2000 Census:

Refinements to Full Count Review Program Could Improve Future Data Quality

GAO-02-562: Published: Jul 3, 2002. Publicly Released: Jul 26, 2002.

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To ensure the completeness and accuracy of the 2000 census data, Bureau of the Census analysts were to identify, investigate, and document suspected data discrepancies or issues to clear census data files and products for subsequent processing or public release. They were to determine whether and how to correct the data by weighing quality improvements against time and budget constraints. Because the bureau lacked sufficient staff to conduct a full count review on its own, it contracted out some of the work to members of the Federal-State Cooperative Program for Population Estimates (FSCPE). FSCPE documented 1,402 data issues, 29 percent of the 4,809 issues identified by both FSCPE and bureau analysts during the full count review. Of the 4,809 issues, 1,599 dealt with "group quarters," where counts for prisons, nursing homes, dormitories, and other group living facilities differed from what analysts expected. Of the 1,599 group quarters issues, FSCPE identified 567. Discrepancies relating to housing unit counts, population data, and demographic characteristics accounted for 1,150 issues, 375 of which were identified by FSCPE. Overall, of the 4,809 issues identified during review, 4,267 were not subjected to further investigation by the bureau because of insufficient documentation. Because the bureau's preliminary plans for the 2010 Census include a Full Count Review program, several areas warrant improvement. Foremost among these is the need for the bureau to investigate and resolve a larger number of issues before releasing the public law data.

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: The Census Bureau concurred with this recommendation and has incorporated the feasibility of using field staff into its 2010 census planning efforts.

    Recommendation: To help ensure the accuracy and completeness of census data and take full advantage of the Full Count Review program and FSCPE members' participation, the Secretary of Commerce should direct the bureau to develop ways to resolve a larger number of data issues prior to the release of the public law data. Specifically, consideration should be given to exploring the feasibility of using staff from the bureau's regional offices to help investigate data issues in the field prior to the release of public law data.

    Agency Affected: Department of Commerce

  2. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: The Census Bureau concurred with this recommendation and its 2010 planning groups are researching the possibility of pre-processing reviews of the data on a flow basis so that some of the review functions could possibly be carried out under a separate program or operation.

    Recommendation: To help ensure the accuracy and completeness of census data and take full advantage of the Full Count Review program and FSCPE members' participation, the Secretary of Commerce should direct the bureau to develop ways to resolve a larger number of data issues prior to the release of the public law data. Specifically, consideration should be given to categorizing issues on the basis of the quality and precision of the documentation, and investigating first those issues that are best documented and thus more easily resolved.

    Agency Affected: Department of Commerce

  3. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: The Census Bureau concurred with this recommendation and has developed materials that indicate the goals and scope of the program, including the kinds of data issues subject to review and correction.

    Recommendation: To help ensure the accuracy and completeness of census data and take full advantage of the Full Count Review program and FSCPE members' participation, the Secretary of Commerce should direct the bureau to develop ways to resolve a larger number of data issues prior to the release of the public law data. Specifically, consideration should be given to developing clear guidelines on the minimum documentation needed for the bureau to investigate individual data issues.

    Agency Affected: Department of Commerce

  4. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: The Census Bureau concurred with this recommendation and has incorporated it into its 2010 census planning efforts.

    Recommendation: To help ensure the accuracy and completeness of census data and take full advantage of the Full Count Review program and FSCPE members' participation, the Secretary of Commerce should direct the bureau to develop ways to resolve a larger number of data issues prior to the release of the public law data. Specifically, consideration should be given to integrating the Full Count Review program with other census organizational units and operations to ensure the bureau has sufficient time and field support to investigate issues.

    Agency Affected: Department of Commerce

  5. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: The Census Bureau concurred with this recommendation and has incorporated it as part of its overall planning process for 2010. For example, the Bureau plans to test its Full Count Review procedures as part of its 2008 "dress rehearsal" for the 2010 Census.

    Recommendation: To help ensure the accuracy and completeness of census data and take full advantage of the Full Count Review program and FSCPE members' participation, the Secretary of Commerce should direct the bureau to develop ways to resolve a larger number of data issues prior to the release of the public law data. Specifically, consideration should be given to planning the Full Count Review program early in the census cycle and testing procedures under conditions as close to the actual census as possible.

    Agency Affected: Department of Commerce

  6. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: The Census Bureau concurred with this recommendation and has taken steps to ensure that participants fully understand the goals and scope of the program, including the kinds of data issues subject to review and correction. Specifically, as part of its planning process for 2010, the Bureau plans to fully document this information and provide it to the participants at the program's outset.

    Recommendation: Moreover, to ensure no expectation gaps develop between the bureau and FSCPE members, the Secretary of Commerce should also ensure that the bureau clarifies and consistently communicates to participants the objectives of the Full Count Review program and how the bureau plans to use the information derived from it.

    Agency Affected: Department of Commerce

 

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