1
Introduction

This second interim report of the Panel to Evaluate Alternative Census Methodologies, simply put, is about change. The Bureau of the Census is in the process of overhauling and updating the census in response to external change and congressional mandate (see White and Rust, 1996). It is completely redesigning the census process to achieve a modern, efficient, integrated, and accurate approach to counting the U.S. population (Bureau of the Census, 1996). Changing, updating, and adapting the census methods is a proven and desirable course of action. Change is not the enemy of an accurate and useful census; rather, not changing methods as the United States changes would inevitably result in a seriously degraded census.

The history of census methods has been one of continuous change, innovation, and evaluation. The U.S. population, culture, knowledge, and technology are vital, active, and ever-changing. Census methods have changed not only to keep up with these changes, but also to take advantage of scientific and technical advances to produce more and better information from the census. From the first decennial in 1790 through the latest in 1990, census methods have evolved and improved to accommodate developments in communications, transportation, patterns of living, migration, work force characteristics, information needs, and many other factors.

Proposed change often meets with resistance, and the proposed changes in the decennial census are no exception. Reasonable doubt in itself is a good thing: it results in appropriate research to weed out weaknesses and strengthen plans. In effect, it contributes to the likelihood of successful change. To avoid all risk by resisting reasonable change can be detrimental in a dynamic environment. It is also antithetical to the very essence of the dynamic U.S. society and the American spirit.

The Census Bureau has conducted an extensive program of research, testing, and evaluation of its survey methods since the 1990 census. The goals of this effort have been fourfold:

  1. to reduce costs,

  2. to reduce respondent burden,

  3. to do a better job of counting traditionally undercounted groups, and

  4. to improve data quality.

Many of the Census Bureau's plans were responsive to reports of predecessor panels of The Committee on National Statistics (Steffey and Bradburn, 1994; Edmonston and Schultze, 1995). The Census Bureau asked the Committee on National Statistics to form the Panel to Evaluate Alternative Census Methodologies to review and evaluate the Bureau's plans and current research on the design of the 2000 census and to identify short- and long-term research issues.

In 1995 the Census Bureau conducted a field test of a new integrated approach,



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Preparing for the 2000 Census: Interim Report II 1 Introduction This second interim report of the Panel to Evaluate Alternative Census Methodologies, simply put, is about change. The Bureau of the Census is in the process of overhauling and updating the census in response to external change and congressional mandate (see White and Rust, 1996). It is completely redesigning the census process to achieve a modern, efficient, integrated, and accurate approach to counting the U.S. population (Bureau of the Census, 1996). Changing, updating, and adapting the census methods is a proven and desirable course of action. Change is not the enemy of an accurate and useful census; rather, not changing methods as the United States changes would inevitably result in a seriously degraded census. The history of census methods has been one of continuous change, innovation, and evaluation. The U.S. population, culture, knowledge, and technology are vital, active, and ever-changing. Census methods have changed not only to keep up with these changes, but also to take advantage of scientific and technical advances to produce more and better information from the census. From the first decennial in 1790 through the latest in 1990, census methods have evolved and improved to accommodate developments in communications, transportation, patterns of living, migration, work force characteristics, information needs, and many other factors. Proposed change often meets with resistance, and the proposed changes in the decennial census are no exception. Reasonable doubt in itself is a good thing: it results in appropriate research to weed out weaknesses and strengthen plans. In effect, it contributes to the likelihood of successful change. To avoid all risk by resisting reasonable change can be detrimental in a dynamic environment. It is also antithetical to the very essence of the dynamic U.S. society and the American spirit. The Census Bureau has conducted an extensive program of research, testing, and evaluation of its survey methods since the 1990 census. The goals of this effort have been fourfold: to reduce costs, to reduce respondent burden, to do a better job of counting traditionally undercounted groups, and to improve data quality. Many of the Census Bureau's plans were responsive to reports of predecessor panels of The Committee on National Statistics (Steffey and Bradburn, 1994; Edmonston and Schultze, 1995). The Census Bureau asked the Committee on National Statistics to form the Panel to Evaluate Alternative Census Methodologies to review and evaluate the Bureau's plans and current research on the design of the 2000 census and to identify short- and long-term research issues. In 1995 the Census Bureau conducted a field test of a new integrated approach,

