1990 Census:

Overview of Key Issues

GGD-89-77BR: Published: Jul 3, 1989. Publicly Released: Jul 3, 1989.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO presented an overview of the 1990 decennial census, focusing on the: (1) issues that hinge on the outcome of the census; (2) mechanics of the census; and (3) issues facing census management, including controlling census costs and hiring and retaining a sufficient number of temporary employees to timely and accurately complete the census.

GAO found that: (1) between 1950 and 1980, states in the Northeast and Midwest lost 36 seats in the House of Representatives to Western and Southern states; (2) the Bureau of the Census provided data to states on the smallest geographic areas applicable to determine congressional and state legislative districts; (3) federal agencies used census data to distribute more than $115 billion for grants-in-aid programs to state and local governments in 1988; (4) to obtain census housing and population information, the Bureau counted all living quarters, then used questionnaires either delivered through the mail or by a census worker to count the people; (5) although the Bureau hopes to complete much of the census by mail, it will enhance the count's completeness with census workers to follow up on households that do not mail back questionnaires; (6) since the 1980 census, the Bureau has made a number of improvements, including computerized map production and data files that locate street addresses and political boundaries; (7) the cost of conducting the census continues to rise, from $1.1 billion in 1980 to an estimated $2.6 billion in 1990; (8) the Bureau will need to screen about 1.6 million applicants to employ the approximately 315,000 temporary employees needed; and (9) the Bureau was considering a plan to reflect geographical differences in its pay scale, since low unemployment rates in some areas and its relatively low pay adversely affected its ability to attract and compete for needed temporary employees.

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