The Census Bureau might stop collecting data on college majors and salaries. Why?

The most reliable source of information on college majors and salaries at the national level is the American Community Survey (ACS), which is administered by the Census Bureau. Just to provide a few illustrations, a recent report by the New York Fed, “Are Recent College Graduates Finding Good Jobs?” (Abel, Deitz and Su, Current Issues in Economics and Finance, Vol. 20, No. 1) and the report “The Economic Guide to Picking a College Major” (September 12) both included college major data from the ACS.

Of course, both reports highlighted the promise of careers in computer science, engineering and the physical sciences. Students, parents, teachers and administrators need to see these data.

Inexplicably, the Census Bureau is considering dropping the Field of Study question from the ACS. The proposal to do so was published in the October 31 Federal Register and is described in some detail in Science Insider. Such an action would cripple an important tool for promoting careers in computer science, engineering and physical sciences.

There is a 60-day comment period that runs out at the end of December.  According to Science Insider, most of the uproar over the deletion of the Field of Study question (which is Question 12 on the present ACS) has come not from the professional science and engineering community, nor from education officials, but instead from the social science community.  The social science community is not particularly popular in Congress right now, and the push to cut back the ACS originated in Congress. So perhaps the science and education communities need to step up.

For what it’s worth, I’m attaching my comment letter below.


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