All Things Census
Jeffrey S. Passel, senior demographer at the Pew Research Center, spoke at a forum on the 2010 Census on Jan. 21 about challenges the Census Bureau faces in attempting to count everybody. He also talked about the potential problem of differing data from the 2010 Census and American Community Survey. The event was held at the center; it also was sponsored by the American Statistical Association and the DC chapter of the American Association of Public Opinion Research.
In this edited transcript, ellipses are not used in order to facilitate reading.
I’m going to talk about the next year to two years. The Census Bureau has in many ways, I think, had an extraordinary decade. Not without issues, but I’m going to focus more on the positive than the negative.
Census 2000 was in many ways extremely successful. The net undercount was very low, notwithstanding some issues of duplicates. The black/not-black difference in coverage was reduced substantially. They reached a timely decision not to adjust. Be it right or wrong, they did it on time and they got data out in a very usable way very quickly. The challenge in many ways, I think, is to repeat that and do at least as well and hopefully improve.
The second challenge is the American Community Survey. It may not be the war, the army of the census, but it’s close. And it’s been rather remarkable. It has changed the culture of the Census Bureau in many ways, some very apparent and some subtle in the way the analysts at the Census Bureau work. Read more
Joseph Salvo, New York City’s in-house demographic consultant, spoke at a Jan. 21 forum on the 2010 Census at the Pew Research Center about how building a strong address list is a key task to ensure that no one is missed in the census count. Salvo, director of the Population Division at the New York City Department of City Planning, discussed how officials in his city reviewed and expanded the list of addresses to be contacted by 2010 Census officials. He also suggested ways to improve the address-review process.
In the following edited excerpts, ellipses have been omitted to facilitate reading.
The Master Address File is the foundation for the census. Everyone needs to be tied to a location. It’s the basis for representation. Irrespective of what vehicles you use to collect data, you need to be tied to an address of some sort.
The creation, review or correction of this master list of addresses is a critical process, and one that is very near and dear. I want to tell you a little bit about what we’ve done in New York City and raise some issues, get you thinking as we move forward.
The current system as it exists essentially provides for systematic updates of this master list of addresses. It’s done through the U.S. Postal Service, where the Postal Service delivers information to the Census Bureau, and the Census Bureau updates new housing units that come on line. And there are field efforts in rural areas that are used to update the address list. Read more
Constance F. Citro, director of the Committee on National Statistics at the National Academy of Sciences, spoke about the challenges of conducting the 2010 Census and the need to plan now for the 2020 count at the Pew Research Center last week. The committee has evaluated major aspects of every census since the 1980 count.
She made her remarks at a Jan. 21 forum on the 2010 Census that was co-hosted by the center, the Washington Statistical Society and the DC chapter of the American Association of Public Opinion Research. In the following edited excerpts, ellipses have been omitted to facilitate reading.
The Committee on National Statistics is a standing committee of the National Academy of Sciences. Its members serve pro bono. [Census Director] Bob Groves was a distinguished member of the committee for a number of years. We’ve been around since 1972 and we have done work on the census almost without interruption since that time.
Our first report was a quick review of the plans for the 1980 Census. And I want to point out that it actually recommended paid advertising as opposed to public service announcements. Well, that was not done in 1980; it was not done in 1990. But it was done in 2000 and, from what we have heard, it looks like the 2010 program is a step up from 2000.
Our newest study will look at the 2010 Census and, in particular, look forward to 2020. The study panel is chaired by Janet Norwood, the former commissioner of the Bureau of Labor Statistics and Tom Cook, who is a systems engineer member of the National Academy of Engineering. Read more
The transcript of Census Bureau Director Robert Groves’ remarks on the 2010 Census at the Pew Research Center last week is available. It includes several of the slides that he used to illustrate his talk.
Groves appeared at a Jan. 21 forum co-sponsored by the center, the Washington Statistical Society and the Washington chapter of the American Association of Public Opinion Research. His presentation went into detail about the agency’s operations and outreach plans that are intended to produce as complete a count as possible of all U.S. residents. He also spoke about plans to track participation in real time, and to perform a post-census evaluation.
Audio of Groves’ presentation was posted earlier on this site. More material from the event will be posted soon.
The population clock on the All Things Census page is derived using national-level data from the U.S. Census Bureau, which produces estimates of the country’s total resident population and the components that are the building blocks of demographic change.
