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The 2000 Census: Counting Under Adversity
sample (about one-sixth of total households). We recommend improvements in the planning process and design for the 2010 census that flow from our evaluations of 2000; however, our recommendations are not intended to be comprehensive in terms of 2010 planning. The Panel on Research on Future Census Methods is assessing the Census Bureau’s plans for 2010.
Our overall conclusion is that the 2000 census experienced both major successes and significant problems. Despite problems with the census address list, the completeness of population coverage and the quality of the basic demographic data were at least as good as and possibly better than in previous censuses. However, many of the long-form items on such topics as income and employment, as well as the data for residents of college dormitories, prisons, nursing homes, group homes, and other group quarters, were no better and in some cases worse than in previous censuses. That we found problematic areas should not detract from the success of the 2000 census in providing relevant, timely data for many uses. It should also make clear the importance of a thorough evaluation of the quality of census data and operations for users to understand the census information and for planners to improve future censuses.
THE ROAD TO 2000
The 2000 census planning began in a climate of concern about the perceived failures of the 1990 census—one that saw a substantial decline in public cooperation and, despite higher per household costs than in the 1980 census, resulted in worse coverage of minorities, renters, and children relative to other population groups. The Census Bureau’s initial design to remedy these problems for 2000 relied on much greater use of statistical techniques in the census enumeration, but this plan encountered opposition from members of Congress and others. As a result, the Bureau had to contend with externally imposed last-minute changes in design, delayed budget decisions, consequent changes in plans, and insufficient time for operational trials. All of these problems increased not only the costs of the 2000 census but also the risk that it could have been seriously flawed in one or more respects.
In light of this experience, the panel recommends that the Census Bureau, the administration, and Congress agree on the basic