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Highlights

The U.S. Census Bureau (Bureau) has typically counted overseas members of the military, federal civilian employees, and their dependents. However, it usually excluded private citizens residing abroad. In July 2004, the Bureau completed a test of the practicality of counting all overseas Americans. GAO was asked to assess (1) whether the Bureau implemented the test consistent with its design, and (2) the lessons learned from the test results.

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Recommendations

Matter for Congressional Consideration

Matter Status Comments
Given the obstacles to a cost-effective count of overseas Americans as part of the decennial census and, more specifically, obtaining data that is of sufficient quality to be used for congressional apportionment, Congress may wish to consider eliminating funding for any additional research, planning, and development activities related to counting this population as part of the decennial headcount, including funding for tests planned in 2006 and 2008. However, funding for the evaluation of the 2004 test should continue as planned to help inform congressional decision making.
Closed - Implemented
In FY 2005 Congress implemented this recommendation and eliminated funding to further test an overseas enumeration in 2006. Furthermore, in September 2005, the Bureau completed and released all scheduled evaluations of the 2004 overseas test.
Should Congress still desire better data on the number of overseas Americans, in lieu of the method tested in 2004, Congress might wish to consider authorizing and funding research on the feasibility of counting Americans abroad using alternatives to the decennial census.
Closed - Implemented
We recommended that should Congress desire better data on the number of Americans living overseas, Congress might want to consider authorizing and funding research on the feasibility of counting Americans abroad using alternatives to the decennial census. Congress does desire better data on the number of Americans living overseas and has considered funding an initiative to collect data on Americans living overseas, but at this time has decided not to divert resources away from the stateside enumeration. This recommendation is implemented since Congress has considered other options.

Recommendations for Executive Action

Agency Affected Recommendation Status
Department of Commerce To facilitate congressional decision making, the Secretary of Commerce should ensure that the Bureau completes its evaluation of the 2004 overseas census test as planned.
Closed - Implemented
The Bureau implemented this recommendation. GAO recommended that the Bureau complete its evaluation of the overseas tests. In September 2005, the Bureau completed and released all eight of its planned evaluation for the 2004 overseas test.
Bureau of the Census To the extent that additional research is authorized and funded, the Bureau, in consultation with Congress, should explore the feasibility of counting overseas Americans using alternatives to the decennial census. Potential options include: (1) conducting a separate survey; (2) examining how the design and archiving of various government agency administrative records might need to be refined to facilitate a more accurate count of overseas Americans; and (3) exchanging data with other countries' statistical agencies and censuses, subject to applicable confidentiality and other provisions.
Closed - Not Implemented
We recommended that to the extent additional research is authorized and funded, the Bureau should explore the feasibility of counting Americans living overseas by using alternatives to the decennial census. This recommendation is closed not implemented because Bureau is unable to explore alternatives because there is no funding.

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