Decennial Census:

Opportunities for Fundamental Reform

T-GGD-92-51: Published: Jun 10, 1992. Publicly Released: Jun 10, 1992.

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GAO discussed the major lessons learned from the 1990 census and primary opportunities for census reform. GAO noted that the: (1) results and experiences of the 1990 census, including decreased accuracy and increased costs, demonstrate that the American public has grown too diverse and dynamic to be accurately counted solely by the traditional head-count method employed by the Census Bureau; (2) Bureau could control costs and improve the accuracy of census mailing and followup by increasing its reliance on the U.S. Postal Service and improving its 1990 address list; (3) Bureau could increase response rates and reduce follow-up efforts by simplifying and revising census questionnaires to reflect social and demographic changes; and (4) use of sampling methods could potentially reduce the burden on respondents and the Bureau's follow-up efforts, and possibly improve data quality. GAO believes that: (1) the Bureau must perform an early, open, and thorough reexamination of the census process in planning for the 2000 census; and (2) strong and continuing congressional oversight is essential to the census design and planning process.

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