2000 Census:

Status of Key Operations

T-GGD/AIMD-00-91: Published: Feb 15, 2000. Publicly Released: Feb 15, 2000.

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L. Nye Stevens
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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO discussed its recent reports regarding the operational uncertainties of the status of the 2000 Census, focusing on: (1) achieving the Bureau of the Census' mail response rate objective; (2) collecting accurate and timely data from nonrespondents; and (3) conducting data capture operations.

GAO noted that: (1) the Bureau is anticipating a mail response rate of 61 percent, however, achieving this level of public participation will be a formidable task; (2) the mail response rate has declined with each decennial census since the Bureau first initiated a national mailout/mailback approach in 1970 ; (3) to help boost public participation in the census, the Bureau has instituted an outreach and promotion campaign that is as ambitious as it is diverse; (4) at the national level, the Bureau hired a consortium of private-sector advertising agencies to develop an extensive paid advertising program for the 2000 census; (5) at the local level, the Bureau has secured partnerships with local governments, community groups, businesses, and nongovernmental organizations to promote the census at the grassroots level; (6) to count those individuals who do not mail their census questionnaires, the Bureau conducts a nationwide field follow-up operation in which temporary employees called enumerators visit and collect census information from each nonresponding housing unit; (7) however, past experience has shown that following up with nonrespondents is one of the most error-prone and costly of all census operations; (8) the Bureau will be challenged to complete nonresponse follow-up operations; (9) the Bureau faces formidable challenges in performing critical data capture operations; (10) the Bureau faces a huge challenge in delivering promised Data Capture System (DCS) capabilities on time, primarily because much remained to be done within the very short time remaining before data capture operations were to begin; (11) the Bureau and its contractor shared GAO's concerns and, in response, they were employing measures to minimize risks and to expedite the completion of DCS 2000; and (12) the Bureau will conduct a final operational test to assess the centers' ability to process a workload equivalent to that expected during actual data capture operations.

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