2000 Census:

Preparations for Dress Rehearsal Leave Many Unanswered Questions

GGD-98-74: Published: Mar 26, 1998. Publicly Released: Mar 26, 1998.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO reviewed the status of key activities that the Bureau of the Census plans to test as part of its dress rehearsal for the 2000 Census.

GAO noted that: (1) address list development, local outreach and promotion, staffing, and statistical sampling are all still facing the developmental and implementation changes that led GAO in 1997 to raise concerns about the high risk of a failed census in 2000; (2) this situation has arisen in part because Congress and the administration have yet to reach agreement on key aspects of the census design; (3) an accurate address list and associated maps are essential for ensuring that households receive census questionnaires and for establishing the universe of housing units for sampling and statistical estimation procedures; (4) accurate maps are critical for locating households for congressional reapportionment and redistricting; (5) the Bureau's initial plan for creating the address list and maps for the 2000 Census called for: (a) combining addresses provided by the Postal Service with the Bureau's 1990 Census address file and mapping database; and (b) submitting these addresses and maps to local governments for their review; (6) the Bureau has since concluded that the resulting address file might not meet its goal of being 99 percent complete; (7) in September 1997, the Bureau announced plans to reengineer its process for creating the address file for the 2000 census, in part by hiring temporary staff to physically verify the accuracy of all addresses by canvassing streets; (8) this reengineered approach has not been tested because of a lack of resources, and will not be tested because the Bureau does not have sufficient time to do so; (9) as part of its reengineering effort, the Bureau plans to seek earlier local government review of addresses from the Postal Service and the Bureau's 1990 Census file; (10) the Bureau's approach still will not address some of the problems encountered by local officials in their reviews; (11) to boost the questionnaire mail response rate and thus reduce its costly nonresponse follow-up workload, the Bureau plans to partner with local governments, schools and other community organizations to promote the census and has initiated a paid advertising campaign that is being developed by a private contractor; (12) the Bureau estimates that it will need to recruit over 2.6 million applicants to fill about 295,000 office and field positions; (13) the dress rehearsal does not and cannot provide an adequate test of the effectiveness of the Bureau's staffing strategy for the 2000 Census; and (14) several missteps by the Bureau in drawing a sample for the Integrated Coverage Measurement have raised GAO's concerns about the Bureau's quality control procedures.

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