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Country Profile of United States of America

Main statistical agency
Main statistical agency name
Office of Management and Budget
Web address
www.fedstats.gov
Position in the government
The Chief Statistician of the Office of Management and Budget in the Executive Office of the President reports to the Administrator of the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs, and through him to the Director of the Office of Management and Budget.
Organizational structure and finance
In the U.S. decentralized statistical system, authority for statistics is in the separate statutes for each agency. The Office of Management and Budget's statistical policy and coordination authority includes review and evaluation by the Chief Statistician and her staff to determine priorities for funding. Under its statistical policy authority, the Office of Management and Budget is also responsible for developing government-wide standards and guidelines and has developed the following classifications: North American Industry Classification System; the Standard Occupation Classification; the Standards for Maintaining, Collecting, and Presenting Federal Data on Race and Ethnicity; and Standards for Defining Metropolitan and Micropolitan Statistical Areas.
Multi-annual or annual work program
Federal statistical agencies plan their work program as part of the annual budget process. These plans are reviewed and evaluated by the Chief Statistician and her staff to determine priorities for funding.
Main duties
FedStats provides information for Federal agencies that are listed in Statistical Programs of The United States Government and reporting expenditures of at least $500,000 per year in one or more statistical activities including:
planning of statistical surveys and studies, including project design, sample design and selection, and design of questionnaires, forms, or other techniques of observation and data collection training of statisticians, interviewers, or processing personnel collection, processing, or tabulation of statistical data for publication, dissemination, research, analysis, or program management and evaluation publication or dissemination of statistical data and studies methodological testing or statistical research data analysis forecasts or projections that are published or otherwise made available for government-wide or public use statistical tabulation, dissemination, or publication of data collected by others
construction of secondary data series or development of models that are an integral part of generating statistical series or forecasts management or coordination of statistical operations statistical consulting or training.


Brief history and other relevant background information
Brief history and other relevant background information
Fact-finding is one of America's oldest activities. In the early 1600s, a census was taken in Virginia, and people were counted in nearly all of the British colonies that later became the United States.

Following independence, there was an almost immediate need for a census of the entire nation. The first census was taken in 1790, under the responsibility of Secretary of State Thomas Jefferson. That census, taken by U.S. marshals on horseback, counted 3.9 million inhabitants.

As America grew, the nation's interests grew more complex. The country needed statistics to help people understand what was happening and to plan for growth, and the content of the decennial census changed accordingly. In 1810, the census was expanded to obtain information on the manufacturing, quantity and value of products. In 1840, the census added questions on fisheries. And, in 1850, the census collected data on issues such as taxation, churches, pauperism and crime.

Over the decades, censuses spread to new states and areas under U.S. sovereignty or jurisdiction. There were so many inquiries and so many new geographic entities in the census of 1880 that it took almost a full decade to tabulate and publish the results. This led to the first use of tabulating machines in the 1890 census, which counted nearly 63 million people. These punch-card machines, invented by former Census Bureau employee Herman Hollerith, evolved into computers when Hollerith founded what was to become the IBM Corp. Throughout its existence as the oldest and largest federal statistical agency, the Census Bureau has played a pioneering role in the use of technology to fulfill its role as "America's Fact Finder."

As America grew, changes in the economy became more frequent and far-reaching. Since government officials and businesses had to adjust their plans as these changes occurred, they needed more frequent reports on them. To meet these needs, the Census Bureau became a permanent institution by an act of Congress in 1902.

Today, in addition to taking a census of the population every 10 years, the Census Bureau conducts censuses of economic activity and state and local governments every five years. And every year, the Census Bureau conducts more than 100 other surveys.


Legal basis
Legal basis
In the U.S. decentralized statistical system, authority for statistics is in the separate statutes for each agency. The Office of Management and Budget's statistical policy and coordination authority is in the Paperwork Reduction Act.


Other producers of official statistics
Other producers of official statistics
The central coordinating office in the Office of Management and Budget does not produce statistics. In addition to the 10 principal statistical agencies (Bureau of the Census, Bureau of Economic Analysis, Bureau of Justice Statistics, Bureau of Labor Statistics, Bureau of Transportation Statistics, Economic Research Service, Energy Information Administration, National Agricultural Statistics Service, National Center for Education Statistics, National Center for Health Statistics), official data are produced by many other agencies such as the Federal Reserve Board, the Treasury, the Environmental Protection Agency, etc.


