Executive Summary

The Bureau of the Census is completely redesigning the census to achieve a modern, efficient, integrated, and accurate approach to counting the U.S. population. The Bureau has conducted an extensive program of research, testing, and evaluation of its methods in anticipation of the 2000 census. The goals of this effort are fourfold: to reduce costs, to reduce respondent burden, to do a better job of counting traditionally undercounted groups, and to improve data quality.

The Census Bureau asked the Committee on National Statistics to form the Panel to Evaluate Alternative Census Methodologies, which is charged with evaluating the Bureau's plans and current research on the design of the 2000 census and identifying short- and long-term research issues. Many of the Bureau's plans and the directions of its research are in accord with findings and recommendations made in two predecessor reports: Counting People in the Information Age (Steffey and Bradburn, 1994) and Modernizing the U.S. Census (Edmonston and Schultze, 1995).

In 1995 the Census Bureau conducted a census test using the new methodologies planned for the 2000 census. The panel is continuing its review of the Bureau's research plans for the 2000 census and the results of the 1995 test, including the sampling design for nonresponse follow-up, the methodology (including sampling) for integrated coverage measurement, and the use of administrative records.

The panel's first interim report, Sampling in the 2000 Census: Interim Report I (White and Rust, 1996), discussed conceptual issues of accuracy of census counts achieved through the use of sampling procedures. The panel concluded in that report that a census of acceptable accuracy and cost is not possible without the use of sampling procedures. We reiterate that conclusion in this report.

The panel further concludes that the Census Bureau's research and planning are going in the right direction to ensure an efficient and accurate census. The panel does recommend refinements in several areas that need more attention or in which research in different directions is needed: plans and research in the use of sampling for nonresponse follow-up and plans to introduce integrated coverage measurement that uses sampling; the Bureau's geographic work in compiling the Master Address File and in developing cooperation with local governments; plans and testing of new survey methods (e.g., multiple response modes, respondent friendly questionnaires); and plans for administrative records.

Sampling. In addition to considering specific plans to use sampling in nonresponse follow-up and integrated coverage measurement, the panel addressed three general concerns: How will sampling affect public confidence and participation in the census? Will individuals mistakenly think that sampling means they do not have to respond by mail? Will sampling introduce variability at small geographic levels, large enough to compromise the redistricting process? The panel concludes that in the absence of an organized negative publicity campaign, that sampling is likely to increase confidence and is not likely to decrease mail return rates. Using block-level data, sampling should have, at worst, a neutral effect on congressional redistricting, and it should yield more accurate redistricting when blocks are aggregated into meaningful legal and political units.



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Preparing for the 2000 Census: Interim Report II Executive Summary The Bureau of the Census is completely redesigning the census to achieve a modern, efficient, integrated, and accurate approach to counting the U.S. population. The Bureau has conducted an extensive program of research, testing, and evaluation of its methods in anticipation of the 2000 census. The goals of this effort are fourfold: to reduce costs, to reduce respondent burden, to do a better job of counting traditionally undercounted groups, and to improve data quality. The Census Bureau asked the Committee on National Statistics to form the Panel to Evaluate Alternative Census Methodologies, which is charged with evaluating the Bureau's plans and current research on the design of the 2000 census and identifying short- and long-term research issues. Many of the Bureau's plans and the directions of its research are in accord with findings and recommendations made in two predecessor reports: Counting People in the Information Age (Steffey and Bradburn, 1994) and Modernizing the U.S. Census (Edmonston and Schultze, 1995). In 1995 the Census Bureau conducted a census test using the new methodologies planned for the 2000 census. The panel is continuing its review of the Bureau's research plans for the 2000 census and the results of the 1995 test, including the sampling design for nonresponse follow-up, the methodology (including sampling) for integrated coverage measurement, and the use of administrative records. The panel's first interim report, Sampling in the 2000 Census: Interim Report I (White and Rust, 1996), discussed conceptual issues of accuracy of census counts achieved through the use of sampling procedures. The panel concluded in that report that a census of acceptable accuracy and cost is not possible without the use of sampling procedures. We reiterate that conclusion in this report. The panel further concludes that the Census Bureau's research and planning are going in the right direction to ensure an efficient and accurate census. The panel does recommend refinements in several areas that need more attention or in which research in different directions is needed: plans and research in the use of sampling for nonresponse follow-up and plans to introduce integrated coverage measurement that uses sampling; the Bureau's geographic work in compiling the Master Address File and in developing cooperation with local governments; plans and testing of new survey methods (e.g., multiple response modes, respondent friendly questionnaires); and plans for administrative records. Sampling. In addition to considering specific plans to use sampling in nonresponse follow-up and integrated coverage measurement, the panel addressed three general concerns: How will sampling affect public confidence and participation in the census? Will individuals mistakenly think that sampling means they do not have to respond by mail? Will sampling introduce variability at small geographic levels, large enough to compromise the redistricting process? The panel concludes that in the absence of an organized negative publicity campaign, that sampling is likely to increase confidence and is not likely to decrease mail return rates. Using block-level data, sampling should have, at worst, a neutral effect on congressional redistricting, and it should yield more accurate redistricting when blocks are aggregated into meaningful legal and political units.

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Preparing for the 2000 Census: Interim Report II On the basis of its review of the Census Bureau's plans and research regarding the use of sampling for nonresponse follow-up, the panel recommends direct sampling, appropriate sampling rates, an adequate budget, and the use of housing units as the sampling unit during nonresponse follow-up. For integrated coverage measurement, the Bureau has recently decided to use dual-system estimation. The panel agrees with the decision and recommends combining the best aspects of alternative procedures, carrying out a total error analysis, and calculating the effects on state estimates. Geographic Work. For the Census Bureau's geographic work, the panel finds that the Bureau's plans and progress to develop the most accurate Master Address File and TIGER map data base ever used in a decennial census are outstanding, both in terms of the goals and the proposed methodologies. The panel offers recommendations regarding the development of a cost-benefit model for the updating process, the establishment of explicit criteria for targeting updating checks, the development of a communication plan with local partners, and quality control checking. Survey Methods. The panel finds that the Census Bureau is proceeding well in improvements in survey methods for the 2000 census, including respondent-friendly questionnaires, the availability of forms, targeted Spanish-language questionnaires, a formal promotional campaign, service-based enumeration, and, especially, improved public relations. The panel offers recommendations regarding criteria for distribution of Spanish-language forms, evaluation of the formal promotional campaign, and continuing research into the best ways to enumerate people with no usual residence. Administrative Records. Looking at the Census Bureau's plans and research to date on the use of administrative records in the census process, the panel agrees with the Bureau's recent decision to limit the use of administrative records in 2000 and offers recommendations regarding further evaluation and research.