challenges, and the workshop considered options for better integrating it into the federal household survey portfolio.
Although moving forward with a coordinated strategy will require many more conversations on the issues covered at the workshop, if solutions are not developed in a comprehensive and timely manner, the challenges put at risk the ability of the federal statistical system to provide important policy-relevant information. The goal of the workshop was to begin and to facilitate the much-needed discussion on solutions that range from methodological approaches, such as the use of administrative data, to emphasis on interagency cooperative efforts.
The goal of and charge to the steering committee were to develop a workshop aimed at enhancing the household surveys sponsored by the federal statistical system. As part of his welcoming remarks, the steering committee chair, Hal Stern (University of California, Irvine) noted three guidelines for participants to keep in mind. First, the workshop was to provide a picture of the system as it is, including an overview of the many current challenges. And although such issues as nonresponse and increasing cost are of great interest, these challenges would be used to set the context for discussion rather than being the focus of discussion themselves, he said, because a number of other recent meetings have focused on these topics extensively.
Second, an important cross-cutting issue was how a large continuous survey, such as the ACS, could be useful to the household survey system. The questions were what could be done with a survey like this and how could it best be used. This issue came with a caution, however, not to get bogged down in the details at this stage of the conversation.
The final caution made by Stern was to avoid the trap of focusing on what cannot be done, which would be the wrong kind of discussion for this workshop. Instead, he emphasized that workshop participants should keep open minds and consider where innovation and experimentation might happen. He said that this was not just a presentation workshop; it was meant to inspire and encourage participation from those present.
Stern said that this point was worth reinforcing: this workshop was intended to be about ideas. It is ever more critical that the statistical community consider ways to make the household survey system better and more efficient. In that spirit, he encouraged the participants to consider some challenging questions. Is the model of data collections centered around individual surveys outdated? How can new data collection modes and analysis techniques be integrated most efficiently? Can the resources invested in maintaining and updating address files be streamlined and perhaps directed toward developing a universal address file?