Statistical advisory bodies
Statistical advisory bodies
The following Federal statistical agencies have advisory groups composed of users of their data: Bureau of the Census, Bureau of Economic Analysis, Bureau of Labor Statistics, Bureau of Transportation Statistics, National Agricultural Statistics Service, National Center for Health Statistics, National Center for Education Statistics, and others. Meetings are held several times a year in each case.


Data collection
Most recent population census
1 April 2000
Access to administrative data
Federal statistical agencies have access to aggregate administrative data that are reported to them, for example, by schools and employers.
Data confidentiality
There are a number of practices that statistical agencies in the United States follow to prevent disclosure. Typically, employees of statistical agencies sign non-disclosure affidavits as a condition of their employment. Agencies such as the U.S. National Center for Health Statistics have a confidentiality officer who ensures that employees receive training on the proper handling of confidential data and follow those practices. Furthermore, individually identifiable data is typically kept in a secure place and separated from other data used for analysis.

Several statistical agencies, such as the U.S. Census Bureau, have Disclosure Review Boards that review all statistical publications and microdata files prior to dissemination to ensure that individually identifiable information is not being disclosed or cannot reasonably be inferred through tabular reports or variables in microdata files.

To provide assistance to the many statistical agencies that handle confidential statistical data, an interagency committee, the Confidentiality and Data Access Committee, has developed a checklist for the disclosure potential of data releases and other materials such as brochures, presentations, and training materials on confidentiality. These materials are widely used within and outside the U.S. and are available on their web site, www.fcsm.gov/committees/cdac/cdac.html.


Data dissemination
Release calendar (existence, when and how published)
An annual calendar is published each September containing release dates for the following year for the 36 principal Federal economic indicators. There is no similar calendar for social statistics data series.
Main publications
See the websites of the various federal statistical organisations or the FedStats homepage.
Languages of main publications
English
How are data disseminated (Paper, CD Rom, Website, online databases, databanks)?
Statistical agencies release their reports in print or electronic media.
Availability of microdata for research purposes
There are several modes in the United States for providing restricted access to confidential data while limiting the risk of their disclosure. The U.S. Census Bureau pioneered Research Data Centers, or RDCs. The RDCs permit restricted use of confidential files at secure sites under Census Bureau control, using limited access to dedicated computing equipment and enhanced physical and computer security. Access to an RDC facility is given only to Census Bureau employees or other persons with Special Sworn Status (SSS) who are approved to use the facility-including researchers carrying out active, approved projects at the RDC. To be granted SSS, a researcher must have an approved project, obtain a security clearance, and sign the Census Bureau's standard sworn agreement to preserve the confidentiality of the data. Persons with SSS are subject to the same legal penalties for revealing confidential information as are regular Census Bureau employees-up to a $250,000 fine and/or five years in prison.

There have also been several successful 'remote access' facilities for confidential data. This option is currently being offered by the U.S. National Center for Health Statistics. Researchers can remotely submit statistical programs to a centralized site, which runs the programs on confidential data, and the results are sent back to the researcher via e-mail. Certain procedures are not permitted, such as those that would allow an investigator to print out individual cases, and output is scanned before being forwarded to the researcher. These restrictions are designed to reduce to an acceptable minimum the risk of identification or of disclosure.

Another avenue that has been used by the U.S. National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) is to license researchers to allow them access to confidential data. Researchers must submit a formal proposal and include a security plan that meets the requirements of NCES. The researcher must sign an affidavit of disclosure, and the license itself must be signed by the researcher and a ranking individual who can legally bind the institution to the agreement, which in the case of a university is someone at the Dean's level or higher. On-site inspections are also conducted by NCES to insure that the proper security procedures are being followed. Finally, researchers must send copies of papers based on such data to NCES for disclosure review prior to publication.

On December 17, 2002, President Bush signed into law the Confidential Information Protection and Statistical Efficiency Act of 2002. The law provides that data or information acquired by an agency under a pledge of confidentiality and for exclusively statistical purposes shall be used by officers, employees, or agents of the agency exclusively for statistical purposes, and shall not be disclosed by an agency in identifiable form, for any use other than an exclusively statistical purpose, except with the informed consent of the respondent.




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