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Coming to Their Census

Jul 8, 2013, Vol. 18, No. 41 • By THE SCRAPBOOK
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Last month The Scrapbook reported on a slightly arcane, but important, change being proposed for the American Community Survey. The ACS is an annual survey conducted by the Census Bureau; it goes out to 3 million households and is one of the most robust tools we have for gathering demographic data about our country. For unknown reasons, the statisticians running the ACS proposed deleting a question about “number of times married.”

Divorced

This might not seem like such a big deal, except that this question is the single-best source for understanding nuptiality and marital instability (or, in plain English, patterns of marriage and divorce). If the question had been deleted, for instance, it would have made it impossible to estimate the percentage of Americans who have ever divorced. Or to calculate the average span of first marriages. Which is rather important since, if one wants to buttress the institution of marriage, it helps to understand what’s happening to it.

Happily, the fine people at the Census Bureau—no doubt, close readers of The Scrapbook—have now come to their senses. The “number of times married” question will remain on the American Community Survey. 

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