Answers to Hearing Questions on the Status of Key Operations
GGD-00-109R: Published: May 31, 2000. Publicly Released: May 31, 2000.
- Full Report:
Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO provided information on the status of the Bureau of the Census' key census operations, focusing on: (1) whether the Bureau followed GAO's recommendations and adopted an alternate form of contingency planning instead of relying on Congress for a supplemental appropriation; (2) why the census is such a local endeavor; (3) whether the Bureau will be able to translate the high level of public awareness into participation for the 2000 Census; (4) whether partnership specialists will be stretched too thinly to have a successful impact on the 2000 Census; (5) the challenges facing the Bureau in conducting a timely and accurate followup; (6) how the Bureau could intentionally or unintentionally cut corners to get the nonresponse follow-up workload done in a shorter period of time; and (7) the risks that could jeopardize the release of timely data.
GAO noted that: (1) in his written response to GAO's recommendation, the Secretary of the Department of Commerce noted that Bureau officials share GAO's "awareness of the challenges inherent in conducting a complete and thorough nonresponse follow-up operation;" (2) however, the Secretary added that the current plan for the 2000 Census will produce the most accurate enumeration possible, and that the Bureau must devote its full attention to carrying out each component of that plan; (3) the Bureau noted that the only serious contingency would be to request a supplemental appropriation; (4) the census is in many respects a local endeavor because the key ingredients of a successful population count, such as a complete and accurate address list and timely and accurate data collection, are carried out by locally recruited census employees going from one neighborhood to the next; (5) national-level data, although useful for providing an overall perspective on the census, tends to obscure operational challenges and successes at the local level that can affect the quality of the census; (6) the response rate to the 2000 Census was 65 percent--4 percentage points higher than what the Bureau had anticipated and equal to the 1990 Census response rate; (7) still, preliminary data suggest that the Bureau was unable to translate high levels of census awareness into census participation; (8) although the response rate was 65 percent, various polls have suggested that the public's awareness of the census was significantly higher; (9) Bureau partnership specialists appear to be more thinly stretched, on average, for the 2000 Census, than they were for the 1998 dress rehearsal; (10) completing the nonresponse follow-up workload within the allotted timeframe will be critical to collecting quality data because the census is progressing on a very tight schedule and the Bureau needs time to complete other census operations, including coverage evaluations that will be used to estimate census undercounts and overcounts; (11) the Bureau's nonresponse follow-up workload for 2000 is about 42 million housing units, and it has scheduled ten weeks to complete the operation; (12) in planning the 2000 nonresponse follow-up operation, the Bureau took steps to avoid the problems it encountered in 1990; (13) to address expected turnover, the Bureau planned to hire two people for each of its 146,000 enumerator positions; and (14) any material delay in checking-in census forms, both long and short, could adversely affect the timeliness of downstream activities, such as determining nonrespondents and tabulating final results.