The American family: repercussions of curtailed info gathering

It makes sense that what is known about the American family — especially information germane to new trends and patterns regarding its composition, diversity, the degree to which opinions relating to marriage and divorce may be changing, and so forth — is largely dependent upon the compilation and close analysis of family-related data.

Given that, it conversely makes equal sense that much relevant information begins to lack when central data sources wither or dry up altogether.

That is the essential gist of a recent article focused on the U.S. Census Bureau and its gathering of family data for demographic and related purposes. Such information has long been deemed of fundamental importance by researchers across a wide universe of inquiry, ranging from study efforts examining marriage/divorce trends based on age, gender, income and other factors to the public’s attitudes regarding many family-law matters.

The Census Bureau recently indicated that it might soon begin to stop soliciting family information on questions that are currently asked in its ongoing Community Survey. A public policy expert commenting in the New York Times states that there is widespread concern among statisticians, economists and policy gurus concerning the elimination of the family-related question/response component of the survey. He contends that if relevant questioning is indeed discontinued, “then in a few years time, we will know very little about how the contours of family life are changing.”

There are of course other data sources from which researchers can draw, but many central fonts of information are also reportedly disappearing.

That is notable and worthy of debate, given the diverse population of the United States and its ever-evolving demographics. An accurate and updated statistical window on the American family can be an invaluable tool for tracking trends and attitudes and formulating relevant social and economic policies across the country.

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