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Laws, Policies, and Guidance Relevant to the U.S. Federal Statistical System

Laws, policies, and guidance help the Office of the Chief Statistician of the United States (OCSOTUS), the Interagency Council on Statistical Policy (ICSP), and other leaders and members of the statistical system coordinate statistical work across the Federal Government. This ensures the creation of relevant, timely, credible, and cohesive statistical information is created to inform evidence-based decision-making, while protecting the responses of individual data providers.

Major laws, policies, and guidance often apply to one or more phases or aspects of the information lifecycle — planning, data acquisition, providing access, and disseminating the resulting information.

Relevant laws, policies, and guidance are presented below organized according to phases in the information lifecycle: cross cutting (span the full information lifecycle); information collection; confidentiality, data access, and data sharing; and data dissemination.

Cross Cutting

The Paperwork Reduction Act of 1995 (codified as amended at 44 U.S.C. 3501–3520) provides for the coordination of Federal information policy. Among other things, it establishes the role of the CSOTUS and the ICSP, and enumerates the responsibilities and authorities bestowed on them. It also governs information creation, collection, disclosure, maintenance, use, sharing and dissemination by or for the Federal government.

The Confidential Information Protection and Statistical Efficiency Act of 2018 (codified at 44 U.S.C. 3561–3583) or CIPSEA 2018 (pronounced sip-c), also known as Title III of the Foundations for Evidence-Based Policymaking Act of 2018, reaffirms and expands CIPSEA 2002. Among other things, it codifies the fundamental responsibilities of Federal statistical agencies and units to ensure public trust, and gives statistical agencies and units responsibilities and authorities to facilitate more effective evidence building.

Statistical Policy Directive No. 1: Fundamental Responsibilities of Federal Statistical Agencies and Recognized Statistical Units, on which the responsibilities of Federal statistical agencies and units in CIPSEA 2018 are based, affirms the fundamental responsibilities of Federal statistical agencies and units in the design, collection, processing, editing, compilation, storage, analysis, release, and dissemination of statistical information.

M-19-18, Federal Data Strategy - A Framework for Consistency articulates 10 principles and 40 best practices for Federal agencies across the information lifecycle.

M-19-23, Phase 1 Implementation of the Foundations for Evidence-Based Policymaking Act of 2018: Learning Agendas, Personnel, and Planning Guidance, among other things, elaborates the qualifications and roles of a Statistical Official, and requires agencies to establish governance boards on which Statistical Officials should participate.

M-15-15, Improving Statistical Activities through Interagency Collaboration clarifies authorities under which interagency collaborations can occur, and encourages interagency collaboration to further statistical system goals.

Information Collection

The Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs in the Office of Management and Budget issues government-wide guidance to implement the information collection requirements of the Paperwork Reduction Act. These include regulations on Controlling Paperwork Burdens on the Public and much more.

Statistical Policy Directive No. 2: Standards and Guidelines for Statistical Surveys establishes practices required across the survey lifecycle, with an emphasis on the planning and collection phases. Supplemental materials include:

Recommendations on the Best Practices for the Collection of Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity Data on Federal Statistical Surveys was developed by the Office of the Chief Statistician of the United States to provide recommendations for Federal agencies on the current best practices for the collection of self-reported sexual orientation and gender identity (SOGI) data on Federal statistical surveys. These recommendations build on a long history of robust Federal effort to develop and refine SOGI measurement best practices.

Minimizing Household Surveys during the 2020 Census of Population, and similar memorandum issued in prior decades, places a moratorium on new information collections during the decennial census, given its unique constitutional requirements and overall importance to the nation.

Confidentiality, Data Access, and Data Sharing

The Confidential Information Protection and Statistical Efficiency Act (CIPSEA), as amended by CIPSEA 2018, establishes a uniform policy to protect the confidentiality of data gathered for statistical purposes and evidence building.

CIPSEA also requires statistical agencies and units to expand secure access to data assets. It requires statistical agencies and units to safely expand access to protected data for evidence-building.

CIPSEA also provides a presumption of accessibility for statistical agencies and units to Federal data assets for evidence building purposes.

M-14-06, Guidance for Providing and Using Administrative Data for Statistical Purposes encourages the greater use of administrative data for statistical purposes, providing agencies with guidance for addressing the legal, policy, and operational issues that exist with respect to using administrative data for statistical purposes.

Data Dissemination

Statistical Policy Directive No. 3: Compilation, Release, and Evaluation of Principal Federal Economic Indicators provides guidance to Federal agencies on the compilation and release of principal economic indicators.

Statistical Policy Directive No. 4: Release and Dissemination of Statistical Products Produced by Federal Statistical Agencies provides guidance to Federal agencies on the release and dissemination of statistical products produced by Federal statistical agencies.

The Information Quality Act (44 U.S.C. 3516 note) requires OMB to issue guidance to agencies for ensuring and maximizing the quality, objectivity, utility, and integrity of information (including statistical information) disseminated by Federal agencies.

Guidelines for Ensuring and Maximizing the Quality, Objectivity, Utility, and Integrity of Information Disseminated by Federal Agencies requires agencies to issue information quality guidelines and to develop information resources management procedures for reviewing and substantiating the quality of information before it is disseminated.

Classification Standards

Under Statistical Policy Directive No. 7: Metropolitan Statistical Areas, OMB delineates Metropolitan Statistical Areas, Metropolitan Divisions, Micropolitan Statistical Areas, Combined Statistical Areas, and New England City and Town Areas for use in Federal statistical activities. OMB issues periodic updates of the areas between decennial censuses based on Census Bureau data.

Statistical Policy Directive No. 8: North American Industry Classification System: Classification of Establishments (NAICS) is a system for classifying establishments (individual business locations) by type of economic activity. NAICS helps ensure that establishment data produced across the Federal statistical system are comparable and can be used together in analysis.

Statistical Policy Directive No. 10: Standard Occupational Classification (SOC) System classifies all occupations in the economy, including private, public, and military occupations, to facilitate comparability across occupational data produced for statistical purposes by Federal agencies.

Statistical Policy Directive No. 15: Standards for Maintaining, Collecting, and Presenting Federal Data on Race and Ethnicity provides a minimum standard for maintaining, collecting, and presenting data on race and ethnicity for all Federal reporting purposes.