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Preparing for the 2000 Census: Interim Report II combining the use of sampling and estimation with traditional mail and physical enumeration (Chapter 4 discusses other innovations included in the test). Sampling was used at two points in the census process: in follow-up interviews for a sample of nonrespondents to mail questionnaires and in a coverage measurement survey at the end of nonresponse follow-up, with results incorporated into the census test. The 1995 census test was conducted in three locations: Paterson, New Jersey; Oakland, California; and six parishes in northwest Louisiana. The Census Bureau carried out extensive analyses of the census test results and has documented the research in a series of memoranda (Bureau of the Census, 1995). Number 46 in this series (Vacca, Mulry, and Killion, 1996) is a very useful compilation of results and decisions. That work was reviewed for this report. The Census Bureau has also conducted a smaller census test, called the 1996 Community Census, in six census tracts in Chicago, Illinois, and in the pueblo of Acoma Reservation in New Mexico and the Fort Hall Reservation and Trust Lands in Idaho. The 1996 test was primarily concerned with evaluating refinements in integrated coverage measurement (ICM) procedures (Whitford, 1996). The results from this test were not available for this report. The Bureau has also released a comprehensive plan for conducting the redesigned 2000 census (Bureau of the Census, 1996) and has conducted a series of public presentations around the country to engage local interests and gain feedback. This report evaluates information from the 1995 census test, analyzing a variety of issues and test results that bear on the success of the 2000 decennial census. The Census Bureau has developed a detailed and dynamic research agenda (Killion, 1996a) for preparing for the decennial census. We applaud this effort and believe that resources invested in research now can have a big payoff in a more efficient, accurate, and operationally smooth census in 2000. The panel's first interim report (White and Rust, 1996) discussed issues of accuracy of census counts achieved through the use of sampling procedures. The report pointed out that, in addition to the significant cost saving in field data collection, the use of sampling for nonresponse follow-up offers other potential benefits. The report described the ways in which the use of sampling for nonresponse follow-up could reduce the level of nonsampling error that arises in the process of collecting census data. The next chapter of this report reviews some additional issues related to the use of sampling procedures as a part of census operations that were not addressed in the panel's first interim report, particularly the implications of sampling for public confidence in the census, mail return rates, and the accuracy of small-area data. Chapter 3 discusses plans and procedures for building an accurate Master Address File (MAF) and for updating the Census Bureau's Topologically Integrated Geographic Encoding and Referencing (TIGER) system database. An accurate geographic representation of the territory to be enumerated and a complete list of addresses referenced to their correct geographic location are crucial to the success of the proposed 2000 census methodology. In Chapter 4 the panel briefly discusses several new methods tested or under consideration for the decennial census, including respondent-friendly questionnaires,

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Preparing for the 2000 Census: Interim Report II multiple modes of response, Spanish-language area targeting, targeted promotional campaigns, and new approaches to enumerating people with no usual residence. These topics were discussed in detail in previous panel reports (Steffey and Bradburn, 1994; Edmonston and Schultze, 1995); the emphasis here is on information and insight gained from the 1995 census test. Chapter 5 considers sampling for nonresponse follow-up in some detail. The panel discusses the major design decisions and alternative implementation plans. Although sampling for nonresponse follow-up will improve efficiency and yield some improvements in quality, it is the integrated coverage measurement component of the 2000 census that will address long-standing issues of undercoverage and accuracy. Chapter 6 reviews the history of under coverage and coverage measurement and it looks at experimental results for two methods proposed for integrated coverage measurement. Finally, in Chapter 7, the panel reviews the Census Bureau's progress in research on the use of administrative records in the 2000 census. The Census Bureau has investigated a variety of uses for administrative data, and the panel considers the implications of the research to date for each use. Specific recommendations are made throughout the report.