est concern in this report and it will be discussed in detail in the chapters that follow.


Conducting a decennial census of the United States presents massive logistical challenges on many levels. It has been said that the fielding of the 2000 census—with more than 860,000 short-term employees serving as enumerators—constituted the “largest peacetime civilian mobilization” in American history (U.S. Department of Commerce, Office of Inspector General, 2000:3). To motivate discussion of the proposed changes for the 2010 census process, it is helpful first to consider the basic steps that characterize the modern decennial census. We have listed these basic steps in Box 2.1 and describe them in more detail (with particular reference to their implementation in the 2000 census, as appropriate) in the remainder of this section.

2–A.1 Preparation

The ultimate quality of a census depends critically on successful completion of a number of preparatory steps. First, the Census Bureau must establish an organizational structure (1) as it mobilizes for the count, from the definition of staff roles at Census Bureau headquarters in Suitland, Maryland, to the establishment and operation of hundreds of temporary local census offices (LCOs). The basic high-level organizational structure of the Census Bureau is described in Box 2.2. In addition to the human organizational structure, census planners must also piece together the broader technical infrastructure of the census—the amalgam of people, computer hardware and software systems, and telecommunication networks that will be used to support all aspects of the census process.

Of the initial preparations that must be made for a census, the development of an address list (2) is arguably the most crucial. Recent decennial censuses have relied heavily on the delivery and return of questionnaires by mail for most of the population, and the quality of mail census operations relies on the strength

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