Census Finds a Richer, More Educated Nation With New Sample Survey

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The Census Bureau has released initial data from a survey of 700,000 households called the Census 2000 Supplementary Survey.


The survey was designed to test the operational feasibility of collecting long-form-type data simultaneously, but separately from a decennial census. Direct marketers, data users and data providers use the long form for more detailed demographic information about U.S. consumers. The 2000 census long form was sent to 20 million residential addresses and included 53 questions.


The new figures shine a light on the nation's households, employment and finances.


They reveal a richer, better-educated population than was counted in 1990, as well as a fast-growing immigrant population that speaks English at home less frequently -- a change that was just hinted at in the 2000 short form.


In addition, according to the new figures, median annual household income leapt to $41,343, compared with $30,056 in the 1990 census, not adjusted for inflation. The portion of Americans with college degrees was measured at just above one-quarter, 25.1 percent, compared with 20.3 percent in the 1990 census.


"We have demonstrated with the release of these first data that we can collect long-form-type data concurrently with a decennial census," said Kathleen Cooper, the undersecretary for economic affairs at the Commerce Department. "This was a necessary and important first step in exploring a redesigned, short-form-only census in 2010."


If it receives congressional approval, this kind of smaller, annual survey would be a permanent substitute for the long form. An enlarged version, called the American Community Survey, would be conducted continually, covering 3 million households annually and yielding a new snapshot of the country every year instead of the data burst that now comes every 10 years.


As part of a 2010 census re-engineering plan -- if Congress approves -- the ACS would eliminate the need for a census long form by producing up-to-date data every year for all communities and population groups of all sizes beginning in 2008.


The constitutionally mandated short form would continue to be conducted once a decade.


The Census 2000 Supplementary Survey, which used the ACS methodology and questionnaire, is the largest survey ever conducted by the Census Bureau outside a decennial census.


The first wave of the Census 2000 Supplementary Survey estimates are based on a monthly sample of about 58,000 households in 1,203 counties. Additional data for most cities and counties of 250,000 or more are scheduled for release in the fall and winter.


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