3–A THE 1990 EXPERIENCE

The natural point to begin the story of one decennial census is to look back at the census that preceded it. Thus, we begin by summarizing the major census operations in 1990 and describing the problems that census experienced. These problems drove the research and planning agenda for 2000.

3–A.1 Major Operations

The 1990 census, broadly similar in structure to the 1970 and 1980 censuses, involved 10 major operations (see also Appendix C).

  1. Set up an organizational structure. The census structure for 1990 (see Bureau of the Census, 1995b:Ch.1,8) included:

    • staff at Census Bureau headquarters in Suitland, Maryland (over a dozen units handled budget, overall management, data processing, and other functions, five of which were directly under the associate director for decennial census, a new position in 1990);

    • a back-up computer center in Charlotte, North Carolina;

    • the Bureau’s Data Preparation Division (later renamed the National Processing Center) in Jeffersonville, Indiana, which handled such operations as coding of place of work and served as a processing office;

    • 13 regional census centers and the Puerto Rico Area Office, which managed the local field offices;

    • seven processing offices (including the Jeffersonville facility), which handled data capture and also, for large central cities, computerized data editing and telephone follow-up for missing people and content; and

    • 449 district offices (plus 9 offices in Puerto Rico), which handled address listing, outreach, nonresponse follow-up, and, in most areas, clerical review and follow-up for missing people and content.

  1. Develop an address list. Construction of the 1990 Address Control File (ACF) began in 1988 using only a few sources. In urban



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