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Census Bureau letting participants answer online for latest American Community Survey

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US Capitol 1 (Verge Stock)
US Capitol 1 (Verge Stock)

The US Census Bureau is adding an online response option to its American Community Survey, something it hopes will spur participation. The American Community Survey (ACS), which runs continuously and is one of the largest Census projects, is still sending physical letters, but the letters now contain instructions and an ID letting participants fill out the form itself online. If there's no response, the Census Bureau will follow up with a traditional paper form, contact potential participants by phone, or meet with them in person. About 3 million households receive the ACS staggered across the course of the year. Some — like people in Puerto Rico or living in group housing — won't be eligible for the online survey, but a large number will be asked to complete it.

The Census Bureau first announced that the survey would be conducted online back in April, and it said some time ago that the nationwide 2020 Census would have an online option as well. Online responses were initially allowed in the 2000 Census, but the option was little-used and then abolished for the 2010 Census. Now, after tests conducted later this year, the Census Bureau says internet responses on the ACS will be "part of an ongoing digital transformation" at the Bureau. Another part of that is a set of questions on internet and computer use, which has been added to this year's survey.