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The 2000 Census: Counting Under Adversity
challenge communities to raise their mail response rates. The 1990 response rates were posted for local areas on the Bureau’s Web site beginning in mid-March, and 2000 response rates were regularly updated on the site through mid-April. Communities were challenged to exceed their 1990 rates by 5 percent. Although few communities achieved this goal, the overall response rate did not continue its decline from previous censuses.
The 1990 census had also included advertising and outreach efforts; however, their extent was less than in 2000. The advertising was prepared by a firm selected by the Advertising Council, which conducted its work on a pro bono basis. Ads were placed as public service announcements, which meant that many ads ran in undesirable times. The partnership program was not as extensive as in 2000.
In both censuses, perhaps more so in 2000, advertising and outreach efforts varied in intensity across the country. Some localities were more active than others in coordinating and supplementing outreach and media contacts. Whether this variability narrowed or widened the difference in net undercount rates among major population groups depends on the extent to which outreach efforts were more (or less) effective in hard-to-count areas in comparison with other areas.
Data processing for the 2000 census was a continuing, high-volume series of operations that began with the capture of raw responses and ended with the production of voluminous data products for the user community, which were made available in 2001–2003.11 Important innovations were adopted for 2000. For the first time, the Census Bureau contracted with outside vendors for major components of data processing. Also for the first time, data capture operations were carried out using optical character recognition technology in addition to optical mark recognition. A telecommunications network linked Census Bureau headquarters in Suitland, Maryland; 12 permanent regional offices; the Bureau’s permanent
Data processing also included a series of computer systems for management of operations, including payroll, personnel, and management information systems.