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Measuring the Group Quarters Population in the American Community Survey: Interim Report
OPPORTUNITIES FOR INCREASED COLLABORATIONTO IMPROVE THE GQ INVENTORY
Despite the efforts described, the various updating operations are not as efficient at maintaining the GQ sampling frame as are the procedures for maintaining the household frame. A major inefficiency in the Census Bureau’s address update operations is that there is only limited collaboration among the divisions to integrate address updates and corrections resulting from work related to individual programs.
The Census Bureau has been working on securing a budget and establishing procedures that will allow for more thorough updating of the MAF and the closely associated Topologically Integrated Geographic Encoding and Referencing (TIGER) digital mapping system. This is also the right time to consider a more integrated, agencywide approach toward the MAF as a complete inventory of living quarters, both “traditional” housing units and group quarters.
Some units in the Census Bureau have long-standing partnerships with states and localities and rely on these for local information. However, these partnerships are often established on the basis of the needs of a specific program, without maximizing coordination with other Census Bureau units that may have similar needs. For example, the Federal-State Cooperative for Population Estimates program involves states in assisting the Census Bureau’s Population Estimates Program (PEP) to produce subnational population estimates. The State Data Center program is another partnership between the Census Bureau and the states, which facilitates the dissemination of data and other assistance to meet local needs. Many state partners supply information related to group quarters in a variety of nonuniform formats, and they could possibly be doing more to assist the ACS program needs if efforts were better coordinated across the different Census Bureau units.
Recommendation 2-1: The Census Bureau should establish a mechanism for ensuring that information useful for the updating of living quarters, especially GQ living quarters, from existing state and local partnerships is more efficiently shared among different Census Bureau divisions and programs. This effort should begin with a review of possibilities for information sharing to improve the quality of the Master Address File, followed by the development of an operational plan for improved information flow and cross-unit sharing.
Working more closely with a large number of states and localities will present challenges. Establishing formal agreements with the approximately 39,000 functioning local governments, or even a subset of them, would be a major undertaking. Data availability varies greatly across local sources, and processing and standardizing these data may involve substantial resources. Perhaps a more practical alternative to consider would be heavier reliance on state demographic offices that maintain their own inventory of group quarters, some using them to generate their own estimates for state and local geographic areas. These offices could supply lists of facilities or estimates of the GQ populations as part of a formal program. These types of agreements may be particularly