For the 2010 census, we think the Census Bureau should consider making more transparent to respondents this option of collecting the information for the entire census questionnaire over the telephone once someone calls TQA. Specifically, whenever someone connects to TQA, the willingness of the operator to take the complete information, instead of just providing the specific help requested, should be made known to the caller during the initial part of the interaction. Our understanding is that this was not done in previous censuses due to the resources needed, especially the number of operators, and due to the additional procedural complications, especially of providing this opportunity for those receiving the census long form. However, given that this is a short-from-only census, we think that the need to get the information as soon as possible, when possible, should outweigh other concerns about making this option more frequently used. This could be especially important if the hourly wages of field enumerators increase substantially in 2010, since collection of such information may importantly reduce the cost of the nonresponse follow-up.
If this change is not implemented in 2010, the Census Bureau should collect sufficient information to carry out an evaluation after the census is completed as to the percentage of callers to TQA who ultimately sent back their census questionnaires to estimate the additional nonresponse follow-up costs due to the lack of collection of the entire census questionnaire over the telephone. Also, a possible experiment that should be considered is to sample the callers and ask those sampled if they would mind providing their information at that time by telephone to better estimate the additional resources required.
RECOMMENDATION 11: The Census Bureau should strongly consider, for the 2010 census, explicit encouragement of the collection of all data on the census questionnaire for people using Telephone Questionnaire Assistance. In addition, the Census Bureau should collect sufficient information to estimate the percentage of callers to Telephone Questionnaire Assistance who did not ultimately send back their census questionnaires. This would provide an estimate of the additional costs of nonresponse follow-up due to the failure to collect the entire census questionnaire for those cases. The Census Bureau should also consider carrying out an experiment whereby a sample of callers to Telephone Questionnaire Assistance are asked whether they would mind providing their full information to better estimate the additional resources required as a result of expanding Telephone Questionnaire Assistance in this way.
In conclusion, the panel is enthusiastic about the opportunity to collaborate with the Census Bureau on its plans for selecting and designing productive experiments and evaluations in conjunction with the 2010 census and, more broadly, a more productive research program overall. The Census Bureau has a very proud history of innovation, including the development of punch card machines, the first nonmilitary application of computers, survey sampling, hot-deck imputation, FOSDIC (Film Optical Sensing Device for Input to Computers), to name a few, and we hope to help continue this important tradition.