United States Census Bureau
In addition to the Decennial, which counts every person in the United States, the U.S. Census Bureau conducts more than 130 surveys and programs each year, including our nation’s largest annual household survey, the American Community Survey, which reaches 3.5 million households nationwide.
Responding to the American Community Survey
Each year, the U.S. Census Bureau contacts over 3.5 million households across the country to participate in the mandatory American Community Survey (ACS). Materials sent by mail are the primary means of contacting and communicating with a household. These materials are critical to encouraging self-response. The design and messages convey essential information about participation and set a tone for their interaction with the Census Bureau. Similarly, the wording of survey questions, the usability of the internet instrument, and the interactions with Census Bureau field representatives and call center staff also influence the respondent’s experience in completing the ACS. The Census Bureau employs a 3-month data collection process for each monthly sample, first through self-response and later through in-person and telephone interviews. Households are asked to complete the survey online or mail the completed paper questionnaire in a prepaid envelope to the Census Bureau’s National Processing Center. The Census Bureau sends up to five mailings to potential respondents to solicit self-response. Respondents can also call a toll-free number to get more information or assistance. Census Bureau call center staff are available with information on the ACS and to provide guidance on the survey questions. Respondents can also get information on the Census Bureau website. Bureau field representatives may contact these households by phone or in-person to complete the survey. During this phase, Census may send additional mailings to the respondent to address their concerns and encourage them to respond online or contact the field representative.
Why this service was designated
The U.S. Census Bureau is the nation’s leading provider of quality data about its people and economy. The method of obtaining this critical social, economic, and geographic information is through various surveys and censuses conducted by the Census Bureau. Of the more than 100 surveys and censuses conducted each year, the American Community Survey is the only source of comparable, quality information about the people in all of our communities. This ongoing national survey is the most current, reliable, and accessible source of local statistics on topics such as age, children, veterans, income, and employment. The ACS is an important national resource, providing data about who we are and how our population is changing. The ACS is vital to small and large businesses seeking to better serve the full range of markets, find workers with needed skill sets, and inform decisions on investing and creating jobs. Local communities rely on the ACS to target resources in areas in need of assistance, as well as local schools, first responders, roads, and hospitals. The federal government uses ACS data to distribute hundreds of billions of dollars per year to communities and make government operate smarter and more efficiently.
Accessing Census data on a mobile device
Millions of customers, from large institutions to individual citizens, need the right data at the right time in order to make decisions that affect lives and livelihoods. Getting these data when and how they are needed can mean the difference in getting the news story right, choosing the right major or career, obtaining the funding or a grant you need to help your community, or your small business succeeding or failing.
With the U.S. Census Bureau’s role as the nation’s leading provider of quality data about America’s people and economy, our Census.gov website and many data products and tools have been the go-to platforms used by data seekers. But not all Census Bureau website visitors have desktop computers and fast broadband internet connections to find, access, and engage with our data. Some may need data on the go from their mobile device. Others, particularly those from historically underserved communities, may not have access to a desktop computer and their only internet connection may be a smartphone with Wi-Fi.
Why this service was designated
According to Census Bureau data, 84 percent of households owned a smartphone in 2018, exceeding 78 percent of households that owned a desktop or laptop computer. Over the past 6 years, the percentage of visits by mobile users to the Census Bureau’s primary websites grew from 18 percent to nearly one-third of our visits at 32.7 percent or 14.9 million mobile visits in 2022, with mobile-visit percentage spiking to over one-half of our web visits (57 percent or 116 million) during the 2020 Census year. The need to better understand what Census Bureau information customers with mobile devices are looking for and cannot easily find or understand—and how that differs from desktop computer users—creates an opportunity to improve the mobile experience for the millions of our mobile visitors, particularly disadvantaged users from historically underserved communities who do not have access to desktop computers or have language or other barriers to using Census Bureau information today.
With the Census Bureau considered one of the most trusted sources of data for equity, ensuring mobile customers have equitable and easy access to understandable and useful Census Bureau data and other information they need when and where they need it can help inform their decisions, which will have a major impact on their own lives and of those they serve.
Quarterly data reported
What we learned from this quarter's data:
As this has been our first quarter collecting these data, this establishes our baseline to help us identify current challenges and opportunities for improvement.
From this Q3 FY2023 data, we found the most positive scores for data-seeking mobile customers were Trust and Efficiency (tied for first) followed by Effectiveness. The lowest scores were for Satisfaction followed by Ease of completing their task, providing us areas of focus for improvement for our data customers’ experience. We also found most of the respondents checked more than one purpose for their visit; they were not just looking for data.
|Description||Accessing Census data on a mobile device|
|Transaction point||Survey prompt appears upon page load when user visits one of the designated service webpages.|