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The 2000 Census: Interim Assessment
SCOPE OF REPORT
This interim report assesses the operations of the census and the A.C.E. on the basis of information available to the panel from the Census Bureau as of August 2001. The Bureau is expected to release the results of additional evaluations to accompany its second decision in mid-October, and it has planned a longer range evaluation program as well. We commend the Census Bureau for its openness in providing documentation and evaluation data, as they are completed, to our panel and other advisory and oversight groups.
The panel has considered statistical data on census operations, the A.C.E. Program, imputation for missing information on census questionnaires, late additions to the census counts, mail return rates, and demographic analysis. The information on these topics does not support definitive assessments, particularly of which census operations and design features had the greatest effects on the completeness and quality of the census information. We offer this report to provide preliminary assessments and suggestions for next steps.
This interim report makes no judgment on the appropriateness of adjusting or not adjusting the census for net population undercount. The panel in its November 2000 letter report concluded that the Census Bureau’s plans for evaluations that could be completed within the time available appeared to be sufficient for making a reasonably confident decision about adjustment in March 2001. However, the panel noted that whether the evaluations would permit such a decision would not become clear until the results were known. The evaluations were carried out as planned, and the Bureau determined that the results were inconclusive about important aspects of the A.C.E. and insufficient to resolve differences among the census estimate, A.C.E., and demographic analysis. The panel concludes that the Census Bureau followed its specified process and, thus, that its recommendation to release the counts from the census enumeration for redistricting was justifiable.
CENSUS AND A.C.E. OPERATIONS
We conclude that the 2000 census was well executed in many respects, particularly given the difficulties of last-minute changes in the overall design and other problems encountered prior to 2000. Ample funding enabled the Bureau staff to carry out the census on schedule.
We examined six major innovations in the census, four of which appeared to be successful: (1) contracting for data operations and using improved technology for capturing the data on the questionnaires; (2) use of a redesigned questionnaire and mailing strategy to encourage response; (3) paid advertising and