Saturday, May 12, 2012

Killing the American Community Survey Blinds Business

On May 9 the House voted to kill the American Community Survey, which collects data on some 3 million households each year and is the largest survey next to the decennial census. The ACS — which has a long bipartisan history, including its funding in the mid-1990s and full implementation in 2005 — provides data that help determine how more than $400 billion in federal and state funds are spent annually. Businesses also rely heavily on it to do such things as decide where to build new stores, hire new employees, and get valuable insights on consumer spending habits...

The fight over cutting funds for data-gathering agencies has opened up a rift in the deficit-hawk crowd. A handful of organizations that generally support big fiscal spending cuts have voiced their support for fully funding the three main data-gathering agencies: Census, the Bureau of Labor Statistics, and the Bureau of Economic Analysis.

The Chamber of Commerce, for example, strongly advocates funding them, since its members rely so much on the information they provide on basic things such as household spending, per capita income, and population estimates. The ACS is of particular value to them, says Martin Regalia, Commerce’s chief economist. "It is especially important to some of our bigger members for trying to understand geographic distinctions and other granularity in the economy."

Tom Beers, executive director of the National Association of Business Economists, says that without good economic data, businesses would be "flying blind." He adds: "You end up in a guessing game about what’s going on in the economy. The types of losses that result are far worse than what you end up spending to fund these surveys."

More here.

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