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Envisioning the 2020 Census
experiment, three sampling strata will be used: high, medium, and low mail response areas. Each of the eight study panels will involve 10,000 households. These eight panels are: (1) control, (2) compressed mailing schedule panel, (3–5) three deadline messaging panels, and (6–8) three compressed schedule combined with deadline messaging panels. The three deadline messaging panels have language of varying degrees of sternness related to delays in mailing back the questionnaire. The analysis will focus on response rates, speed of response, and item nonresponse rates. Our only concern about this experiment is the lack of specification of the statistical power.
In summary, as the Census Bureau finalizes its preparations for the 2010 census, the panel believes that the Bureau faces tremendous risk if it does not perform comprehensive systems testing—focused on the interfaces between individual system components and, ideally, involving some field work component. The quality and utility of 2010 census evaluations will also be seriously impaired if census operational systems are not designed to retain procedural data for construction of a master trace database. The Census Bureau has proposed four experiments to be conducted during the 2010 census, but the panel believes that they suffer from design flaws and, significantly, lack connection to potential visions for the 2020 census. The panel suggests that three topics that are given little or no weight in the current CPEX plan—Internet data collection, use of administrative records in various census processes, and elicitation of accurate residence information—have greater potential to decrease the cost and increase the quality of the 2020 census, and so should be built into the 2010 experimental program.
We hope that the information and recommendations in this letter are useful to the Census Bureau. We would be happy to discuss and explain any of these issues at your convenience.