A Timely Portrait of America’s Business Owners from the Annual Survey of Entrepreneurs

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Written by: John H. Thompson

I’m pleased to announce the beginning of data collection for the inaugural Annual Survey of Entrepreneurs. This new survey will be a supplement to the U.S. Census Bureau’s Survey of Business Owners, which is conducted every five years as part of the Economic Census. It represents an exciting public-private partnership between the Census Bureau, the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation and the Minority Business Development Agency.

The Annual Survey of Entrepreneurs is one way that we are responding to Census Bureau data users’ requests for more timely data. This isn’t the first time we’ve expanded our data collection efforts in order to produce more timely statistics; for instance, the demographic data from the annual American Community Survey used to be collected as part of the long-form census every ten years. Similarly, the new Annual Survey of Entrepreneurs will provide an updated socio-economic portrait of America’s business owners in the years between the Survey of Business Owners.

The Annual Survey of Entrepreneurs will provide estimates on firms, receipts, payroll and employment by business owners’ gender, ethnicity, race and veteran status. Results will be available for the U.S., individual states and top 50 metro areas. The survey will also produce annual data on the characteristics of businesses and business owners by demographic category.

Additionally, we are using a rotating module design, which will let us capture information on different relevant business components for each survey year. In the first survey cycle, we will ask about business innovation and research and development activity. We’re working closely with our Advisory Committees to ensure that that we get the most relevant and timely data from business owners each year. As with all of our surveys, we go to great lengths to protect the data we collect; the information we gather from business owners is confidential and never personally identifiable.

Data from the 2014 Annual Survey of Entrepreneurs are tentatively scheduled for release in summer 2016. In the meantime, if you’re interested in the demographic makeup of America’s business owners, check out the release of the preliminary 2012 Survey of Business owners statistics. More detailed statistics will be available with the data’s final release in December.

Posted in Measuring America, Uncategorized | 3 Comments

Measuring Income, Poverty, and Health Insurance Coverage

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Written by: John H. Thompson

Today, the U.S. Census Bureau hosted a webcast on income, poverty, and health insurance coverage statistics. One of the key discussion topics was the implementation of methodological changes to the 2014 Current Population Survey. In conjunction with the event, the Census Bureau released expanded information from last year’s survey; in two weeks, we will release the results from this year’s survey, the second year of data collection with the improved methodology.

The Current Population Survey is the primary source of labor force statistics for the U.S. population. Every spring, the survey asks respondents about their income and health insurance in the prior calendar year. As part of the Census Bureau’s commitment to continuous improvement in measuring changes in our society, we’ve been actively investigating new methodologies for several years – including more than a decade of research on the health insurance coverage questions, and through content tests for both income and health insurance coverage questions.

In 2014, we began asking the survey questions about income and health insurance coverage in a manner that is easier for the respondents to answer. Over the course of the past year, we continued our evaluation of the redesign, and sought out experts to review and provide feedback on our efforts.

Making changes to the Current Population Survey is not something we do lightly, because it can result in difficulties with year-to-year comparisons of the data. However, we needed to implement the changes in 2014 in order to establish a good baseline for health insurance coverage estimates before certain provisions of the Affordable Care Act went into effect.

With the idea of maintaining a consistent time series in mind, we introduced the redesigned income questions using a probability split panel design. Of the 98,000 households selected to participate in the 2014 Current Population Survey Annual Social and Economic Supplement, approximately 68,000 addresses received the traditional set of income questions, and the remaining 30,000 addresses received the redesigned income questions.

The split design functions like a bridge for year-to-year comparisons of the data. Last year, we used the traditional income questions to look at changes between 2012 and 2013. This year, we will use the redesigned income questions to measure changes between 2013 and 2014.

For the health insurance section of the questionnaire, a split panel design wasn’t necessary for year-to-year comparisons because data from the American Community Survey provided a consistent time series starting from 2008. We administered the redesigned health insurance questions to all households last year. As a result, we increased precision in the measurement of changes in health insurance coverage between 2013 and 2014 – before and after some of the major provisions of the Affordable Care Act were implemented. This year we will publish our first statistics showing the law’s effect.

For more information about the redesigned questions in the Current Population Survey, check out the recording of the webcast. You can also look to our Random Samplings blog over the next two weeks for more information about methodology changes. Check back with us on September 16 for the release of 2014 income, poverty and health insurance estimates.

Posted in Measuring America | 3 Comments

U.S. Census Bureau Data Shows Gulf Coast’s Recovery from Hurricane Katrina

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Written by: John H. Thompson

Ten years ago, Hurricane Katrina struck the U.S. Gulf Coast, forever altering the lives of many of its residents. As we pause to reflect on the impact of the storm, we can see a story of recovery told through Census Bureau statistics on population, housing and businesses.

Since 2005, communities in Louisiana, Alabama, Mississippi and Florida continue to rebuild, undergoing significant changes as new homes, schools and businesses replace those damaged or lost to the storm. Census Bureau population estimates show that last year New Orleans returned to the nation’s list of 50 most populous cities for the first time since the storm. In the year after Katrina, its population decreased by more than half to 230,172. While it has not returned to its pre-Katrina level of 494,294, the city’s most recent population totaled 384,320 residents.

