Public complaints urge Census to consider a change in questions

BY Justin Scuiletti  April 22, 2014 at 11:58 AM EDT

Several questions asked on the Census Bureau's American Community Survey are under review after complaints about several of the questions. Photo by U.S. Census Bureau

Several questions asked on the Census Bureau’s American Community Survey are under review after complaints about several of the questions. Photo by U.S. Census Bureau


Does your residence have a flush toilet? The Census wants to know.

That’s one of the many questions that three million American households have been asked by the Census’ American Community Survey each year. The survey, according to the Census, utilizes answers given each year to update annual demographic, social, economic and housing data that “help determine how more than $400 billion in federal and state funds are distributed each year.”

Public backlash, however, may make the bureau reconsider some of the questions it asks.

Pew reports that many Americans think that many of the questions, which include inquiries about a household’s plumbing or total income over 12 months, are too personal. Angry recipients of the mandatory survey have complained, and in response the Census bureau is conducting an audit, starting with four of the questions areas: plumbing, commuting, income and disability. Once it determines the value of those questions, it will move on to the remainder.

After review, any changes to the survey would be implemented by 2016.