Yes, the American Community Survey from the US Census Bureau is real

The American Community Survey is the nation’s largest household survey. Every year, the U.S. Census Bureau contacts over 3.5 million households to participate.

Every 10 years, the U.S. Census Bureau is required to conduct a census to determine the number of people living in the country. The results of the 2020 Census were released last summer following a series of delays due to the coronavirus pandemic. But VERIFY viewer Brenda said she recently received a letter claiming to be from the Census Bureau for something called the “American Community Survey,” and she wants to know if it’s real. 

THE QUESTION

Is the American Community Survey legitimate?

THE SOURCES

THE ANSWER

This is true.

Yes, the American Community Survey is legitimate.

WHAT WE FOUND

For decades, lawmakers and the U.S. Census Bureau debated how to balance accurate data and timeliness. 

In 1940, the census included separate questionnaires to count the population and collect housing data. But the process changed in 1960 when the Bureau combined population and housing questions onto a single questionnaire that was mailed to households or completed during a census taker's visit. 

The Census Bureau changed the process again between 1970 and 2000, this time randomly distributing a shorter survey to most households and a more in-depth survey to others, the agency said. 

In 2005, the Census Bureau launched the American Community Survey (ACS). It is now considered the nation's largest household survey. Each year, the Census Bureau contacts over 3.5 million U.S. households to participate in the ACS by phone, mail, online or in-person. The survey, which gathers more in-depth data than the traditional census is sent monthly to one in every 480 homes in the U.S. It includes questions about a household’s education, employment, homeownership and income. 

If you were contacted about taking the survey, but have concerns about the authenticity of the request, there are ways to verify its legitimacy. 

On its Top Questions About the Survey webpage, the Census Bureau says if your household has been contacted to complete the ACS and you would like to verify that the survey is legitimate, you can call 1-800-354-7271.

If a Census field representative has visited your address, and you would like to verify that the visit is legitimate, you can call your Census Regional Office. You can also confirm that the person is a Census Bureau employee by entering their name into the Census Bureau Staff Search. The Census Bureau says their field staff will always show a valid Census Bureau ID and a copy of the letter they sent you.

The Census Bureau conducts more than 130 surveys and programs annually, including the Household Pulse Survey on COVID-19. You can visit the Census Bureau’s website to verify whether a letter, text message or link claiming to be from the Census Bureau is real. 

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