Decennial Census:

Additional Information for Hearing Record on the Initial Results of the Census Dress Rehearsal

GGD-99-5R: Published: Nov 20, 1998. Publicly Released: Nov 20, 1998.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO responded to requests for additional information on the 2000 Census following the testimony GAO presented before the Senate Committee on Governmenal Affairs on July 30, 1998, focusing on: (1) whether the Bureau of the Census is on track for achieving a 67 percent mail response rate; (2) the success of the Bureau's outreach program, the Bureau's expectations of its Complete Count Committees (CCC), and the lessons learned during its dress rehearsal; (3) whether the Bureau should extend its data collection efforts for nonresponse followup (NRFU) beyond six weeks; (4) the Bureau's efforts to hire and promote more community outreach specialists; (5) whether the Bureau should raise its budget to provide more staff support and printed materials to its CCCs; and (6) whether the established approach towards census taking has exhausted its potential for counting the population cost-effectively.

GAO noted that: (1) although the Bureau generally met its response rate goals for the dress rehearsal, significant concerns remain about the degree to which the Bureau will be able to meet its 67 percent mail response rate goal for 2000; (2) with regard to local partnerships, the Bureau needs to ensure that it has realistic expectations about the contributions that CCCs will be able to make in promoting the census, building the response rate, and assisting the Bureau in its other census-taking activities; (3) Bureau assistance and guidance played an important role in supporting CCCs' efforts during the dress rehearsal; (4) data from the 1990 Census suggest that the Bureau faces the challenge of not only raising awareness of the census, but the more difficult task of motivating people to complete their forms; (5) based on the Bureau's experience in 1990, it appears that extending NRFU data collection may increase errors in the data because of the amount of time that will have elapsed between census day and the extended NRFU data collection activities; (6) for 2000, the Bureau plans on filling 320 full-time partnership specialist positions nationwide, and this could result in a heavy workload similar to that experienced in South Carolina during the dress rehearsal; (7) GAO's work to date at the dress rehearsal sites suggests that the effectiveness of the Bureau's local partnership efforts were undermined by an apparent mismatch between the Bureau's expectations of the CCCs and what the CCCs could realistically accomplish; (8) until the Bureau can clearly explain what it expects from the CCC program or identifies the level of support the Bureau is truly capable of providing to CCCs, GAO can not determine whether CCC resources should be adjusted for 2000; (9) if the 1990 model were followed in 2000 without significant change, GAO would find the same pattern in the 2000 census--a census more costly and less accurate than its predecessor; (10) the Bureau's plans for the 2000 Census call for a number of significant changes to what was done in 1990; and (11) in addition to sampling, these changes include an expanded outreach and promotion effort, a streamlined census questionnaire form, and greater use of partnerships.

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