Census Bureau Launches Experimental Pulse Surveys During COVID-19 Crisis

The U.S. Census Bureau has launched “two new experimental surveys to measure temporal social and economic trends in the nation’s small businesses and households over the next three months” to “provide insight into the scope of the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic response on social and economic measures in the U.S.” While plenty of researchers are running studies of such nature during the COVID-19 crisis, few are likely to reach the Census Bureau’s scale.

The Small Business Pulse Survey is a five minute survey covering questions such as “location closings, changes in employment, disruptions in the supply chain, the use of federal assistance programs, and expectations concerning future operations.” The Bureau intends to post data weekly beginning in mid-May and “to include estimates for all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, as well as for the 50 most populated Metropolitan Statistical Areas.” According to a report from the American Economic Association, “There are 940,588 target businesses with a known email address. The SBPS will cover this universe over nine weeks — approximately 105,000 firms will be contacted each week, beginning the week of April 26th. The estimated response rate is 15-20%.”

The Household Pulse Survey, a collaboration between the Bureau and six other agencies, “will ask individuals about their experiences in terms of employment status, spending patterns, food security, housing, physical and mental health, access to health care, and educational disruption” as a longitudinal study. It should “produce statistics at a state level and for the 15 largest Metropolitan Statistical Areas (MSAs).” Results will be posted on a weekly basis.