2000 Census:

Update on Essential Operations

T-GGD/AIMD-00-119: Published: Mar 14, 2000. Publicly Released: Mar 14, 2000.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO discussed its recent reports on the status of key census taking operations, focusing on such essential activities as: (1) outreach and promotion; (2) field follow-up operations; and (3) data capture.

GAO noted that: (1) a high mail response rate is key to a successful census because it helps the Bureau of the Census obtain more accurate data and reduce what has been an error-prone and costly nonresponsive followup; (2) the Bureau has instituted both a local and national outreach and promotion campaign; (3) the local effort is largely based on partnerships with various governmental and nongovernmental organizations across the country, while the national initiative centers on a campaign developed by private sector advertising agencies; (4) the Bureau recognizes that without the assistance and support from members of local communities, participation in the census will not reach everyone; (5) a key component to the Bureau's partnership program are Complete Count Committees, which consist of local government, religious, media, and other community leaders; (6) the Bureau hopes to increase response rates through the Census in Schools program by encouraging students to remind their parents or guardians to complete their census forms; (7) to help ensure a complete and accurate count of the nation's population, the Bureau conducts a nationwide field follow-up operation in which enumerators visit and attempt to collect census information from each nonresponding household; (8) to conduct its peak field operations, and to cover for the possibility of high turnover rates, the Bureau estimates it will need to recruit 2.4 million qualified applicants; (9) the two coverage improvement programs that the Bureau has implemented are the Questionnaire Assistance Centers and the Be Counted Program; (10) the effectiveness of these two programs will depend on factors such as: (a) working with local partners to identify sites with locations and schedules that best meet the needs of targeted groups; (b) ensuring that sites have "street-level" visibility so that targeted groups are able to find them; (c) monitoring usage so that people will be able to find forms and obtain assistance when and where they are supposed to be available; and (d) in the case of Questionnaire Assistance Centers, making sure staff are available with appropriate foreign language skills; (11) the Bureau faced formidable challenges in ensuring the operational readiness of its four data capture centers (DCC); and (12) the Bureau reports that it has implemented the near-term Data Capture System 2000 changes and completed all scheduled test events, including an operational test at each DCC.

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