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What methods can be used to ensure that survey questions are clearly understood?

Ensuring the American Community Survey (ACS) collects accurate data

The American Community Survey (ACS) is a mandatory, ongoing statistical survey that samples a small percentage of the population every year, giving communities the information they need to plan investments and services.

The survey collects demographic, economic, housing, and social data. These data are invaluable to federal, state, and local governments; researchers; and businesses. Given the importance of the data and the need to ensure continuity with previous data collections, changes to the ACS are made only after rigorous testing.

We are conducting 420 cognitive interviews of these ACS items across 3 rounds and in 8 locations, including Puerto Rico.

The cognitive testing is complex in that it involves 2 languages (English and Spanish), 3 modes (self-administered on paper, interviewer-administered by phone, interviewer-administered in person), and up to 3 versions of each item.

Westat will make recommendations for revising the tested items to ensure that respondents to the 2019 ACS interpret those items as intended and can answer in a way that most accurately reflects their situation.

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