It is worth noting that threads of the special nature of the U.S. census experience have been part of census culture for a very long time. In fact, we comment in Chapter 1 on what is arguably the first census experiment, the use of advance census forms in the 1910 census. Census Director E. Dana Durand (1910:83–84) described the experiment as “by far the most important method adopted at this census” to increase public awareness of and participation in the census. However, he went on to comment:

The use of this advance schedule is a partial adoption of the practice of the leading foreign countries in which the larger part of the census work is done by the people themselves, so that the enumerators have little to do in most cases except to distribute and collect the schedules. It is not expected that the same results will be secured by the use of the advance schedule in this country. The novelty of the method, the mixed character of our population, and the complexity of the questions asked—much greater than in foreign censuses—are circumstances which render it likely that a much smaller proportion of the schedules will be properly filled out by families in this country than in countries like England and Germany.

Even from the beginning—the first census after establishment of the permanent Census Bureau—the notion that the complexity of the U.S. census (and population) requires wholly separate tools and methodologies was advanced. Overcoming this insularity—and more effectively building from external researchers and international peers—is a key part of improving Census Bureau research.


Having critiqued the current state of Census Bureau research, we now turn to suggestions for improvement over the coming decade. We begin by discussing some broad overview strategies before suggesting selected specific ideas with respect to key strategic issues in Section 3–B.4.

Identify Visions for Next Census and Focus on a Limited Set of Goals

At the panel’s November 2008 meeting, Census Bureau staff discussed a preliminary set of goals and objectives for the 2020 census; they are listed in Box 3-1. It is worth noting that the three labeled “goals” for 2020 in Box 3-1 are essentially identical to those put forward for the 2010 census, save that the Bureau’s 2010 goals included a fourth point to “increase the rel-

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