as effective as initially hoped. Information received from the Postal Service has not been timely, and a greater proportion of the country remains without city-style postal addresses than was anticipated. At the same time, it has become clear that a substantial number of local authorities lack the resources to provide timely updates of address information of adequate quality in a usable format (i.e., referenced to the correct location on census block boundary maps). Therefore, the Census Bureau has decided that it will implement a nationwide check of addresses immediately prior to the 2000 census, although this additional check will be costly. The panel strongly endorses this change in plans.

Efforts to Enhance the Mail Return Rate

The Census Bureau conducted systematic research early in the 1990s to identify procedures that would increase the proportion of households that return their census form by mail (see National Research Council, 1994). The research indicated that mail response rates would likely increase, relative to 1990, as a result of (1) improvements in the design of census envelopes and forms, (2) the use of prenotification letters, (3) clear information about the mandatory nature of the census, and (4) sending nonrespondents a reminder notice and then a replacement questionnaire. Tests and other research indicate that the resulting reduction in the need for nonresponse follow-up will more than offset the increase in census costs from these changes.

In the development work and testing carried out before the dress rehearsal, replacement forms had been sent only to households that did not return the original form by a specified date. In developing operations for the 2000 census, the Census Bureau has learned that the scale of the decennial census and timing constraints will not permit the mailing of replacement forms only to nonrespondent households (a targeted replacement questionnaire). Instead, replacement questionnaires must be mailed to all households on the MAF (a blanket replacement questionnaire). This nontargeted mailing of replacement questionnaires to all households was tested for the first time in the 1998 census dress rehearsal. While early indications were that the second mailout significantly increased response rates in the test,1 there was also a considerable amount of duplication. Therefore, the panel remains concerned that mailing replacement forms to all households could generate millions of duplicate submissions in 2000, which the Bureau must identify and exclude, as well as reduce

1  

Increases were from 47.2 to 55.4 percent (up 8.2 percent) for areas using the mailout/ mailback methodology in South Carolina and from 46.1 to 53.7 percent (up 7.6 percent) for Sacramento (Bureau of the Census, 1998b).



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