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Economic census under way

Washington—The U.S. Census Bureau encourages dentists to inform the 2012 economic census by completing survey forms mailed to many private practice dental offices. Not all practices will receive the forms. The economic census is the government's official five-year measure of American business and the economy.

The American Dental Association has relied on the economic censuses for information about the number and location of private dental offices in the United States, said Thomas Wall, statistical research manager for ADA's Health Policy Resources Center. This census also collects information about multi-unit dental firms that can be used to monitor growth in this important segment of the dental market. The economic census collects basic information on receipts, employees and payroll.

Over time, the questionnaire has expanded to collect more detailed information, he said. For example, the 2012 economic census includes a question about receipts, including a breakdown of receipts by dental service category such as preventive services. The question about office personnel was expanded to collect information about the number of active proprietors and partners and will provide a more complete picture of the personnel employed in private dental practice.

"That said, there are problems with the economic census data including a suspiciously high estimate of the number of non-employer (no paid employees) dental offices in some states and lack of detail about the structure and organization of multi-unit dental firms," said Mr. Wall.

Get help with your form and other economic census information at http://www.census.gov/econ/census. If you receive an economic census form your response is required. "For the first time, we intend to release preliminary results from the economic census within a year of the collection," said William Bostic, the Census Bureau associate director for economic programs. The Census Bureau will continue publishing economic census results through 2016.