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Envisioning the 2020 Census
2007 (National Research Council, 2008b) and plans to issue a final report in fall 2009.
The panel met most recently on November 10–11, 2008. At that meeting, Census Bureau staff briefed the panel about the topics that it had chosen for inclusion in the 2010 CPEX program and presented the outlines of the designs for the experiments to be included in the 2010 census. On the basis of those briefings and subsequent discussion, and given the relatively late timing of our final report in the census experimentation planning cycle, the purpose of this letter is to continue to fulfill our charge by providing timely analysis and recommendations for the CPEX program.
EXPERIMENTATION DURING THE 2010 CENSUS: MISSINGTOPICS
A key objective of our interim report (National Research Council, 2008b) was to suggest priority topics for experimentation during the census. In particular, we urged that the topics chosen for experimentation have a direct bearing on visions for the 2020 census (however preliminary) so that they can serve as a first step for research in the intercensal period. We also explicitly recommended that the 2010 experiments be chosen to examine issues with the potential to achieve substantial cost reductions or important improvements in data quality in 2020.
In November 2008, the panel was informed that the Census Bureau has chosen topics for four experiments to be conducted during the 2010 decennial census: (1) a nonresponse follow-up contact strategy experiment, (2) a privacy notification experiment, (3) an alternative questionnaire experiment, and (4) a deadline messaging and compressed schedule experiment. We are deeply concerned that although the topics selected by the Bureau are of interest, they are not grounded in a vision for 2020, nor are they directly linked to cost or data quality concerns. At the same time, we are concerned that two topics with strong potential effects on cost and quality and overall importance for 2020 that we discussed in our interim report are absent from the Bureau’s experimentation plans: Internet data collection and the use of administrative records. We reemphasize that these two areas of research are critically important. In addition, we believe that a very different alternative questionnaire experiment—one that tries multiple approaches to improve collection of census residence information—would be invaluable for the future of census questionnaire design.
The use of the Internet for data collection in the decennial census presents important opportunities for cost reductions and improvements in