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Chapter 29. MULTIPURPOSE SAMPLE VEHICLES
As noted above, the total dollar value of these surveys runs to tens of millions of dollars annually. It would be useful to examine a set of these surveys to determine if they were adequately coordinated with other agencies and, if so, how that coordination took place. Hopefully, a set of principles can be developed for improved management of multipurpose sample surveys.
Tens of millions of dollars are spent annually in the United States on various household surveys. The size of this expenditure and the importance of the data collected suggest that a careful examination be made to assure that the taxpayers are deriving maximum utility from these efforts. For example the charge has frequently been made that survey activities are duplicative and, hence, wasteful. The purpose of this chapter is to explore ways to improve the utility of general survey vehicles.
The chapter is developed in two sections. The first deals with the data collection situation as it exists today while the second section describes a data collection strategy for the 1980's. This strategy, anchored in the newly authorized mid-decade census and the decennial census, should significantly change all of the socioeconomic and demographic data collection efforts of the Federal Government. However, the expectations for a mid-decade census do not diminish the importance of current activities. Extensive special purpose survey activities will continue to bo carried out in many areas.
A significant amount of the survey activity presently being carried out by the Federal Government is of interest to more than one agency. The general thesis of this chapter is that major statistical efforts are in the "public domain" and are not the private property of their sponsors or collectors. However, the question remains as to whether the present coordination of survey efforts is adequate or if new procedures need to be developed to systematize the coordination of interests among the Federal agencies.
A large amount of the work currently performed for Federal agencies is carried out by private contractors. This is more true of one-time surveys than of continuing efforts. However, by no means all of the continuing efforts are conducted by the agencies themselves or through interagency agreements. For years the Institute for Social Research at the University of Michigan has carried out a family longitudinal survey for the Department of Health Education and Welfare (HEW). Similarly the Research Triangle Institute is the major contractor for "the Longitudinal Study of the Class of '72," which is sponsored by the National Center for Education Statistics.
A significant number of reimbursable surveys are conducted by the Bureau of the Census. A request for the Bureau of the Census to collect data can take one of three forms. First, if there is a need for large amounts of data on a continuing basis, the Bureau may establish a separate survey panel on a continuing basis. Second, if the data collection needs are smaller, the Bureau may include the questions as supplements on existing panels. Finally, if there is a large single time need for data, the Bureau may tailor a large survey to fit the specific needs of the sponsoring agency.
At present, when a Federal agency feels the need to collect statistical data, it is free to collect it. The agency may enter into a contract with a private organization or go to another Federal agency to request that the other agency collect data on a cost reimbursable basis.
Other Federal agencies also engage in statistical collection activities on a reimbursable basis for other agencies. Most notably the National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS) has budget authority to hire personnel to perform such reimbursable work. These positions are not counted against the agency's regular ceiling. Similarly, the National Center for Education Statistics conducts reimbursable work on behalf of other agencies.
Survey of Income and Education
The Elementary and Secondary Education Amendments of 1974 required the production of extensive statistics on a number of areas related to elementary and secondary education. The largest single activity generated by that legislation was the Survey of Income and Education. The Act required that the Secretary of Commerce conduct a survey to ascertain the number of school-aged children who live in households whose income is below the official poverty line. The legislation also required that the Secretary of Health, Education, and Welfare determine the number of children who live in "bilingual” households. Finally the HEW Secretary was required to collect data on the disabled schoolaged population. The Statistical Policy Division of the Office of Management and Budget (the predecessor to the Office of Federal Statistical Policy and Standards) felt that both mandates could be accomplished using a single survey vehicle, although the legislation mandated that two separate departments collect the required data.
Funds were transferred from the DHEW to the Bureau of the Census in order to collect the data required by these mandates. This fund transfer was directed by the OMB during the consideration of the fiscal budget for 1976. Although the combined survey cost HEW $17 million, it represented a significant savings over carrying out two or three separate surveys.
operational a different control mechanism would be required, but the details would not be worked out until that time approached.
While these activities were taking place at HEW, the Bureau of the Census was also planning a major income collection research and development activity. Census was also aware that the annual CPS income supplement no longer provided all of the income information needed for Federal policy formulation. They recognized, for example, the need for more data on “in kind" income and on various kinds of transfer payments.
