The purpose of the census, as outlined in the Constitution, is ostensibly to allot House of Representatives members. But it also provides an essential snapshot of the population. In modern society, however, the demographics of the country change far too rapidly to capture adequately in a decennial survey. That’s why the Census Bureau also conducts an annual poll of a large sample of the population, known as the American Community Survey, to fill in the gaps in the data. Now, the House of Representatives is threatening to cut this essential product on the basis that it violates one’s privacy.
Eliminating the ACS would be devastating to the economy. Just as political operators use polling data to guide the deployment of resources, governments and businesses use the data to decide how to invest on a much larger scale. A business involving transportation may need to measure a sample of commuters by distances and types of vehicles. A business involving construction may need to determine the sample of homeowners and renters by years of occupancy, and how they shifted over the last few years. Businesses of all sizes rely on its data to make investment decisions, meaning the United States recovers every penny invested in the survey in many times over in economic growth.