This chapter focuses on the latter two threads of research, including direct recommendations for improvement of some census operations, and offers comments on the Census Bureau’s research program generally.


The concept of the Master Address File (MAF)—the Census Bureau’s complete inventory of known living quarters and business addresses in the United States—is a surprisingly new one. It was only after the 1990 census that the Census Bureau elected to maintain a continuous address list, rather than scrapping the address list after one census and building it anew prior to the next. As currently implemented, the MAF contains a mailing address for each of the living quarters on the list, if one exists; it also contains an intricate set of logical flags and indicators that denote the operations that added or edited each address.

Finding 8.1: An accurate MAF is crucial to the quality of the decennial census, as well as the Census Bureau’s other major survey programs. Together with the Topologically Integrated Geographic Encoding and Referencing (TIGER) system database, the MAF provides the key linkage between personal census form responses and specific geographic units. Inaccuracy in MAF and TIGER detracts from the quality of the decennial census, producing errors of inclusion and omission.

A full analysis of MAF and its construction is beyond the scope of this panel, but it is germane because residence rules concerns should be reflected in several ways:

  • Scope: Work on MAF should make use of local area expertise in building a full list of residence locations, especially for irregular housing stock such as converted apartments, multi-use buildings, and small multi-unit structures. The work should also address the “seasonality” of housing stock: that is, it would be useful to have some flag or assessment of whether an address is purely a seasonal home (e.g., a time-shared property), a part-time seasonal home (e.g., rented out for part of the year), or a full-time residence.

  • Design: What are the useful flags to include? What new update operations should be done to ensure completeness (e.g., a mechanism for including hotel living quarters)?

  • Evaluation: In what geographic locations, and for what types of housing stock, is error in the MAF most prevalent? A major problem and frustration in 2000 was the lack of an audit trail; because the logical flags on

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