It was suggested that the Census and the HEW efforts be combined. Although the needs of these two agencies were not identical, they were similar enough to try to develop a single collection vehicle. Negotiations were undertaken between Census and HEW and agreement was reached; initially Census would discontinue its independent efforts and HEW would contract with Census to conduct the data collection research for their survey efforts. Census has requested additional funding to support the survey in its fiscal budget for 1979.
These efforts were strongly supported by the relevant OMB program divisions as well as the OMB Statistical Policy Division. Data on program participation in particular are deemed necessary by OMB in order for them to make rational budget decisions.
The participants are now looking into the possibility of collecting information on wealth which is also needed for public policy analyses. The Survey of Income and Program Participation is now, in reality, a multiagency, multidepartmental development effort.
Annual Housing Survey
Survey of Income and Program Participation
Another example is the Survey of Income and Program Participation. There is a need for more detailed information about income than can be ascertained from the Annual Current Population Survey (CPS) measure or from the IRS income tax data. Demand has also been growing for information about recipients of various income maintenance programs.
Several agencies within the Department of Health, Education, and Welfare (HEW) began to develop independently plans for surveys to develop data on their own special income and program participation needs. This proliferation of plans caused the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation (ASPE) to request that the Secretary direct that a single survey be developed with a planning committee made up of representatives for each of the interested agencies. The Secretary agreed and a steering committee was established; chaired and staffed by ASPE. It was decided that when the survey became
The Annual Housing Survey (AHS) should be examined from a different view, because it raises several issues not addressed by the foregoing examples. The AHS is a major survey sponsored by the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) with the data collection and processing done by the Census Bureau on a reimbursable basis. The Survey consists of two components. The first is a national panel, which is interviewed annually in order to determine changes in the size and character of the Nation's housing inventory. The second is a sample of Standard Metropolitan Statistical Areas (SMSA's) consisting of 59 areas. Twenty of the SMSA's are interviewed annually, thus there is a 3-year cycle to obtain data for any individual SMSA.
In 1974 the Department of Transportation (DOT) requested that a limited number of questions be added to the AHS which would make the basic survey instrument useful to DOT. The Census Bureau was willing to add the questions at the marginal cost of their inclusion. HUD, on the other hand, felt that DOT should pay a proportion of the total cost of the survey.
After negotiations between Census, HUD and OMB it was decided that the marginal cost was appropriate since the DOT questions were not to become a permanent part of the AHS.
Service for the base survey and the first follow-up. The contract for the collection of data for the succeeding follow-ups was awarded to the Research Triangle Institute. Initially, the primary purpose of the survey was to examine the experiences of this cohort in post-secondary education. In early 1976, the Center submitted a request for clearance to OMB for a follow-up for the fall of 1976. The OMB reviewer noticed that the emphasis was still almost exclusively on post-secondary education. Given that the large majority of 1972 high school graduates would no longer be in school in September 1976, the reviewer felt that greater emphasis should be placed on labor market experience. It was recommended that the NCES contact the Department of Labor to ascertain what, if anything, their needs or interests were in this area. It was also recommended that they establish an ad hoc advisory group to make specific recommendations about content of the survey. NCES complied, and the final questionnaire was markedly different from the one initially submitted for clearance,
Health Interview Survey
In general, the Bureau of Census maintains the position that the primary sponsor of any reimbursible survey will always be consulted before supplementary inquiries are included on an ongoing survey. However, they maintain that the final decision as to what will be included and how costs will be determined rests with the Bureau. There have been exceptions, however, most notably the Health Interview Survey sponsored by the National Center for Health Statistics. During the initial negotiations for the survey Census and NCHS agreed that NCHS would be the final arbiter concerning the supplements to the survey. That arrangement is still in force. It does not seem reasonable that a single government agency should be able to make this decision. A central authority should have this responsibility.
Survey of Juvenile Detention Facilities
In 1970 the SPD directed that all of the juvenile corrections data collection activities be transferred from the HEW to the Law Enforcement Assistance Administration (LEAA) of the Department of Justice. On the basis of this directive the LEAA began to publish Children in Custody, an expansion of an older HEW service. This census is conducted on a reimbursable basis by the Bureau of the Census for LEAA.
The Current Population Survey
The Current Population Survey, conducted by the Bureau of the Census, is the closest that the United States comes to a comprehensive social survey. The principle purpose of this survey is to provide the monthly unemployment and employment data now published by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). In addition, the CPS provides the Census Bureau with annual basic demographic data about the nation.
