I just arrived home from a day out at the Natl. Gallery of Art to a letter from the United States Department of Commerce, Economics and Statistics Administration, U.S. Census Bureau, and it is addressed to Current Resident, [my mailing address] (You really think I was going to give out my address on this blog? You fool!)
Having an inkling of what it could be, I opened the envelope and discovered I was right. My address has been picked to be a respondent for one of the continuing surveys that the Census Bureau conducts. In this case, it is the Current Population Survey. This survey is basically one that is requested by an external sponsor, in this case the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) are the ones who actually specify the survey (questions, answer, survey path, etc.) analyze the data and produce results. Our job at Census is to create the "instrument" (computer program that contains the survey so that it can be conducted on a laptop computer in the field or from one of our call centers) go out, conduct the survey, and send the raw data (minus any personally identifiable information) back to BLS for them to analyze. As you will read in the links, CPS does determine our nations unemployment rate, so it is a big deal that we get complete and accurate data.
Now, I don't actually work on authoring the CPS instrument, but I do author another survey instrument that is requested by BLS, the Consumer Expenditures Quarterly Survey. This one is another big one as it determines the Consumer Price Index. I used to laugh that one day I was going to get picked for this survey, but now it looks like in this case I get to do another one.
For the record, I do take this seriously enough that I will answer the survey when the representative comes to my apartment. I am not required to, but I wouldn't mind helping contribute to determining important economic data, plus I know my information will be kept confidential. I am always encouraging others to answer the surveys if they should be picked, why shouldn't I do the same?