Decennial Census:

Preliminary Observations on the Results to Date of the Dress Rehearsal and the Census Bureau's Readiness for 2000

T-GGD-98-178: Published: Jul 30, 1998. Publicly Released: Jul 30, 1998.

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GAO discussed the Bureau of the Census' dress rehearsal for the 2000 Census and the Bureau's readiness for carrying out the 2000 Decennial Census, focusing on how key census-taking operations have performed thus far during the dress rehearsal and the implications that may exist for 2000.

GAO noted that: (1) when it last testified before Congress in March 1998, GAO noted that although the Census Bureau had made progress in addressing some of the problems that occurred during the 1990 Census, key decennial census activities faced continuing challenges; (2) the census dress rehearsal, under way at three sites, is the last remaining field test before the decennial census is administered; (3) within the constraints and limitations imposed by the dress rehearsal setting, the Bureau to date has shown a general ability to implement the dress rehearsal at the three locations according to its operational timetable and plan; (4) certain census activities, such as staffing the dress rehearsal operations and completing field operations on schedule, appear to have gone well; (5) however, the dress rehearsal experiences also have underscored the fact that the Bureau still faces major obstacles to a cost-effective census; (6) for example, mail response rates remain problematic, and local partnerships had limited success; (7) further, the Bureau's general ability to conduct the dress rehearsal according to its operational plan, while encouraging, is not necessarily a predictor of success in 2000; (8) because the dress rehearsal was performed at three sites, the capacity of regional and headquarters offices, as well as a number of essential census-taking operations, could not be fully tested under census-like conditions; and (9) the most important outcome measure--the quality of the census data collected--is not yet available.

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