Updated May 15, 2007

HSLDA Examines the American Community Survey

PURCELLVILLE, VA— HSLDA is concerned about protecting family privacy in America. Protecting family privacy, especially among our home school membership, is a primary concern in reviewing the American Community Survey (ACS). It is appropriate for Congress to investigate the use of Census data and the potential for privacy invasion that might result from some of the proposed commercial uses of information that is collected.

The 2000 U.S. Population Census, which concerned privacy advocates with its intrusive questions about counting bathrooms is finished. However, in its wake the U.S. Census Bureau has marched in a brand new form—the American Community Survey (ACS)—along with plans to collect data every year instead of once a decade.

The wide variety of opinions in response to the American Community Survey—from extremely favorable to definitely opposed—are for a wide variety of reasons. Many, including Pari Sabety, Andrew Reamer, and Lindsay Clark of the Brookings Institute, will point to its ability to bridge the information gap and assist policy makers: “Recent congressional approval of $146 million for the Census Bureau’s American Community Survey (ACS) endeavor marks a great step toward disseminating that kind of transformative information. Improving the ability of both the public and private sector to make better informed decisions will increase economic prosperity and build healthy, sustainable communities.” 1

But the fundamental objection remains the intrusive nature of this survey and its tendency to overstep Constitutional bounds. John Whitehead described it this way: “Article I of the U. S. Constitution makes it clear that the census should be taken every ten years for the sole purpose of congressional redistricting. What the founders intended was a simple head count of the number of people living in a given area so that numerically equal congressional districts can be maintained. The founders never envisioned or authorized the federal government to continuously demand, under penalty of law, detailed information from the American people.” 2

In 1992, the House Commerce Oversight Subcommittee asked the Census Bureau to create an annual snapshot of demographic information, so Congress can react to current trends instead of 10-year-old data. The Census Bureau put together ACS as a pilot program in response to this request and was given general authority to implement it under Title 13 by congressional funding. ACS was fully implemented by the Census Bureau in 2003, was added to federal legislation as part of an amendment to the Voting Rights Act of 1965 in H.R. 9, The Voting Rights Act Reauthorization and Amendments Act of 2006.

Although ACS is also raising concerns about invasive questions and family privacy, federal law requires individuals to fill out and submit “the census form.” This report was created to help homeschooling families discern their rights and responsibilities relating to census forms, particularly ACS.


1 Understanding Our Communities: Funding the American Community Survey by Pari Sabety, Andrew Reamer, and Lindsay Clark. November 30, 2004.

2 The Thought Police and the American Community Survey by John W. Whitehead, 9/13/04, The Rutherford Institute,

 Other Resources

American Community Survey--Issue Analysis