Conduct of the decennial census requires a major allocation of money and staff. A large share of these resources must necessarily be dedicated to the basic mechanics of the census—the hiring of staff, the development and processing of questionnaires, and the maintenance of support systems like the Master Address File among them. The resources available for research and refinement of techniques to improve the count are relatively scarce, particularly in the years between censuses. Yet the types of living situations described in this report require continued research to inform improvements in enumeration methods. The need to allocate scarce resources motivates the need for serious attention to quantitative information on groups that the Bureau has more typically addressed through qualitative studies.
Finding 5.1: There is a serious need for additional quantitative information on the magnitude of emerging social trends for groups, as well as a need for further qualitative assessment and better definitions of concepts. Important hypotheses can emerge from qualitative techniques such as ethnographic research, but these need to be tested quantitatively.
We note first the Census Bureau’s unique access to its own microdata. Two of our predecessor panels (National Research Council, 2004b,c) have urged the Census Bureau to continue to mine and analyze the microdata from the 2000 census and its follow-up and coverage evaluation programs, in ways that get beyond the mainly operational focus of the formal evaluation program of the 2000 census. We concur, and add that the Bureau’s major survey programs also provide the basis for further investigation of residence-related questions, whether the surveys are self-initiated (e.g., the Current Population Survey or the American Community Survey) or conducted on behalf of other agencies (e.g., its surveys of the jail and prison population).
Finding 5.2: Through its own resources as well as contacts with outside researchers, the Census Bureau has data on diverse residence situations that could be used to inform residence-related decisions.
Recommendation 5.1: The Census Bureau should conduct and facilitate further research using its detailed census and survey results.