the decade and continue through the Dress Rehearsal.” In particular, the census dress rehearsal—typically held 2 years prior to census deployment—should properly be a comprehensive run-through of census machinery to fine-tune the final census design. However, in 1998, the dress rehearsal had to serve as a feasibility test for three quite different general designs, involving different levels of sampling techniques (see Section 2-B; National Research Council, 2001a).

As depicted in Table 2-1, milestones in the 2010 planning process include major census tests roughly every other year leading up to 2010. Of these, one is already complete—the 2003 National Census Test, described in Box 9.1—and the 2004 Census Test is currently being fielded (see Box 9.2). Only two major testing opportunities remain prior to 2010: the 2006 census test, which the Census Bureau has described as a systems test, and the 2008 dress rehearsal.

In this chapter, we discuss some of the basic constraints on census testing (Section 9-A). We then briefly describe our basic recommendation to the Census Bureau with regard to the shape of the remaining census tests—namely, that the 2006 test should be cast as a vital proof-of-concept test (9–B). In the last section, we outline several priorities for census testing in the remaining years prior to the 2010 census (9–C).


The testing program for a decennial census faces a number of constraints and difficulties, some of which are unique to the census context but most of which are commonly faced by businesses or agencies in developing products or systems. The completion of a test plan for the 2010 census must try to strike a balance between these competing constraints.

Of these constraints, perhaps the most pressing—and the most common—is the need to match test activities to available resources. In the development cycle of a product or system, testing can sometimes be seen as an end-of-process activity and something to be done with the resources—monetary and person-hours alike—that remain at the end of a project. Relevant to the census context, this has often been the case in the development of computer-assisted interviewing instruments by the Cen-

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