National Academies Press: OpenBook

Modernizing the U.S. Census (1995)

Chapter:Front Matter

Suggested Citation:"Front Matter." National Research Council. 1995. Modernizing the U.S. Census. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/4805.
×

Modernizing the U.S. Census

Barry Edmonston and Charles Schultze, Editors

Panel on Census Requirements in the Year 2000 and Beyond

Committee on National Statistics

Commission on Behavioral and Social Sciences and Education

National Research Council

NATIONAL ACADEMY PRESS
Washington, D.C. 1995

Suggested Citation:"Front Matter." National Research Council. 1995. Modernizing the U.S. Census. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/4805.
×

NOTICE: The project that is the subject of this report was approved by the Governing Board of the National Research Council, whose members are drawn from the councils of the National Academy of Sciences, the National Academy of Engineering, and the Institute of Medicine. The members of the committee responsible for the report were chosen for their special competences and with regard for appropriate balance.

This report has been reviewed by a group other than the authors according to procedures approved by a Report Review Committee consisting of members of the National Academy of Sciences, the National Academy of Engineering, and the Institute of Medicine.

The National Academy of Sciences is a private, nonprofit, self-perpetuating society of distinguished scholars engaged in scientific and engineering research, dedicated to the furtherance of science and technology and to their use for the general welfare. Upon the authority of the charter granted to it by the Congress in 1863, the Academy has a mandate that requires it to advise the federal government on scientific and technical matters. Dr. Bruce M. Alberts is president of the National Academy of Sciences.

The National Academy of Engineering was established in 1964, under the charter of the National Academy of Sciences, as a parallel organization of outstanding engineers. It is autonomous in its administration and in the selection of its members, sharing with the National Academy of Sciences the responsibility for advising the federal government. The National Academy of Engineering also sponsors engineering programs aimed at meeting national needs, encourages education and research, and recognizes the superior achievements of engineers. Dr. Robert M. White is president of the National Academy of Engineering.

The Institute of Medicine was established in 1970 by the National Academy of Sciences to secure the services of eminent members of appropriate professions in the examination of policy matters pertaining to the health of the public. The Institute acts under the responsibility given to the National Academy of Sciences by its congressional charter to be an adviser to the federal government and, upon its own initiative, to identify issues of medical care, research, and education. Dr. Kenneth I. Shine is president of the Institute of Medicine.

The National Research Council was organized by the National Academy of Sciences in 1916 to associate the broad community of science and technology with the Academy’s purposes of furthering knowledge and advising the federal government. Functioning in accordance with general policies determined by the Academy, the Council has become the principal operating agency of both the National Academy of Sciences and the National Academy of Engineering in providing services to the government, the public, and the scientific and engineering communities. The Council is administered jointly by both Academies and the Institute of Medicine. Dr. Bruce M. Alberts and Dr. Robert M. White are chairman and vice chairman, respectively, of the National Research Council.

This project is supported by funds provided by the Bureau of the Census, U.S. Department of Commerce, under contract number 50-YABC-2-66008.

Library of Congress Catalog Card No. 94-69488

International Standard Book Number 0-309-05182-7

Additional copies of this report are available from:
National Academy Press,
2101 Constitution Avenue, N.W., Box 285, Washington, D.C. 20418 Call 800-624-6242 or 202-334-3313 (in the Washington Metropolitan Area)

B493

Copyright 1995 by the National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved.

Printed in the United States of America

Suggested Citation:"Front Matter." National Research Council. 1995. Modernizing the U.S. Census. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/4805.
×

PANEL ON CENSUS REQUIREMENTS IN THE YEAR 2000 AND BEYOND

CHARLES L. SCHULTZE (Chair),

The Brookings Institution, Washington, D.C.

MARGO ANDERSON,

Department of History, University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee

DOUGLAS M. DUNN,

Consumer Services, AT&T, Basking Ridge, New Jersey

IVAN P. FELLEGI,

Statistics Canada, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada

STEPHEN E. FIENBERG,

Department of Statistics, Carnegie Mellon University

CHARLES P. KINDLEBERGER,

St. Louis Community Development Agency, St. Louis, Missouri

MICHEL A. LETTRE,

Maryland Office of Planning, Baltimore, Maryland

JAMES N. MORGAN,

Institute for Social Research, University of Michigan

WILLIAM A. MORRILL,

Mathtech, Inc., Princeton, New Jersey

RICHARD F. MUTH,

Department of Economics, Emory University

JANET L. NORWOOD,

The Urban Institute, Washington, D.C.

