tionnaire, and any follow-up mailings (e.g., reminder cards or the proposed second/replacement questionnaire mailout);
refinement of the Bureau’s routines for editing census data and imputing for nonresponse;
development of experiments to be performed during a decennial census and of formal evaluations of census operations; and
design of public outreach programs.
The Census Bureau took a first step toward self-enumeration—that is, questionnaires filled out by respondents themselves—in the 1960 census. Households were mailed an “Advance Census Report” that enumerators later picked up in person and copied onto computer-readable schedules. On the strength of that experience, mailout and mailback of census questionnaires became the dominant form of census conduct in 1970, when approximately 60 percent of the nation’s housing units were mailed questionnaires. By 2000, approximately 82 percent of housing units were reached by mail.
Mail administration of the census has obvious operational efficiencies in comparison with deploying enumerators to interview every household. However, self-enumeration profoundly affects the process of a census, shifting the burden of comprehending and interpreting the meaning of questionnaire concepts from a trained enumerator to an untrained respondent. As a result, the modern census questionnaire has to satisfy several, sometimes conflicting, constraints: