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Respond to Federal Register Notice Regarding Use of Census Bureau Data Products

Posted: 11/2/2018 (CSDE Research)

IPUMS (Integrated Public Use Microdata Series) has requested that researchers comment on Federal Register Notice 83 FR 34111, regarding the use of Census Bureau data products. The comment period expires on November 8, 2018. See request below:

“The Census Bureau is planning a fundamental revision of its procedures for ensuring the confidentiality of public use data. The proposed new disclosure avoidance system relies on injecting noise with formal privacy rules, based on theories of differential privacy. It is not clear how this new disclosure avoidance system will be implemented, but there is significant danger that it will reduce or even eliminate the usability of public use data for many common research and policy applications.

It is crucial that the research community responds to the call for comments by explaining how we use the American Community Survey (ACS) and decennial census data. Although the Federal Register Notice only addresses 2020 census products, the Census Bureau is planning to use similar techniques for ACS, and it is vital that they take uses of the ACS microdata into account. Complex applications that use data from multiple levels—such as the characteristics of individuals, their family members, community characteristics, and so on—may be especially relevant to the discussion.

The stakes are high. If we lose statistically valid public census data, it will be an enormous setback to government transparency, social science, and policy formation. I hope that comments from the community will persuade the Census Bureau to proceed with caution and to engage in robust discussion with the research community about the costs and benefits of new disclosure avoidance methods.

Please send at least a brief comment describing your work with microdata or summary files from the ACS or the decennial census. You may respond to the Federal Register Notice by emailing, referencing Federal Register Notice 83 FR 34111. I would appreciate it if you copy us at”

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