EROL R. RICKETTS,

Center for Social Research, City University of New York*

TERESA A. SULLIVAN,

Department of Sociology, University of Texas, Austin

KARL TAEUBER,

Department of Sociology, University of Wisconsin, Madison

JAMES TRUSSELL,

Office of Population Research, Princeton University

BARRY EDMONSTON, Study Director

CONSTANCE F. CITRO, Senior Staff Officer

JUANITA TAMAYO LOTT, Research Associate

MICHELE L. CONRAD, Senior Project Assistant

MEYER ZITTER, Consultant

*  

Served until August 12, 1994.

Suggested Citation:"Front Matter." National Research Council. 1995. Modernizing the U.S. Census. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/4805.
×

COMMITTEE ON NATIONAL STATISTICS 1993-1994

NORMAN M. BRADBURN (Chair),

National Opinion Research Center, University of Chicago

JOHN E. ROLPH (Vice Chair),

Department of Information and Operations Management, School of Business Administration, University of Southern California

MARTIN H. DAVID,

Department of Economics, University of Wisconsin, Madison

JOHN F. GEWEKE,

Department of Economics, University of Minnesota, Minneapolis

NOREEN GOLDMAN,

Office of Population Research, Princeton University

JOEL B. GREENHOUSE,

Department of Statistics, Carnegie Mellon University

ERIC A. HANUSHEK,

W. Allen Wallis Institute of Political Economy, Department of Economics, University of Rochester

ROBERT M. HAUSER,

Department of Sociology and Institute for Research on Poverty, University of Wisconsin, Madison

NICHOLAS JEWELL,

Program in Biostatistics, School of Public Health, University of California, Berkeley

WILLIAM NORDHAUS,

Department of Economics, Yale University

JANET L. NORWOOD,

The Urban Institute, Washington, D.C.

DOROTHY P. RICE,

Department of Social and Behavioral Sciences, School of Nursing, University of California, San Francisco

KEITH RUST,

Westat, Inc., Rockville, Maryland

DANIEL L. SOLOMON,

College of Physical and Mathematical Sciences, North Carolina State University

MIRON L. STRAF, Director

Suggested Citation:"Front Matter." National Research Council. 1995. Modernizing the U.S. Census. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/4805.
×

Acknowledgments

The panel's report is the result of the efforts of many people. The panel was established under the auspices of the Committee on National Statistics. Miron Straf, director of the committee, was instrumental in developing the study and provided guidance and support to the panel and staff. The committee, with Burton Singer and, later, Norman Bradburn, as chairs, had responsibility for the establishment of the panel and for review of the final report. Three committee members devoted thoughtful hours to reading and commenting on the final report: John Geweke, Noreen Goldman, and Dorothy Rice. We also appreciate comments on the final report that we received from Tom Jabine and Bruce Petrie, members of the Panel to Evaluate Alternative Census Methods; Duane Steffey, study director of that panel; and six anonymous reviewers selected by the report review committee of the National Academy of Sciences. The panel would like to acknowledge the contributions of Porter Coggeshall, Robert Hauser, and Henry Riecken, who supervised the National Research Council review of our report.

At the beginning of its activities, the panel was pleased to be briefed by U.S. Representatives Harold Rogers and Thomas C. Sawyer on their views of the decennial census and their thoughts on criteria for future censuses. We also thank Barbara Bryant, who was director of the Bureau of the Census during the initial phases of the panel's work, and Harry Scarr, who was acting director for the latter period of our work, for their presentations to the panel and their helpful assistance to our requests for information.

We received continuing cooperation and assistance from the staff and management of the Bureau of the Census, including in particular Charles Alexander, Art Cresce, Greg Diffendal, Jim Dinwiddie, Jerry Gates, Jay Keller, Joe Knott,

Suggested Citation:"Front Matter." National Research Council. 1995. Modernizing the U.S. Census. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/4805.
×

John Long, Robert Marx, Lawrence McGinn, Nampeo McKenney, Susan Miskura, Mary Mulry, Lorraine Neece, Janice Pentercs, Gregg Robinson, John Thompson, Robert Tortora, and Signe Wetrogan.

We acknowledge with gratitude the assistance we received from the many individuals, in addition to those from the Bureau of the Census, who met regularly with the panel: Katherine Wallman and Maria Gonzalez, Office of Management and Budget; TerriAnn Lowenthal, Shelly Wilkie Martinez, and George Omas, House Subcommittee on Census, Statistics, and Postal Personnel; David McMillen, Senate Subcommittee on Government Information and Regulation; and Bruce Johnson, Jack Kaufman, and Chris Mihm, General Accounting Office.

