We recently noted the great dependence that researchers, demographers, policy makers, social program administrators and others place on empirical data when trying to form solid conclusions about the American family. Our January 5 blog post queried what the result — that is, the long-term repercussions — might be if “the deep well of statistical information centrally relied upon to understand the American family went dry.”
Indeed, that is a growing concern harbored by many individuals and groups that focus closely on the American family. It is especially acute in light of a recent U.S. Census Bureau announcement that it might soon curtail the family-related questions it asks on its nationally disseminated Community Survey.
The bureau has pointed to a perceived low benefit in the information that is culled and analyzed from the survey’s responses, but many critics of curtailed information strongly disagree with that assessment.
One commentator — an economist and public policy professor — voicing his opinion in a New York Times article on the importance of using statistical data to understand American family arrangements, states that the survey is of key utility as a research tool. Other sources provide relevant data, he notes, but the survey stands alone for its ability to collect massive amounts of pertinent family-related information.
That data, say persons opposed to any change in the survey, is widely useful for spotting issues and identifying trends. It has helped researchers better understand the growth of same-sex relationships, baby-boomer divorces, new family configurations and a host of other important information.
And, once analyzed, the data is centrally important to administrators of programs like Social Security, legislators crafting new social and economic policies, family law researchers, debaters of welfare reform and demographers who help the general public better understand family developments and trends.
As noted, the survey cuts are proposals and not cast in stone. We will be sure to keep our readers duly informed of any material developments that occur regarding this subject matter.