US Census to offer online survey option for the first time

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The U.S. Census Bureau, which collects demographic and economic data for almost every household in the country, is about to go digital.

The U.S. Census Bureau, which collects demographic and economic data for almost every household in the country, is about to go digital at long last.

As the cost of reaching America's increasingly diverse (and mobile) residents grows higher, the thrifty bonus of a paperless Census is seeming even more attractive than in past years. That’s what U.S. Census Bureau Director, Robert Groves, recently told the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform in Congress.

For more than a decade, the Bureau has been concerned about the possibility that personal data could be hacked. There’s also been fear that an online survey wouldn’t reach many immigrant residents who don’t have Web access, or who are wary of placing their personal information on the internet.

According to Census Bureau researchers, in trial surveys, online respondents have been more likely to be younger and possess a higher education level. They were also more likely to speak a language other than English at home.

The kinks are currently being worked out, and the first online questionnaire, the annual American Community Survey, will become available next year.

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