility of your own research:
(1) Use data from the American Community Survey to set quotas and weighting targets for general population surveys and polling. The ACS is an annual sampling-based supplement to the decennial Census that provides rich detail on the entire U.S. population. It gives you age, gender, income, race, ethnicity, geography, and household composition. You can use this data to precisely define, locate, and profile your target population. When you conduct your own surveys, this is the benchmark you should use to make sure you’ve got representative samples.
(2) Use data from the Economic Census to set quotas and weighting targets for B2B surveys and studies. This census collects information from individual business establishments on physical location, industry, employment, payroll, and revenue by type of service or product. In one recent Versta study, we paired employer-size data (number of employees) with SHRM (Society for Human Resource Management) data on the ratio of HR staff to employees. This allowed us to estimate the full population of HR professionals by firm size for a nationwide study about employee benefits.
(3) Use data from the survey of consumer finances to establish feasibility, targets, and screening rules for financial services surveys. This data is not from the Census, but rather from the Federal Reserve. It uses a sample survey to document Americans’ household balance sheets (assets, debts, total net worth) and their pensions, income, and demographic characteristics. We often use this data to help us understand high-asset target populations ($1M+, for example), or to estimate the incidence of workers participating in 401(k) plans.
Even if you are not using these data sources, I can assure you that they are still benefiting you. Companies like Versta Research, who are delivering research insights you count on, rely on these data sources every day.
So here we are on Independence Day. I urge you to feel a little patriotic pride for the amazing work our research colleagues at the Census Bureau and other federal agencies do to enable the work that you do, all of which is building stronger communities, freedom, and democracy.
P.S. I also urge you also to feel some patriotic outrage when politicians and pundits start attacking these amazing research institutions for selfish and partisan gain.