Statistics is a source of information on preschool and early grade enrollment by mother’s education and employment status, and the National Center for Health Statistics is a source of information on health care visits by age, sex, and race. Second, statistical and methodological revisions frequently are not carried back through time. For example, the Current Population Survey used the 1980 census population controls from 1981 through 1993 before switching to 1990 census population controls in October 1994. This procedure may significantly affect estimates of the absolute numbers of school enrollees and the comparability of the enrollment series across time; other measures, such as enrollment rates, may not be affected (U.S. Census Bureau, 2002, p. 131). Additionally, the available information may not be cross-classified by all dimensions of interest. An attempt is made to minimize respondent burden and, accordingly, a given survey may collect information on only a few demographic variables. A project that attempts to link administrative record information contained in establishment surveys and household surveys is being undertaken at the Census Bureau (Abowd et al., 2004); such projects may facilitate the creation of a unified set of demographic statistics. Although we recognize that creation of better coordinated demographic data would require significant effort by statistical agencies and other suppliers of data, the development of such data is an important goal.
Recommendation 2.4: A consistent and regularly updated demographic database should be assembled as an input to nonmarket accounts. The database should include information on the population by age, sex, school enrollment, years of education and degrees completed, occupation, household structure, immigrant status, employment status and, possibly, other dimensions.
It would also be ideal to have information on health in this demographic database, but this may not be a realistic goal. Household structure data should include demographic information on members of a household, including relationships if any (e.g., divorced or married), and numbers and ages of children and unrelated individuals, as well as information on children not living within the household.
The fact that high-quality demographic data already are collected by the Census Bureau and other agencies makes this recommendation feasible to implement. Data currently collected by the decennial census and by the Current Population Survey provide much of the necessary input. What is needed is to have key data sources linked together, made consistent over time, and published at intervals to support accounting efforts effectively. Many critical census projections are made annually, but these do not include all of the variables that are needed. Most of the essential demographic data fields are included in the census long form but in the past some have been presented only once every 10 years. The Census Bureau’s new American Community Survey will (contingent on funding) be continuous, though rolling geographically, and will advance the effort to produce a more fluid demographic description of the population. Given the budget constraints of the statistical agencies, the demographic database should be