to collect and transmit data during nonresponse follow-up operations and to assist in managing the large, temporary enumerator workforce. These handheld devices are considered crucial by the Census Bureau to lowering the costs of field data collection by reducing the time needed to find the next address in an enumerator’s daily assignments, by automatically capturing and transmitting data, by reducing the amount of paper to be managed, and by helping to better manage enumerators’ assignments and compensation.
Not having to collect long-form data facilitates the use of handheld devices by the census enumerators because many fewer data items must be asked and recorded. Also, not having the additional long-form questions should reduce the amount of paper that the centers responsible for processing the mail returns will need to handle by about 20 percent. These considerations certainly reduce the cost-efficiency argument of having the long-form sample use the short-form infrastructure, although whether they would completely overcome the cost advantages of the paired strategy compared with a separate continuous survey is not clear.
Finally, it is possible that dropping the long form from the census will improve the completeness and accuracy of the basic head count. In 2000, adverse publicity about the perceived intrusiveness of questions on the long form helped reduce the mail return rate for long forms, which was 9 percentage points below that for short forms (National Research Council, 2004b:Box 4.1). A short-form-only census, other things being equal, will probably have a higher mail return rate than in 2000. The higher the return rate, the less is the likelihood that people will be missed or doublecounted because they moved between Census Day and the time (several weeks or months later) that census enumerators visit nonresponding households or because the enumerators will find no one at home and obtain information from a neighbor or landlord.
Considerations of data needs and census efficiencies drove the development of the ACS as a replacement for the long-form sample. Several European countries have moved to continuous measurement as well—see Box 1-1.
The need for more frequent small-area data on the social and economic conditions of the population was discussed at least as far back as a 1941 proposal by Philip Hauser, then deputy director of the Census Bureau, for an “annual sample census” (see Alexander, 2001). In 1981, Leslie Kish of the Institute for Social Research at the University of Michigan proposed a “continuous measurement” or “rolling sample” design in place of the census, in which one-tenth of the population would be surveyed each year, cumulating the estimates over 1, 2, or more years to increase their precision