census had cost only $13 per household in 1970; see U.S. General Accounting Office, 2001b:6, and Table 3.1 below.) Part of the additional cost in 1990 was due to the unanticipated additional workload for nonresponse follow-up and other field operations.

Worse Coverage

The additional money and effort for the 1990 census did not buy improved coverage: the net undercount, measured by demographic analysis, increased from 1.2 percent of the population (2.8 million people) in 1980 to 1.9 percent of the population (4.7 million people) in 1990. Net undercount rates for blacks increased from 4.5 percent in 1980 to 5.7 percent in 1990; net undercount rates for nonblacks increased from 0.8 percent in 1980 to 1.3 percent in 1990 (National Research Council, 1995b:Table 2-1).4 Because net undercount rates increased more for blacks than others, the difference in coverage rates for blacks and nonblacks widened from 3.7 percentage points in 1980 to 4.4 percentage points in 1990, reversing the historical trend toward declining net undercount and the narrowing of differences among important groups. The October 2001 revised demographic analysis estimates for 1990 do not change this story—the revisions lowered the total net undercount rate from 1.9 percent to 1.7 percent, the black net undercount rate from 5.7 to 5.5 percent, and the nonblack net undercount rate from 1.3 to 1.1 percent, leaving the difference between the black and nonblack net undercount rates unchanged at 4.4 percentage points (Robinson, 2001b).


The perceived failures of the 1990 census—low public response, high costs, and worse coverage—drove planning for the 2000 census, which began in late 1991 accompanied by oversight from an unprecedented array of outside groups (see Section 3-C.1). The Bureau devoted significant attention and resources to research in four major areas: (1) how to make the census address list more complete


Net undercount estimates for 1990 from demographic analysis differ somewhat from those from the PES; see Chapter 5. The demographic analysis estimates are used for 1990 for comparison with 1980 for which no accepted PES results are available (see National Research Council, 1985:Ch.4).

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