Identifying COVID-19-Related Issues With Census Data on Youth and Families

Posted August 17, 2022
By the Annie E. Casey Foundation
Woman with toddler. They are facing one another, the woman is holding up the child in front of her; both are smiling.

The COVID-19 pan­dem­ic sig­nif­i­cant­ly impact­ed how the fed­er­al gov­ern­ment col­lect­ed data on the well-being of chil­dren and fam­i­lies, accord­ing to a new brief fund­ed by the Annie E. Casey Foundation.

The brief, Infor­ma­tion and Advice on 2020 Fed­er­al Data Qual­i­ty and Use,” sum­ma­rizes changes to sev­er­al sur­veys and pro­grams – includ­ing the Amer­i­can Com­mu­ni­ty Sur­vey, Cur­rent Pop­u­la­tion Sur­vey, the 2020 cen­sus and annu­al Pop­u­la­tion Esti­mates. It also shares how KIDS COUNT® grantees and oth­ers can best use this data.

To cope with pan­dem­ic lim­i­ta­tions, some fed­er­al sur­veys shift­ed from con­duct­ing inter­views in-per­son to gath­er­ing infor­ma­tion via phone or online. Oth­er fed­er­al sur­veys sus­pend­ed oper­a­tions or delayed data col­lec­tion peri­ods, affect­ing the use­ful­ness of some data. 

The dis­rup­tions in data col­lec­tion lim­it our under­stand­ing of how the COVID-19 pan­dem­ic impact­ed fam­i­lies in 2020 and will have ram­i­fi­ca­tions for data qual­i­ty and data avail­abil­i­ty for the next sev­er­al years,” the brief notes. 

The Pop­u­la­tion Ref­er­ence Bureau (PRB) — a Casey grantee that ana­lyzes pop­u­la­tion data to inform deci­sion mak­ing — pre­pared the doc­u­ment, which shares infor­ma­tion on access­ing data and eval­u­at­ing its qual­i­ty and usability. 

The Amer­i­can Com­mu­ni­ty Survey

The brief notes impor­tant changes to the 2020 Amer­i­can Com­mu­ni­ty Sur­vey, a key source of social, finan­cial and hous­ing infor­ma­tion. It shares how: 

  • Sur­vey par­tic­i­pa­tion dropped 32% — from 2.06 mil­lion house­holds in 2019 to 1.41 mil­lion in 2020.
  • Respon­dents were more like­ly to be white, col­lege edu­cat­ed, live in a sin­gle-fam­i­ly home and earn a high­er income.
  • The Cen­sus Bureau weight­ed its sur­vey results to cre­ate exper­i­men­tal esti­mates that bet­ter rep­re­sent­ed the nation’s pop­u­la­tion at large. As a result, the agency rec­om­mend­ed against com­par­ing 2020 ACS 1‑year data to oth­er ACS esti­mates or cen­sus data.

The House­hold Pulse Survey 

The Cen­sus Bureau also devel­oped a new tool, the House­hold Pulse Sur­vey, to bet­ter under­stand the COVID-19 pandemic’s impact on eco­nom­ic well-being. These sur­vey results should be used with cau­tion, the brief notes, cit­ing a low response rate, exper­i­men­tal results and the lack of a pre-pan­dem­ic benchmark. 

This PRB brief, which pro­vides insights on how to use new cen­sus data, will be valu­able to researchers, advo­cates and providers,” says Flo Gutier­rez, a senior research asso­ciate with the Casey Foun­da­tion. Accu­rate data and infor­ma­tion are essen­tial for any­one work­ing to ful­ly under­stand exist­ing con­di­tions and improve oppor­tu­ni­ties for chil­dren, youth and families.”

Learn more about the 2020 cen­sus

Down­load the 2022 KIDS COUNT® Data Book

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