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STATISTICIAN’S VIEW
This column is the first in a series to explore issues relating to the federal statistical agencies. To suggest or write an article for the series,
contact Steve Pierson, ASA director of science policy, at pierson@amstat.org.
On Planning
for the 2020 Census
This article is based on a talk given at the 2008 FCSM Statistical Policy Seminar to stimulate thinking about the 2020
Census and provide tentative ideas and a set of preliminary actions that might be taken toward it. In that spirit, the
ideas presented below are a brief exploration of these actions.
~Hermann Habermann
T
he organizers of the 2008 FCSM Statistical
topics such as coverage evaluation, development of
Policy Seminar asked if I would share some
algorithms to reduce duplicates, and demographic
thoughts about preparing for the decennial
analysis—is used to inform and guide the adminis-
census—not the 2010 Census, but the 2020 Census.
tration and operations processes.
At present, the attention of Congress, the U.S. Census
Attention must be paid from the start to ensure
Bureau, and the user community is properly focused
Congress is aware and involved. Even for those
on the 2010 Census. Indeed, it may seem fatuous to
steps that could be accomplished by the U.S.
devote energy to the 2020 Census when the problems
Census Bureau, it is crucial that Congress and
with completing the 2010 Census are upon us.
users are more than just informed and consulted;
However, I believe now is the time to begin planning
they must be treated as ends, rather than means.
for the 2020 Census—in fact we may be late.
This does not imply that the U.S. Census Bureau
For example, in the past, development models
should give up its professional responsibilities for
for how administrative data and information can be
the planning and conduct of the decennial cen-
incorporated into the enumeration process have been
sus or that the decennial is a ‘joint’ process. It
delayed until it is too late to build, test, and incorpo-
does mean that, in many areas, a consensus must
rate them. We must start now, if we have any hope of
be formed between Congress, the U.S. Census
making major changes in the 2020 Census.
Bureau, and the user community. As consensus
In the remainder of my comments, list the areas
building is a difficult and lengthy process, it is
that need consideration and concrete actions that
essential to begin now.
may be useful. I would like to emphasize that these
suggestions should be taken as just that, tenta-
Areas of Concern and
tive ideas that should be modified, eliminated, or
Proposed Actions
enhanced.
Some of the following actions can be proposed and
The activities of the decennial census can be
initiated by the U.S. Census Bureau on its own.
roughly divided into three broad areas:
Others can only be accomplished by others (e.g.,
— administration
Congress), but all should be associated with a sig-
nificant public process to develop a consensus on
— operations
the part of government and users to move forward.
— statistical evaluation
This public process can be facilitated by existing
institutions, such as the National Academies or the
Administration of the decennial census involves
National Academy of Public Administration.
the customary areas of management, oversight,
coordination, and planning. It also involves keep-
Appoint an Associate Director for the
ing track of the activities on a timeline and keep-
2020 Census
ing a budget as close to real-time as possible. The Traditionally, the U.S. Census Bureau has had one
operations areas include engineering procedures executive in charge of the decennial census, and the
and processes of the decennial census. Finally there responsibilities of that position change over time
is statistical evaluation. This area—which includes from the current decennial census to planning and
FEBRUARY 2009 AMSTAT NEWS 23
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