- The Washington Times - Monday, August 6, 2001

Increasingly, Americans are well-educated, with D.C. residents leading the way.
The assertion is based on data from the Census 2000 Supplementary Survey, a trial survey designed to provide detailed data annually, instead of every decade, for use by the business community and federal, state and local policy-makers.
The survey, released by the Census Bureau today, reveals that last year 82 percent of persons 25 years old and older had graduated from high school, up from 75.2 percent a decade ago. And last year 25 percent of the people in that age group had at least a bachelor's degree, up from 20.3 percent in 1990.
In the District, 41.1 percent of those 25 and older had a bachelor's degree or better last year. That was the best record in the nation. Massachusetts (34.9) came second with Colorado (33.4) third, a hair ahead of Connecticut (33.3). Then came fifth-place Maryland (31.5). Virginia (30.2) was seventh behind New Jersey (31.1).
"By all indications this test was a success. We completed the survey on time and within budget, with a response rate of over 96 percent, and we are releasing the data on schedule," said Associate Bureau Director Preston J. Waite.
Mr. Waite said the American Community Survey will make the next census cheaper and will provide elected officials and businesses information to make "more informed policy and program decisions based on current data that accurately portray America's rapidly changing and increasingly diverse population."
It was created to replace the controversial census long form, which gathers information federal officials use in making program decisions and for distributing some $185 billion in federal money. It will not replace the data the bureau gathers every 10 years that is used to allot seats in the House of Representatives and for redrawing voting districts in the states.
The long form was sent to one in six U.S. householders last year. But although it asked for information Congress had ordered the bureau to collect, the form enraged prominent members of Congress and a host of residents nationwide. Critics complained that the long form violated privacy and was an example of bureaucratic insensitivity that took too long to complete.
The supplemental survey is the largest survey the Census Bureau has conducted outside the census itself. And it has produced figures for the nation as a whole, for the 50 states and for the District of Columbia. It asked respondents 41questions about their race, income, marital status, housing, transportation, education, ancestry and more.
Mr. Waite described the project as, "a large-scale survey of approximately 700,000 households [that was] conducted using the methods and questionnaire planned for use in the American Community Survey."
It found, for example, that:
* Nine percent of the U.S. population has a professional degree (up from 7 percent in 1990), while the portion of the population having less than a ninth-grade education fell from 10.4 percent in 1990 to 6.9 percent in 2000.
* Eighteen percent of the U.S. population ages 5 years and older spoke a language other than English at home last year. The figure was 14 percent in 1990.
* Sixty percent of the "non-English speakers" spoke Spanish last year, whereas in 1990, 54.5 percent were Spanish speakers.
* There were 115,904,651 housing units in the nation in 2000 530,658 of them lacked plumbing and 625,602 lacked kitchen facilities.
* It took the 76 percent of U.S. workers who drive to work, the 11 percent riding in car pools and the 5 percent using public transportation an average of 24 minutes.
The supplementary survey showed that the bureau could conduct a large survey even while the once-in-a-decade census was being conducted, Mr. Waite said. That's important because the proposed "rolling" American Community Survey would be done each year even in census years.
Under the current system, it takes years for long-form data to become available, and then the already outdated data is used for a decade. For instance, long form data from the 20,323,935 persons questioned during Census 2000 won't be available until next year at this time.
As it's now planned, the American Community Survey will each month solicit information from householders in different locales within all of the nation's 3,000 counties until, by year's end, 3 million persons are questioned. The responses will be tallied and released within six months.
By the end of the fifth year, the American Community Survey will have queried 15 million people, a number considered large enough to portray with unprecedented accuracy conditions in the nation as a whole.
If Congress funds the planned American Community Survey, it will begin in 2003.
From then on, explains Nancy Gordon, the bureau's associate director for demographic programs, more community survey data will gradually become available for increasingly small geographic areas.
From 2003 until 2006, the data will reflect conditions in communities of 65,000 or more persons. From 2006 to 2008, the facts will pertain to communities of 20,000 or more. In succeeding years, data will be available for all population groupings down to the level of census tracts, which contain roughly 4,000 people, and even for small population subgroups.
Until then and in the next two years, additional data from the prototype supplementary survey will be released.
Detailed information will be reported this fall for most cities and for counties of 250,000 persons or more.
"In the winter, more detailed data will be released, again for the country, the 50 states and the District of Columbia," Miss Gordon said. And next year, 700,000 persons from 1,230 representative counties will be surveyed once more.
Mr. Waite said that even though the questions on the supplementary survey are as intrusive as those on the census long form, census takers encountered few problems. He said the trained and experienced bureau professionals who conducted the survey were able to explain the rationale for the effort and that seemed to satisfy reluctant respondents.

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