chapter reviews those efforts in terms of the planned uses of administrative records for the 2000 census. The first section discusses research on the development of an administrative records database, which is a prerequisite to most of the planned uses; the second section discusses each of the prospective applications.


Using administrative records for census activities requires that the files obtained from different national, state, and local sources be combined into a single database. The challenge in building such a database is to reduce multiple files that overlap in their coverage and content to a single record with one name, one address, and one set of demographic characteristics for each covered person. This involves considerably more than just "unduplicating" records. It requires addressing the uncertainty created by the possible presence of multiple addresses, alternative variants of names, and perhaps even different data on age, sex, race, and Hispanic origin for the same individual. The construction of an administrative records database involves several distinct steps, which include the identification, requisition, and acquisition of files from their respective sources; the reformatting, standardization, geocoding, and unduplication of each source file; the pooling of the resulting files into a single database; and the reduction of this database to a single record per unit, whether that be housing units, people, or both. How well this is done will affect the overall quality of the database. Ideally, the database construction will improve on the accuracy of even the best source files, since no file is perfect. This outcome is not automatic, however, and it may be very difficult to achieve.

Privacy and Confidentiality

It is important to note that all information collected by the Bureau of the Census is confidential. It is protected by Title 13 of the U.S. Code, which both requires people to respond to the census and protects their privacy. No one outside the Census Bureau can see data collection instruments or use them to link individual data with names and addresses. This protection covers any and all information gathered from administrative records, as well as that collected in the field. All of the information collected for research purposes for the census is also protected. The Census Bureau may use the data only for statistical purposes and may release it only in a format that protects privacy and confidentiality. The Census Bureau enforces Title 13 very strictly, and it is the overriding reason that agencies that do not usually share information (such as the Internal Revenue Service and the Social Security Administration) have agreed to do so for the purposes of the census. Neither the Census Bureau nor any outside group, including this panel, has ever proposed that any unique identifier--such as Social Security numbers--be collected in any U.S. census. The Census Bureau has been and remains dedicated to keeping individual data confidential and private, and we believe it has diligently enforced Title 13.

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