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ACT OF THE GENERAL ASSEMBLY 2007-2008

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NO. R-293.  Joint resolution relating to the collection of United States census data in Vermont.

(J.R.S.49)

   By Senators Illuzzi, Miller, Racine, Condos and Carris,

Whereas, the many variables of demographic data the U.S. Bureau of the Census, an agency of the United States Department of Commerce, collects have a direct impact on the lives of thousands of Vermonters, and

Whereas, the census data, especially the data traditionally collected in the decennial long form, are essential for measuring critical issues for Vermonters such as the availability of affordable housing, the prevalence of child poverty, and employment trends, and they are the basis for funding numerous federal programs that assist Vermonters in important ways, and

Whereas, the professional staff at the Vermont State Data Center at the Center for Rural Studies at the University of Vermont, who serve as independent advocates on behalf of the integrity of the data that the census provides to the state and towns, has expressed a strong concern that recent major changes in the methods of collecting and reporting data may result in a loss of important federal funding for the state and municipalities and a disconnection of census data from its traditional and essential uses, and

Whereas, in recent decades, information relating to income, poverty, and other demographic data has been gathered through the long form questionnaires issued as part of the decennial United States census, and

Whereas, the long form version of the decennial census has been eliminated, and its replacement is a revised American Community Survey (ACS), which is an annual sample-based survey, and

Whereas, the new ACS data is now being released as a replacement for information previously drawn from answers to the decennial census long form with full implementation by 2010, and

Whereas, under the previous “most of the time residence rule,” the decennial census long form included only a town’s primary residents; however, under the new “more than two months” residence rule, the ACS data will now include seasonal residents, a change with potentially significant impact in Vermont where many towns have substantial seasonal populations, and

Whereas, because seasonal residents, even if their primary residence is also in Vermont, often earn higher incomes than a town’s permanent residents, their inclusion in a sample could result in a town being denied funds for essential social services to which it would otherwise be entitled, and

Whereas, in a few towns, the inclusion of seasonal residents may have the reverse effect and artificially skew significant statistical thresholds downward, and

Whereas, the ACS data may be of lower integrity than the long form results because the percentage of the population sample will be smaller, and

Whereas, because the ACS data for localities is being released as five-year averages, the statistical value and conclusions that towns may draw from the data, may be of more limited use, and

Whereas, because the ACS data will include margins of error, it is effectively being presented as numerical ranges and not single numbers, and this new formatting will necessitate the state and towns making corresponding changes in their statistical analysis, and

Whereas, because of all these changes in data sampling and reporting, the long-standing ability to track historic trends could be greatly impaired, and

Whereas, Vermont could potentially lose significant federal revenues and informational resources as a result of these administrative decisions, now therefore be it

Resolved by the Senate and House of Representatives:

That the General Assembly urges the United States Bureau of the Census to work with state and local officials, including the professional staff at the state data centers nationwide, to address the inequalities that will result due to the  alterations of the bureau’s statistical gathering and reporting methodologies, and be it further

Resolved:  That the General Assembly urges the United States Bureau of the Census, if it intends to maintain the new “more than two months” residence rule for the American Community Survey, to create, within the survey’s reports, methods for disclosing the inclusion of seasonal residents and the means to isolate residents who meet the former “most of the time” criteria, and be it further 

Resolved:  That the General Assembly urges the United States Congress to commit the financial resources necessary for the United States Bureau of the Census to address and eliminate the data collection and reporting inequalities and concerns referred to in this resolution, and be it further

Resolved:  That the Secretary of State be directed to send a copy of this resolution to U.S. Secretary of Commerce, Carlos Gutierrez, to the Director of the United States Bureau of the Census, Steven Murdock, Ph.D., to the Vermont State Data Center, and to the Vermont Congressional delegation.



Published by:

The Vermont General Assembly
115 State Street
Montpelier, Vermont


www.leg.state.vt.us