Of greatest interest to this chapter, however, is the fact that almost every month the CPS carries monthly supplements to provide data for other Federal agencies on a reimbursable basis. Thus, at the marginal cost of including a few questions, Federal agencies are provided the mechanism for obtaining detailed national data.
In 1974 the Congress modified the LEAA legislation to expand their oversight of juvenile justice activities. The legislation included the mandate that the new Institute for Juvenile Justice monitor all juvenile detention facilities. The Institute interpreted this to mean that they should conduct a separate census of such facilities. One of the problems identified by the “Institute” is that the data collected by Census cannot provide data on individual private institutions because of the Census Bureau's interpretations of the limitations of the confidentiality requirements of the census enabling legislation (title 13 USC).
The statutory language is not clear as to the specific requirements. As of this writing, discussions are being held with LEAA, OMB and the Office of Federal Statistical Policy and Standards, to attempt to clarify the situation and develop a single collection vehicle.
Longitudinal Survey of the Class of '72
The National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) decided to follow a sample of high school graduates from the high school graduating class of 1972. Contracts were let with the Education Testing
Analysis and Recommendations Analysis of the selected examples described above does not identify a single unified thread, except that they all represent issues which in one way or another came to the attention of Office of Federal Statistical Policy and Standards (OFSPS) or its predecessor, the Statistical Policy Division of OMB. Many other coordinated efforts, which do not come to the attention of OFSPS, go on constantly within and between departments. Unfortunately, it is equally true that many opportunities for coordination are missed for various reasons. Usually, the reason for the failure to coordinate involves a lack of knowledge on the part of the various actors, although there are sometimes more selfish, bureaucratic motivations involved.
Therefore, that the most important issue concerning the coordination of survey activities involves provisions for informing all possible interested parties that specific issues are to be explored or a particular survey is to be conducted.
Another element which was present in those cases where proper coordination did take place was the existence of a group with the authority to require coordination between the involved agencies. Problems within the same department can frequently be solved at the Secretarial level, if the department is sensitive to the issue of data coordination, and if the department has established a mechanism to inform the constituent parts about what is taking place within the department.
In some very large departments, notably DHEW, coordinating bodies have to be developed at lower levels such as the Education Data Acquisition Committee the Education Division. Portions of HEW contain almost as many constituent parts as some major departments. The existence of coordinating bodies at the subdepartmental level, however, does not eliminate the need for department level coordination.
Finally, there remains the need to have interdepartmental coordination. This role is principally the responsibility of the OFSPS.
Since much of the collection of Federal statistics is carried out through interagency agreements with a few major statistical agencies, notably the Bureau of the Census, the collecting agencies have a unique opportunity to help coordinate Federal surveys.
Two other mechanisms outside of the statistical system also have a major impact on the coordination or lack of coordination on Federal surveys. One is the budget process, and the other, the legislative process. The budget process at the departmental level, the
OMB level and the congessional level provides a mechanism for identifying overlap and forcing agencies to correct situations as needed. Through the budget mechanism, funds can be awarded to one agency and deleted from another agency's request. Furthermore, the "allowance letter" (which provides the agencies with their budget "mark" as well as instructions for using their appropriated funds) can be a helpful tool.
Complaints about lack of coordination are increasingly being made by segments of the public, especially industry groups, education and health groups and others. Congress has reacted by enacting legislation to control the situation. Some of this legislation directs specific Federal agencies to coordinate the data collection for their entire functional area.
In order for all agencies to be aware of proposed survey activities, a notice of intention should be submitted to OFSPS for any continuing survey including all longitudinal surveys and for any one time survey which proposes to interview 20,000 or more respondents. This notice of intention would permit OFSPS to review the concept. A short summary would also be published in the Statistical Reporter and thus be made available to all agencies and other interested parties to determine if there were other interests which need to be served.
A Strategy for the 1980's During the past decade, the pressure for small area data has been building continuously. Many agencies recognize the needs of State and local areas for data for program planning, monitoring and evaluation. Recently, President Carter's new urban initiative stressed the need for the development of an urban data base,
Several Federal agencies have attempted to meet the need for small area data either by expansion of national samples or by carrying out local area surveys in conjunction with national surveys.
The Current Population Survey has undergone constant sample expansion since its inception. Earlier increases were instituted primarily to increase the reliability of estimates derived from the survey and the need to examine problems of smaller segments of the population. Recent and proposed increases, on the other hand, have been for the purpose of providing data for states and other sub-national areas.
In 1972, The Law Enforcement Assistance Administration established the National Crime