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Census.gov Information Quality Main Census Bureau Information Quality Guidelines › Objectivity

Objectivity

The Census Bureau shall provide information that is accurate, reliable and unbiased and shall ensure that its information products are presented in an accurate, clear, complete and unbiased manner. This objectivity is achieved by using reliable data sources and sound analytical techniques and by using highly qualified people to prepare data products that are carefully reviewed.


In the area of statistical information, objectivity also requires acknowledging that errors in statistical estimates are unavoidable. These areas generally fall under the categories of "sampling" and "nonsampling" errors. Sampling errors result when estimates are based on a sample and not a complete canvass of the population of interest (as in a census). The Census Bureau provides information quantifying what is known about the magnitude of these errors, such as variances or coefficients of variation to quantify the magnitude of sampling errors. Though quantifying nonsampling errors is more difficult, the Census Bureau provides what information it can on their magnitude.


The Census Bureau's commitment to quality and professional standards of practice includes: the use of modern statistical theory and practice in all technical work; the development of strong staff expertise in the disciplines relevant to our mission; the implementation of ongoing quality assurance programs to improve data validity and reliability, including improving the processes of compiling, editing, and analyzing data; and the development of a strong and continuing relationship with appropriate professional organizations in the fields of statistics and relevant subject-matter areas.


Use of Reliable Data Sources

The Census Bureau bases its information products on reliable, accurate data that have been validated. The Census Bureau assumes responsibility for determining sources of data (including administrative records and other data sources), measurement methods, and methods of data collection and processing for its censuses and surveys while minimizing respondent burden. This encompasses the development and determination of survey requirements and objectives, precision desired, geographic scope, collection mode and respondent, the sampling frame, sample design, estimation specifications, variance estimation specifications, and other quality measurement specifications.


The Census Bureau builds measurement of quality, process control, and performance into its data collection processes, thereby making evident the quality and objectivity of its statistics. The secure handling of collected data will be assured by appropriate means throughout the entire data collection process to preserve confidentiality and privacy.


The Census Bureau comprehensively documents all components of the data collection process to assure the consistency of its processes.


Use of Sound Analytic Techniques

The Census Bureau uses sound analytical techniques to ensure objectivity in our statistical information products. The Census Bureau assumes responsibility for determining and employing appropriate methods of analysis. We evaluate the techniques used to analyze data, continually searching for more effective, accurate, and reliable analysis tools. We evaluate and report on the quality of our analyses.


The Census Bureau performs appropriate statistical tests, addressing the characteristics of the sample design in official products, and documents measures of sampling error. Preliminary quality checking and exploratory data analysis techniques are utilized to identify, where possible, instances of nonsampling error, including missing data, measurement error, processing error, and specification error. Additional quality checks are used to prevent errors in the analysis, including the data used for the analysis; the computations; and the text, tables, and figures used to report the analysis results.


Pre-Dissemination Review Required for the Release of Data

All documents released by the Census Bureau undergo an extensive review that encompasses the content, statistical and survey methodology, and policy implications of the document. The review ensures that the data and text of the document meet Census Bureau standards for quality. If a potential data product is determined by the Census Bureau as unfit for use because it does not meet Census Bureau requirements for quality, the Census Bureau reserves the right to withhold the data product from dissemination to the public.


Informing Users of Data Quality and Methodology

The Census Bureau informs users of the concepts and methodologies used in collecting and processing the data, the quality of the data it produces, and other features of the data that may affect their use or interpretation. The availability of sound methodological practices and the use of those methodologies are critical in ensuring the quality of the statistics. By providing information on methodology and concepts to data users, the Census Bureau will enable users to make judgments and verify that the data they are using are similar in conceptual framework and definitions to the data they need to complete their work. It also allows users to more accurately assess the errors which restrict their use of the data. Specifically

  • Statistical products are accompanied by descriptions of, or references to descriptions of, the methods and procedures used in their development, and other information about the data that may affect its use.
  • The documentation provided to users conveys useful information on data quality, and engenders an awareness of quality as an issue in the proper use of the data.
  • The Census Bureau provides indicators of the quality of the statistical information it disseminates to the public, along with definitions and descriptions of the concepts and methods.
  • The information on methodology provided or referenced permits the user to determine whether the data adequately approximate what they wish to measure, and whether the estimates they wish to use were produced with tolerances acceptable for their intended purpose.
  • The level of information provided in documentation on data quality or methodology depends on the type of data collection, data sources, and analysis; confidentiality protection required by statute; the medium of dissemination; the range and impact of uses of the data; and the total budget of the statistical program.

Policy for correcting errors

In accordance with the OMB guidelines, the Census Bureau has established mechanisms providing the public with the opportunity to seek correction of information disseminated by the organization that does not comply with our information quality guidelines. Corrective actions will vary. Possibilities include immediate correction or replacement of information on the Census Bureau Web site (http://www.census.gov/), revision of subsequent issues of recurring products, and issuance of errata for printed reports and other data products. Written or electronic requests for correction communicated to the Census Bureau should specifically identify the information or procedures of concern, explain why the information is not in compliance with the information quality guidelines, indicate any potential adverse impact, and provide a return address for our response. If we agree that an error was made, we will determine if the data will be corrected. These guidelines are not intended to imply any rights of individuals to request amendment of their own records beyond those permitted by the Privacy Act of 1974 or other organization specific laws.Click here to access the complete correction request procedure.


Source: U.S. Census Bureau | Methodology and Standards Council |  Last Revised: July 08, 2010