Friday, May 25, 2012

Republicans and the American Community Survey

Some Republicans in the house are trying to reinforce their image as ignorant, anti-intellectual bumpkins by pushing legislation that would eliminate the American Community Survey.

Consider this tidbit of sadness reported in a New York Times column:
“We’re spending $70 per person to fill this out. That’s just not cost effective,” he [inaptly named Congressman Daniel Webster] continued, “especially since in the end this is not a scientific survey. It’s a random survey.”
In fact, the randomness of the survey is precisely what makes the survey scientific, statistical experts say.
Note that "statistical expert" here refers to anyone who took even one undergraduate statistics course.

Data are a public good. Government is supposed to provide public goods. Indeed, even the very limited government that Republicans claim to, but never actually, support, should produce public goods. Might I humbly suggest that Mr. Webster and his colleagues focus their attention on things the government should not be doing - e.g. the export-import bank, the war on (some) drugs, agricultural price supports - or that it does very badly - e.g. Social Security, Medicare, performance management for government primary and secondary schools - before going after the actual public goods?

Hat tip: Adriana Kugler

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