On Time, On Budget, and Well Prepared for the 2020 Census
Written by: Albert E. Fontenot, Jr.
We recently held our final quarterly 2020 Census Program Management Review (PMR) at the U.S. Census Bureau, where we had the chance to update the public and our stakeholders on the progress of the 2020 Census. During the event, Dr. Steven Dillingham, the newly confirmed director of the Census Bureau, was introduced. Additionally, Census Bureau staff presented Version 4 of the 2020 Census Operations plan and shared updates on the Type of Enumeration Areas (TEAs); address canvassing efforts; our successful 2020 worker recruitment; the results of the 2020 Census Barriers, Attitudes and Motivators Study (CBAMS); and several other critical decennial census activities. Although this is our last planned PMR, the Census Bureau will be providing periodic 2020 Census operational updates and press briefings moving forward, led by Director Dr. Steven Dillingham.
The decennial team announced the completion of the final update to the 2020 Census Operational Plan, Version 4, which reflects our final design for the 2020 Census and incorporates lessons learned from the 2018 Census Test. This update covers all operations required to execute the 2020 Census, starting with precensus address and geographic feature updates, and ending once census data products are disseminated. The final version was posted on the 2020 Census website during the meeting.
We discussed the fact that we are nearing the completion of the 2018 Census Test, which continues to demonstrate that the systems were deployed and integrated effectively and successfully. As we continue to approach Census Day 2020, we are constantly working on improving the performance and scalability across all systems, including self-response and Nonresponse Followup (NRFU).
The Geographic Division reviewed the fact that since 2010 we have been refining and maintaining the most accurate address list in decennial census history by working closely with the U.S. Postal Service and with tribal, state and local governments. With our In-Office Address Canvassing operation, our goal is to manage as much of the review and validation of the address list as possible in the office — e.g., by using accurate aerial imagery. The addresses that showed evidence of change or could not be clearly identified in the in-office operation will be validated during In-Field Address Canvassing. In order to support this fieldwork, we have begun opening the first wave of our area census offices — 29 of 39 are currently ready for business. We will later open additional area census offices to support the peak operations like NRFU (in total there will be 248 area census offices).
Additionally, our recruitment efforts have been highly successful. As of February 25, 2019, 194,000 applicants have created a profile in our application system to become temporary workers for the 2020 Census. We recently reached a significant milestone, as more than 150,000 of those applicants have completed the assessment and are in the pool of potential 2020 Census workers — this is about 10 times more than we expected to have at this point.
At the PMR, we shared our recent delineation of the Type of Enumeration Areas (TEAs) for the 2020 Census, which determines how to most efficiently count people living in various parts of the country. A national map is now available online, displaying the TEAs for the 50 states and Puerto Rico. For more than 99 percent of households, either a postal worker or a census worker will drop off an invitation to participate in the census. The remaining less than 1 percent of households, which can be found in some of the most remote areas of the country, will be counted in person by a census taker. Using the internet as the primary mode of response is a major milestone for counting the population, however, by design, the 2020 Census will be easier to respond to than any previous decennial census in our nation’s history. Regardless of how households receive their invitation to respond they will be able to do so online, by mail, or over the phone.
Since our previous PMR in October, we released the results of our 2020 Census Barriers, Attitudes and Motivators Study (CBAMS). The 2020 CBAMS surveyed 50,000 households covering a range of topics related to census participation and completion. The surveys were accompanied by 42 qualitative focus groups designed to help the research team understand the attitudes of small demographic groups or groups that were otherwise difficult to reach with the survey. The CBAMS survey and focus group findings will help us strengthen the messaging and drive our creative strategy for the 2020 Census promotional campaign, with a goal of increasing self-response rates.
In June, we are slated to conduct the 2019 Census Test. The test will measure the operational effect of including a citizenship question. The results of the test will be used to inform the NRFU operation and the Integrated Partnership and Communications Campaign. This nationwide self-response test will consist of two treatments totaling approximately 480,000 households and will mirror the design of the 2020 Census. One treatment will receive all planned 2020 Census questions, while the other treatment will include all questions except the question on citizenship.
The success of the 2020 Census rests on the collective talents of teams across the agency working to deliver a complete and accurate count of the population. We all take pride in our mission, and we are always striving to serve our country better. As we gear up toward the 2020 Census, we are absolutely confident that by working together, we can make progress and reach our goal of accurately counting everyone once, only once, and in the right place.
Presentations from the recent 2020 Census PMR, and previous ones, are available online.
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