Making the most of transportation data while protecting the privacy of respondents

The Challenge 

Every year, the U.S. Census Bureau asks members of more than 3.5 million U.S. households to participate in the American Community Survey (ACS), which collects demographic, social, economic, and housing data.

The American Association of State Highway Transportation Organizations asked Westat for ideas that would increase the use of ACS data while protecting the confidentiality of respondents.

Our Solutions 

  • We developed, evaluated, and tested statistical procedures for analyzing ACS transportation data that would adhere to the Census Bureau’s privacy requirements. We performed the following:
    • Reviewed Census Bureau rules on protecting identifiable personal data
    • Identified and evaluated promising techniques for avoiding the disclosure of private information
    • Identified credible data techniques
    • Developed tests, methods, and metrics to evaluate the impact on disclosure risk and data utility
    • Implemented techniques to reduce disclosure risk in the Census Transportation Planning Products generated from the ACS

The Results 

  • We developed a feasible approach for generating a massive number of tables for small areas, such as traffic analysis zones, which are groups of census blocks, while maintaining the privacy of confidential information.

Our Client 

American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials