Every few days, the Commerce Department threatens to send armed thugs to my apartment to torture me, unless I give in to their demands for my most intimate secrets.
Okay, they didn’t say “armed thugs” exactly, but you know how those jackbooted government agents get, um, overly enthusiastic in their missions. It will all start out nice and friendly, but then I’ll hesitate just a bit too long when they ask about my outhouse and…bam.
In the latest installment of our charmed lives, the Census Bureau selected Jill and me to take part in the American Community Survey, a seriously intrusive census given only to the elitest of the elite. Technically, it is our apartment that is the real honoree and we are just “the resident of,” but why quibble when the fickle finger beckons you to determine the future of the nation?
While the decennial census gets all the hype, the people who fill out the ACS are the real power brokers in the US of A. The regular census next year will ask a few basic questions, but the ACS does all the heavy lifting, including:
The questions kept coming for more than a dozen pages, although my confidence in the entire process took a nosedive at question four, where they asked me for both my date of birth and my age. If they cannot figure out my age from my birth date, the Census Bureau needs a more powerful computer, or a pocket calculator.
Still, we trudged on, describing our condo fees and our internet service and whether we had gotten married or divorced, or both, in the past twelve months. As we worked our way through the labrynthe, though, the reasoning behind the questions got curiouser and curiouser.
Why do they bother to ask if we have indoor plumbing when they already know that 99.5% of households are so equipped? Why do they ask if we can both make and receive a phone call in our apartment? Perhaps there are phones that only receive calls but cannot make them, or vice versa. Why do they ask about babies born to women aged 15-50, but ignore births to females outside that range?
By the time we finished this hours-long exercise, I couldn’t help but think there’s a better way to collect this information. Perhaps, for example, they might buy all of it (and more!!!!) from Facebook or Google—if only they could convince those companies to make our private info available to outsiders.
Worse, I can’t believe these are the most meaningful questions for identifying status and trends across the nation. Many questions seemed to be continuations of past inquiries, but newer shifts appear to be unaddressed.
For example, the survey includes a ton of questions about commuting, including the time people leave for work, how many people are in the vehicle and how long the commute takes, but they don’t ask about ride-share usage or Divvy bikes or whether people have changed jobs or moved in order to reduce their commuting time.
Similarly, we’re bombarded by various stories about the growth and size of the gig economy, but the ACS doesn’t delve into that topic. I didn’t find, for example, a question about whether I have more than one job.
Ditto for the kind of business where I work. While we live in a service economy, the boxes for “type of business” include manufacturing, wholesale trade, retail trade and “other.” I can’t help but wonder if 70% of us aren’t in the “other” box.
Jill and I trudged through the pages, but I became increasingly convinced that the project included too many vague questions and too much guesswork to be definitive. As I struggled to recall whether I worked for money last month or the month before, a visit from those armed thugs started looking better and better.
Still, we persevered and completed the assignment, because that’s what true patriotic Americans do. And, on the upside, this whole process made our income tax forms look much simpler than they did before.
Even better, my self-esteem grew dramatically as I realized I could come up with a more relevant series of questions than all the people at the Census Bureau. Stay tuned for a preview in next week’s post.
All of America is on tenterhooks, wondering “What Would Dadwrites Ask?” if we were running the Census Bureau. Be sure to receive your update, along with all our incredibly wise and beneficent screeds, by subscribing to dadwrites.com. Just click HERE (No, not here. Back there.)
Who writes this stuff?
Dadwrites oozes from the warped mind of Michael Rosenbaum, an award-winning author who spends most of his time these days as a start-up business mentor, book coach, photographer and, mostly, a grandfather. All views are his alone, largely due to the fact that he can’t find anyone who agrees with him.