Special thanks are due to the large number of individuals and organizations who consulted with the panel about their requirements for census data, their perception of content needs, and their appraisal of alternative methods for collecting census data. We owe a considerable debt of thanks to these people, who are listed in Appendix N.

We also thank the consultants to the panel—Larry Barnett, Jonathan Entin, Ed Goldfield, Samuel Issacharoff, Daniel Levine, Evelyn Mann, Mary Nenno, and George Wickstrom—who provided drafts of background papers. We appreciate the assistance of Margaret Mikyung Lee, who prepared a Congressional Research Service report on legal issues concerning the census and discussed legal issues with the panel on several occasions. Philip Fulton of the Bureau of Transportation Statistics provided the panel with expertise on transportation data and assisted greatly with the preparation of Appendix G. Juanita Tamayo Lott coordinated the activities of the panel's working group on race and ethnicity data; she directed the preparation of Chapter 7 and Appendix K. Meyer Zitter was responsible for coordinating the panel's work on the needs for small-area data and the usefulness of administrative records for the census and for intercensal estimates. He helped to prepare background papers and supporting tables for Chapter 8 and Appendices A, B, I, J, K, and L.

Eugenia Grofman, associate director for reports in the Commission on Behavioral and Social Sciences and Education, was responsible for editing the report and made valuable suggestions about its structure. We acknowledge the contribution of her superb editing skills in the preparation of this report. Our report also benefited from a final editing by Christine McShane and Elaine McGarraugh, also of the commission staff.

No panel with a task as complex and as difficult to focus as ours could perform its duties without an excellent, well-managed staff. In particular, the overall report would not have been possible without the dedicated efforts of three staff members. We are enormously indebted to Michele Conrad, senior project assistant, who cheerfully undertook any task requested by panel members. She was responsible for the panel's survey of state data centers. She prepared background papers on business as well as state and local needs for

Suggested Citation:"Front Matter." National Research Council. 1995. Modernizing the U.S. Census. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/4805.
×

census data, presented in the report as Appendices E and F. She also edited the materials that have become Appendix H. Constance Citro, senior staff officer, made major contributions to the panel's work. She coordinated two of the panel's working groups, one on census data requirements for reapportionment and redistricting and the other on the special requirements for census long-form information. She directed the preparation of Chapters 1 and 6 and Appendices A and C. More than this, she worked with the study director from beginning to end in reviewing and revising drafts of the report, offering intelligent and constructive advice on the panel's work, and helping on all the tasks needed to bring the report to publication. Finally, we are uniquely indebted to study director, Barry Edmonston, who managed the overall strategy for the panel's work, organized and managed a complex set of activities, and nudged us on to meet our deadlines. His intellectual contributions are embedded throughout our work.

I wish to close by expressing my profound appreciation to fellow panel members for their willingness to devote long hours and their special knowledge to the development and writing of the report. They have worked together well and patiently, a critical element in such a comprehensive review of the needs for the census. A number of panel members prepared background papers for our discussions. Some of their contributions appear in the appendices; others have been incorporated into the text.

Charles L. Schultze, Chair

Panel on Census Requirements in the Year 2000 and Beyond

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Suggested Citation:"Front Matter." National Research Council. 1995. Modernizing the U.S. Census. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/4805.
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Suggested Citation:"Front Matter." National Research Council. 1995. Modernizing the U.S. Census. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/4805.
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Mail Response Rates

 

48

   

Other Factors

 

49

   

Census Cost Changes

 

50

   

Census Staff Productivity

 

51

   

Summary

 

55

4

 

RADICAL ALTERNATIVES

 

59

   

A National Register for the Basic Census

 

60

   

An Administrative Records Census

 

63

   

A Census Conducted by the U.S. Postal Service

 

68

   

A Rolling or Sample Census

 

71

5

 

A REDESIGNED CENSUS

 

75

   

Two Approaches to Counting the Population

 

76

   

Census Bureau Plans

 

83

   

Legal Issues of Statistical estimation

 

84

   

Basic Elements of a New Census Design

 

85

   

Decreasing the Intensity of Nonresponse Follow-Up

 

85

   

Sampling for Nonresponse Follow-Up

 

86

   

Truncation of Enumeration After a Reasonable Effort

 