While the population continues to rebound in New Orleans, so too do businesses. Some types of businesses have even surpassed pre-Katrina levels, especially hotels, gas stations and restaurants.

In Mississippi, which saw significant damage in many coastal towns, the story is also one of recovery. In fact, the three coastline counties – Hancock, Harrison and Jackson – now have more residents than they did in 2005, with a combined population of 386,144. Looking at towns such as Bay Saint Louis and Pass Christian, we see that their populations have also increased.

Not only can Census Bureau statistics tell us about the recovery from events like Hurricane Katrina, but they can also provide important information about communities for emergency preparedness. Our population estimates help determine the number of people affected by disasters. Our demographic and economic information – like that from the American Community Survey –  assists first responders in identifying the size of populations that may be vulnerable or need extra assistance, such as those with a disability or who speak a language other than English at home. Census Bureau surveys also provide critically important statistics on topics like access to transportation, the number of residents who are elderly or disabled, and how people commute each day.

I’m pleased that the Census Bureau is able to contribute to recovery efforts by providing data on the affected people and businesses to policymakers and planners. These statistics inform decisions that will help Gulf Coast communities rebuild and plan for the future. We look forward to measuring your growth for years to come.

For more information about the effects of Hurricane Katrina on Louisiana, Mississippi and other affected areas, see this special edition of our Profile America Facts for Features.

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The 2015 National Content Test Is Now Underway

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Written by: John H. Thompson

This month, 1.2 million households began receiving the questionnaire for the 2015 National Content Test. For those who receive the test, your participation in this important milestone on the road to the 2020 Census will help us determine the best questions for you to respond to in the next census. September 1 marks Census Day for the test.

The National Content Test has two main objectives. First, we want to evaluate and compare different versions of questions to ask in the 2020 Census, such as those about race and origin, relationships, and the best questions for determining where people should be counted as of Census Day.

Second, during the National Content Test, the U.S. Census Bureau will try different strategies for encouraging households to respond to the census on their own. We will test nine different approaches to encourage households to respond via the Internet – the least costly and most efficient response option.

The Census Bureau has sent National Content Test questionnaires to a statistically representative sample of households in the United States and Puerto Rico. For each household, we ask how many people live in the house, and each person’s name, sex, age, relationship, and race and ethnic origin. We ask whether the housing unit is owned or rented. Finally, we ask for the respondent’s telephone number and email address. Because studying the effectiveness of different content is part of the test, different households will receive different versions of question wording.

If you receive a form, please perform your civic duty and complete it. You will help inform our decisions as we design the 2020 Census. Your participation will also help us to identify additional topics for 2020 Census testing later this decade. As always, the information we collect is subject to strict privacy and confidentiality laws, and we go to great lengths to protect your data. The National Content Test is part of our ongoing testing activities to research innovative methods for reducing the cost of the 2020 Census, while still maintaining a high-quality census. It will help us develop a census that is cost-effective, improves coverage, and reduces operational risk.

The 2015 National Content Test is scheduled to run through November 2015. You can learn more by visiting our FAQ page.

Posted in 2020 Census | 139 Comments

New Advance Report on International Trade Available Today

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Written by: John H. Thompson

Today, the U.S. Census Bureau released the first-ever Advance Report: U.S. International Trade in Goods. The Department of Commerce is “America’s Data Agency,” and this report is part of our ongoing efforts to release U.S. trade data to the public as quickly as possible. The Advance Report of U.S. trade data will be published up to a week before the full FT-900: U.S. International Trade in Goods and Services that is jointly issued by the Census Bureau and the Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA).

Many American businesses, policymakers and other data users rely on the Census Bureau’s international trade statistics to make data-driven decisions. These data are crucial to understanding the U.S. economy with respect to our trading partners and the impact of events around the globe. Now, data users will have earlier access to our statistics with this high-level “snapshot.”

Even better, the Advance Report of U.S. trade data allows the federal statistical community to produce more reliable initial estimates of quarterly Gross Domestic Product (GDP). BEA will use the Advance Report of U.S. trade data when preparing its advance estimate of quarterly GDP, which measures the value of goods and services produced in the U.S. economy and is one of the most comprehensive and most closely watched economic statistic. Getting this initial estimate accurate, with small subsequent revisions, is critical to the Federal Reserve, businesses and policymakers around the world.  The new Advance Report of U.S. trade data should reduce the size of revisions to this major economic indicator.

The Advance Report of U.S. trade data is just the latest example of the Census Bureau’s commitment to releasing the timeliest, accurate, and trusted information about our nation’s people and economy. We are constantly looking for ways to improve your access to our statistics.  I’m pleased that this collaboration with BEA will support the needs of taxpayers and our data customers for better, faster measures of the U.S. economy.

Click here to access our first Advance Report. You can also click here to access BEA’s first GDP report incorporating data from the Advance Report, which is their advance estimate of second-quarter GDP.


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