2000 Census:

Status of Nonresponse Follow-up and Key Operations

T-GGD/AIMD-00-164: Published: May 11, 2000. Publicly Released: May 11, 2000.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO discussed the progress of the nonresponse follow-up operation of the 2000 Census, focusing on the: (1) response rate and its impact on the nonresponse follow-up workload; (2) Bureau of the Census' ability to complete nonresponse follow-up on schedule while maintaining data quality; (3) Bureau's efforts to redeliver questionnaires initially found to be undeliverable; and (4) status of the Bureau's data capture operations.

GAO noted that: (1) the Bureau achieved an initial response rate of 65 percent as of April 18, 2000, which matched the 1990 Census rate and exceeded the Bureau's expected national response rate of 61 percent by 4 percentage points; (2) although the response rate does not guarantee a successful census, it does reduce cost and scheduling pressures in nonresponse follow-up and subsequent census operations while enhancing data quality; (3) the Bureau mailed out about 99 million questionnaires to housing units in mailout/mailback delivery areas of the country; (4) of these 99 million, the Postal Service was unable to deliver about about 11 million questionnaires, which was about 1 million fewer undeliverable-as-addressed (UAA) questionnaires than the Bureau estimated; (5) in anticipation of this problem, the Bureau planned, in consultation with local post offices and Regional Census Offices, to redistribute a portion of the undeliverable questionnaires; (6) as part of nonresponse follow-up, census workers are to conduct census interviews at the addresses for which questionnaires were returned unless an address was already considered questionable and marked as ineligible for the nonresponse follow-up universe; (7) preliminary numbers indicate that the Postal Service held about 4.2 million undeliverable questionnaires for over 300 local census offices to attempt to redeliver, and that the Bureau was able to redeliver about 1.6 million of these; (8) and while the Bureau had planned for about 10 million UAAs to be returned to the National Processing Center, as of April 26th, about 9 million had been returned, including those that the Bureau could not successfully redeliver; (9) according to a Bureau official, except for remote locations, every area where housing units exist will have been canvassed by Bureau employees at least twice, in addition to any local reviews; (10) as of April 30th, the data capture centers were processing questionnaires at a rate that will meet the Bureau's May 26th deadline for completing mailback questionnaire processing; (11) the Data Capture System (DCS) 2000 development contractor has prepared a master plan and adopted an appropriate risk-based approach to modifying DCS 2000's hardware and software configurations, and the contractor is progressing according to its plans; and (12) important development events remain, and the more detailed plans supporting those events have not been finalized.

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