87

   

Survey-Based Methods to Complete the Count

 

96

   

Additional Measures to Improve Accuracy and Reduce Costs

 

101

   

Improve Response Rates

 

101

   

Partnerships with State and Local Governments

 

102

   

Partnership with the U.S. Postal Service

 

103

   

A Reengineered Census

 

107

   

Building Public Support

 

110

6

 

CENSUS CONTENT

 

113

   

The Process for Determining Census Content

 

114

   

The Long Form

 

116

   

Costs

 

117

   

Mail Return Rates

 

118

   

Coverage

 

122

   

Matrix Sampling

 

122

   

Continuous Measurement

 

124

   

Costs

 

125

   

Data Quality

 

131

   

Conceptual Issues with Cumulated Data

 

132

   

Relation to Other Household Surveys

 

133

   

Alternative Ways to Provide Small-Area Data

 

134

   

Conclusions

 

135

   

Conclusions: Content in the 2000 Census

 

136

Suggested Citation:"Front Matter." National Research Council. 1995. Modernizing the U.S. Census. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/4805.
×

7

 

DATA ON RACE AND ETHNICITY

 

140

   

Historical Context

 

142

   

Current Requirements

 

143

   

Future Requirements

 

151

   

Conclusions and Recommendations

 

153

8

 

INTERCENSAL SMALL-AREA DATA

 

156

   

Needs for Small-Area Data

 

157

   

Timeliness

 

158

   

Past Attempts to Produce Intercensal Small-Area Data

 

159

   

Assessment of Current Methods

 

163

   

Mid-Decade Censuses

 

163

   

New and Special Surveys

 

164

   

Augmenting Existing Surveys

 

165

   

Model-Based Estimates

 

166

   

Administrative Records

 

167

   

A Geographic Reference System and Updated Address File

 

172

   

Interagency Data Sharing

 

174

   

Conclusion

 

175

 

 

REFERENCES

 

178

 

 

APPENDICES

 

 

   

A Basic Information on Census Questionnaires

 

187

   

B The Census Process

 

228

   

C Data Requirements for Reapportionment and Redistricting

 

239

   

D Research Uses of Census Data

 

259

   

E State and Local Needs for Census Data

 

273

   

F Business Uses of Census Data

 

292

   

G Use of Decennial Census Data in Transportation Planning

 

301

   

H Census Data Needs for Housing and Urban Development

 

322

   

I Alternative Ways to Produce Intercensal Small-Area Data

 

342

   

J Content and Quality of Federal and State Administrative Records

 

357

   

K Quality of Current Data on Race and Ethnicity

 

372

   

L Allocation Rates

 

384

   

M Census Data Requirements by Federal Agencies

 

438

   

N Groups and Individuals Consulted

 

445

   

O Biographical Sketches

 

457

Suggested Citation:"Front Matter." National Research Council. 1995. Modernizing the U.S. Census. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/4805.
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Preface

In 1992 the Congress mandated that a study of the fundamental requirements for the nation's decennial census be undertaken by the National Academy of Sciences-National Research Council. The mandate was in part in response to the costs and large relative undercount of minority groups in the 1990 census: there were higher per unit costs than previous censuses and higher rates of coverage error (net undercount of the population) than in the 1980 census.

as specified by the legislation, the Panel on Census Requirements in the Year 2000 and Beyond, under the Committee on National Statistics, was established (Decennial Census Improvement Act of 1991, Public Law 102-125) to study:

  1. means by which the Government could achieve the most accurate population count possible; and

  2. consistent with the goal under paragraph (1), ways for the Government to collect other demographic and housing data.

In the words of the legislation, the panel was directed to consider such matters as:

  • ways to improve the Government's enumeration methods, especially with regard to those involving the direct collection of data from respondents;

  • alternative methods for collecting the data needed for a basic population count, such as any involving administrative records, information from

Suggested Citation:"Front Matter." National Research Council. 1995. Modernizing the U.S. Census. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/4805.
×

subnational or other surveys, and cumulative or rolling data-collection techniques;

  • the appropriateness of using sampling methods, in combination with basic data-collection techniques or otherwise, in the acquisition or refinement of population data, including a review of the accuracy of the data for different levels of geography (such as States, places, census tracts and census blocks);

  • the degree to which a continuing need is anticipated with respect to the types of data (besides data relating to the basic population count) which were collected through the last decennial census; and

  • with respect to data for which such a need is anticipated whether there are more effective ways to collect information using traditional methods and whether alternative sources or methodologies exist or could be implemented for obtaining reliable information in a timely manner.

