Congress Saves Key Census Survey from Chopping Block

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January 30, 2007

Congress Saves Key Census Survey from Chopping Block

CEPR Statement on FY07 Full Funding for US Census Bureau

For Immediate Release: Jan. 30, 2007

Contact: Liz Chimienti, 202-293-5380 x110

Washington, DC: The Center for Economic and Policy Research released the following statement today praising Congressional FY07 funding of the Survey of Income and Program Participation (SIPP):

"We are pleased that the Survey of Income and Program Participation -- the nation’s only large-scale, longitudinal source of data on poverty, unemployment, and disability -- will not face the chopping block this year. This Census Bureau survey is used by researchers and the government to understand families' changing needs and evaluate the effectiveness of government programs such as TANF, Food Stamps and Medicaid. The FY 2007 joint funding resolution includes adequate funding for the 2010 decennial census as well as the Census Bureau overall. 

A wide range of social science researchers and advocates – including health researchers, economists and sociologists – have campaigned to save the SIPP. The Census Bureau has proposed to end the SIPP and replace it with a new survey, the Dynamics of Economic Well-being System (DEWS).  In March 2006, 530 researchers, including two Nobel Laureate economists, signed a letter urging Congress not to eliminate the SIPP.

Congress needs good data to make good policies. Fielding a new 2008 SIPP panel while field-testing the proposed alternative method is now the most prudent course of action. To understand the dynamics of economic well-being, we need access to sub-annual data, which the SIPP currently provides. The newly proposed method would contact respondents only once a year, which may not provide adequate sub-annual data. Therefore, the Census Bureau should conduct more research on the effectiveness of once-a-year interviews and determine whether it is possible to confidently compare results from the new survey to previous SIPP trends. Without field-testing and evaluating the new method of data collection, we will not know how effective it is and could squander much of the past 23 years of investment in this critical measure of Americans' well-being."