Census Reform:

Questionnaire Test Shows Simplification Holds Promise

T-GGD-92-59: Published: Jul 1, 1992. Publicly Released: Jul 1, 1992.

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GAO discussed proposed steps in improving the Census Bureau's questionnaires to improve completion and responsiveness. GAO noted that: (1) there is a continued downward trend in public willingness to respond to census questionnaires; (2) improvements in mail response reduce the costs of hiring staff for follow-up visits; (3) changes in the short form's content, design, and method of contact yield significant improvements in public cooperation; (4) asking fewer questions improves the return rate, but lowers data quality; (5) a test user-friendly booklet increased response by 7.5 percent over the 1990 short form; (6) multiple mail contacts, prenotice letters, and reminder cards improve response; (7) urban minority areas represent the lowest response areas and continue to pose special problems in obtaining data; and (8) a streamlined questionnaire could generate a $480-million saving in operational costs.

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