Those components include births, deaths and net international migration, computed using data from the Census Bureau and the National Center for Health Statistics. In December 2009, the Census Bureau estimated there was a birth every eight seconds, a death every 12 seconds and one net new immigrant every 37 seconds.
The population clock updates these changes at regular intervals, although in reality, these events are not evenly spaced. There are fewer births on weekends, for example, than on weekdays.
A more detailed report on the methodology of calculating population estimates is on the U.S. Census Bureau website.
The U.S. Census Bureau has not asked questions about religion since the 1950s, but the federal government did gather some information about religion for about a century before that.
An essay commissioned by the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life looks into the history of census questions about religious affiliation. It explores the debate over the propriety, merit and feasibility of including them on government surveys.
Census takers aren’t the only ones who have struggled with racial labels. Over the past seven decades, America’s pollsters have used “colored,” “Negro,” “African American,” “Afro-American” and “black” in questions in national surveys, according to a review of survey questions archived by the Roper Center for Public Opinion Research at the University of Connecticut.
Here, for example, is a survey question asked in a May 1948 Gallup Poll:
It has been suggested that white and colored men serve together throughout the U.S. Armed Services—that is, live and work in the same units. Do you think this is a good idea or a poor idea?
Jeffrey Passel recently recounted the fascinating history of the Census Bureau’s efforts to label the races. As Census Director Robert Groves notes in his blog, this year the bureau will allow people to choose from 15 categories for race, including “black, African American, or Negro.”
The history of racial labeling in public opinion polls is briefly but vividly recounted by Lee Sigelman and Steven A. Tuch of George Washington University and Jack K. Martin of Indiana University in their article “What’s In a Name? Preferences for ‘Black’ Versus ‘African American’ among Americans of African Descent” in the Fall 2005 issue of Public Opinion Quarterly. Read more
Census Bureau Director Robert Groves, speaking at the Pew Research Center this week, discussed the operational flow of Census 2010, design features intended to increase participation, the agency’s communications campaign, real-time monitoring of response, and evaluation of the quality of the count.
Census-takers hope to reach 114 million U.S. households, 13 million of which will receive bilingual questionnaires to promote participation. Groves said the agency will use a daily tracking survey and a database with neighborhood-level demographics to target its efforts to achieve a complete count.
He also answered a few questions from the audience at the session co-sponsored by the Washington Statistical Society and the Washington chapter of the American Association of Public Opinion Research.
Listen to the 50-minute audio of Groves’ presentation, which includes an introduction and presentation of survey findings by Pew Research Center President Andrew Kohut.
Here are five key facts about the 2010 Census and links to basic information about it:
- The Census Bureau expects to count 310 million U.S. residents.
- The count begins in Alaska on Jan. 25, but most Americans receive their forms in March.
- The 2010 Census form has 10 questions for the person who fills it out, and seven additional questions for each other person in the household.
- Census forms are available in six languages (English, Spanish, Chinese, Korean, Vietnamese and Russian); guides to the questions are available in 59 languages.
- The census determines how many seats each state will have in the U.S. House of Representatives, and guides the allocation of more than $400 billion in federal funds each year.
As the 2010 Census lifts off, the Census Bureau is drawing attention to a complex database that will be a key element of its campaign to achieve a complete and accurate count of the U.S. population.
The central challenge of the census is to count every resident of the United States, many of whom do not know about the census or could be reluctant to participate. Based on housing, demographic and socioeconomic variables correlated with poor response in previous censuses, the U.S. Census Bureau produced a score for every census tract in the nation that predicts how hard it will be to get an accurate count of its residents. Each census tract has about 4,000 people.
In an appearance at the Pew Research Center today, Census Bureau Director Robert Groves said the database has enabled his agency—along with partner groups trying to encourage a complete count—to zero in on neighborhoods where census-promotion efforts are most needed. Starting in late March, as Americans are mailing back their census forms, the bureau will put tract-level data on response rates on its website, he said.
Groves will be in Alaska next week to begin the 2010 Census in a remote native village. Most Americans will not be asked to participate until March, when their forms arrive in the mail with an April 1 due date. The first census results will be released in December.
The database is available on this Census 2010 toolkit page. Groves spoke at “Conducting Census 2010,” a forum co-sponsored by the center, the Washington Statistical Society and the DC-American Association of Public Opinion Research. More about the event will be posted soon.