With respect to each alternative proposed, the panel was directed to include:

  • an evaluation of such alternative's relative advantages and disadvantages, as well as an analysis of its cost effectiveness; and

  • for any alternative that does not involve the direct collection of data from individuals (about themselves or members of their household), an analysis of such alternative's potential effects on (i) privacy; (ii) public confidence in the census; and (iii) the integrity of the census.

Our mission was to respond to Congress's interest in rethinking the census, both the requirements for the data currently collected in the census and methods of conducting the census at less cost and with improved coverage.

Our panel approached its task in several ways. We worked closely with Census Bureau staff to understand the cost structure of the census and the reasons for cost escalations since 1970. We also worked with Census Bureau staff to model the likely cost implications of various changes to census methodology. We reviewed the available literature and consulted with others in the field on the pros and cons of different ways of conducting the census, including radical changes, such as conducting a sample census or basing the census entirely on administrative records; fundamental reforms of current census methodology, such as the use of sampling to follow up nonresponding households; and numerous changes in census procedures.

We also met with a wide range of user groups to understand their requirements and uses for census data and the likely consequences of no longer collecting the items they now use or of collecting those items by some other means. We conducted two in-depth case studies of census data use, one for transportation research and planning and the other for housing research and planning. We did not, however, review the content of the census questionnaire on an item-by-item basis. No outside panel can substitute for the process by which data users, most importantly, federal government agencies, debate the relative merits of

Suggested Citation:"Front Matter." National Research Council. 1995. Modernizing the U.S. Census. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/4805.
×

including in the census an item on, say, commuting, versus an item on, say, disability or national origin. We did review the evidence on whether the content of recent censuses, taken as a whole, has contributed to such problems as rising costs and coverage errors and whether there is a case on these grounds for reducing the number of items.

As part of its response to the congressional mandate and at the specific request of the Department of Commerce and the Bureau of the Census, the Committee on National Statistics convened a separate Panel to Evaluate Alternative Census Methods to conduct a complementary study. In addition to these two panels, the Department of Commerce established an extensive advisory structure for the census, consisting of a policy committee of federal agency officials with needs for census data, a technical committee of knowledgeable staff, and an advisory committee with members from outside organizations with a stake in the census.

Our review of possible census methodologies overlaps in some respects the work of the Panel to Evaluate Alternative Census Methods. That panel's report and this one cover some of the same ground, but from differing perspectives. The Panel to Evaluate Alternative Census Methods focused primarily on technical issues of implementation and evaluation of promising methodologies. Our panel focused on issues of the cost structure for the census, ways to achieve the most accurate population count, and requirements for census content. Both emphases are important, and we note that on major issues of needed methodological improvements the two panels reached very similar conclusions. (The final report of the Panel to Evaluate Alternative Census Methods, Counting People in the Information Age, was published in 1994.)

Our panel (in contrast to the Panel to Evaluate Alternative Census Methods) devoted considerable attention to questions of census data use, including the rationale for users' needs for census information and whether those needs could be satisfied by some means other than the census itself. Early in our deliberations, we investigated the legal requirements for census data to support reapportionment and redistricting at the federal, state, and local levels of government and whether those requirements ruled out any of the changes in census methodology that have been proposed. We also reviewed the legal requirements for census data to support other program and policy needs of federal agencies. Some of our early findings were presented in an interim report in May 1993 and a letter report in November 1993; these are integrated in this report.

We urge prompt consideration of our findings and recommendations by Congress and the Census Bureau so that the needed changes in the census process can be made in time to realize their full benefits for the 2000 census.

Charles L. Schultze, Chair

Panel on Census Requirements in the Year 2000 and Beyond

Suggested Citation:"Front Matter." National Research Council. 1995. Modernizing the U.S. Census. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/4805.
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Modernizing the U.S. Census

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The U.S. census, conducted every 10 years since 1790, faces dramatic new challenges as the country begins its third century. Critics of the 1990 census cited problems of increasingly high costs, continued racial differences in counting the population, and declining public confidence.

This volume provides a major review of the traditional U.S. census. Starting from the most basic questions of how data are used and whether they are needed, the volume examines the data that future censuses should provide. It evaluates several radical proposals that have been made for changing the census, as well as other proposals for redesigning the year 2000 census. The book also considers in detail the much-criticized long form, the role of race and ethnic data, and the need for and ways to obtain small-area data between censuses.

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