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Highlights

An accurate decennial census relies on finding and counting people--only once--in the right place and collecting complete and correct information. GAO reviewed the Department of Commerce's U.S. Census Bureau's (Bureau) plans to (1) improve the census's accuracy--or coverage--with its coverage follow-up operation, (2) assess the accuracy of the census through its census coverage measurement program, and (3) evaluate these efforts after 2010. GAO reviewed documentation and interviewed Bureau officials about the Bureau's coverage follow-up and measurement plans. GAO compared plans for measuring coverage in 2000 and 2010 and interviewed 15 experts about changes to the plans.

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Recommendations

Recommendations for Executive Action

Agency Affected Recommendation Status
Department of Commerce The Secretary of Commerce should direct the Bureau to provide the Congress and other census stakeholders with more specific plans on conducting coverage follow-up, implementing coverage measurement, and evaluating the results of those programs for the 2010 Census. Specifically, the Bureau should provide the criteria it will use to assess the techniques for identifying cases for the coverage follow-up operation in the 2008 Dress Rehearsal and the timeline for completing this assessment to permit planning for 2010--the timeline should specify dates for preliminary assessments, final assessments, and when operational changes might be made to the 2010 Census.
Closed - Implemented
The plans for coverage follow-up in 2010 reflect lessons learned from the 2008 Dress Rehearsal. The Bureau has issued detailed criteria for case selection for Coverage Follow-up in Census Memo 28 and Census Memo 31. The Coverage Follow-up operation in 2010 is underway as planned.
Department of Commerce The Secretary of Commerce should direct the Bureau to provide the Congress and other census stakeholders with more specific plans on conducting coverage follow-up, implementing coverage measurement, and evaluating the results of those programs for the 2010 Census. Specifically, the Bureau should provide its plans for conducting coverage measurement for the 2010 Census, which should include a description of when it will provide estimates of net coverage error and components of coverage error and how it plans to relate components of coverage error to census operations in order to improve future decennials.
Closed - Implemented
Since this report, the Bureau has finalized its plans for the CCM program including CCM's goals, the timing of operations, and the timing and types of results to be produced. While study plans for all evaluations are not expected until the fall of 2010, the evaluations to be conducted have been decided and schedules published. Adherence to schedule will be important to ensure that the Bureau carries out CCM in order to meet its goal of improving the 2020 Census.
Department of Commerce The Secretary of Commerce should direct the Bureau to provide the Congress and other census stakeholders with more specific plans on conducting coverage follow-up, implementing coverage measurement, and evaluating the results of those programs for the 2010 Census. Specifically, the Bureau should provide key decision points and plans for evaluating aspects of the 2010 Census coverage follow-up operation and census coverage measurement program.
Closed - Implemented
In May 2010 and August 2010, the Bureau issued memoranda describing several studies of coverage follow-up it was carrying out as part of its formal evaluation program. This commitment to understanding how the Bureau's design of the operation worked to achieve Bureau goals will help the Bureau as it designs more effective operations for the 2020 Census. Additionally, between May 2010 and June 2011, the Bureau issued ten planning memoranda describing study plans it had approved for various evaluations of Census Coverage Measurement (CCM). Finalizing and announcing the decisions on how CCM will be evaluated improved the transparency of the 2010 Census as well as Bureau efforts to improve future censuses.

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