American Community Survey on the chopping block

Earlier this week the U.S. House of Representatives voted to cut funding for the American Community Survey, as reported in Bloomberg Businessweek.  Cutting the ACS has far-reaching negative implications for urban planners, the public service sector, and businesses.  Cutting off a yearly flow of detailed statistics for neighborhoods and ZIP codes makes it hard to effectively plan future development.  This is especially true in areas that are experiencing a significant shift in demographics that might not be captured between the decennial U.S Census.

Most immediately, it impacts how I work with the Business and Business Management students at my community college, who need access to local and regional demographic statistics for market research reports and business proposals.  ACS offers them “fresher” data on our local social, economic and housing conditions.

In the classroom and at the reference desk, I’ve helped teams of business students access this information and think critically about what the numbers mean or how they can use it in their projects.  Should our restaurant be a fine dining establishment or a take-out/delivery burger joint?  Does our hair salon need to be located next to a bus stop, or should we invest in a larger parking lot?  These are actual questions from previous students that ACS helped answer.

I really wish I had stumbled upon this great 3 minute video sooner, which I hope to use to introduce ACS in my upcoming business library workshops

For a much more eloquent appeal on the value of ACS, read this post from a real, live statistician at the U.S. Census Bureau, found via FlowingData.