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2013 Census Test Cognitive Interview Report

Michelle Smirnova and Paul Scanlon


To meet the strategic goals and objectives for the 2020 Census, the U. S. Census Bureau must make fundamental changes in its design, implementation, and management. These changes must build upon the previous censuses, addressing challenges, while also maintaining cost containment, quality, flexibility, innovation, and disciplined and transparent acquisition of data. A number of changes to the way the Census Bureau conducts enumeration with households have been proposed; all of which are aimed at reducing the cost of the census.

This study focused upon the following cost reduction strategy proposals: (1) New modes of contact (e.g., text or email), (2) New modes of survey response (e.g., online), and (3) reordering some of the coverage probes to reduce reliance on coverage followup. If an alternative arrangement of probing questions is successful in resolving coverage and issues within the NRFU interview, need for additional followup will be reduced. Other items tested were revised versions of (4) the race and ethnicity questions, as well as (5) the relationship question to offer appropriate and clear response options to the respondent on both the paper form and the NRFU interview. In previous years, populations have been misclassified by race or by household composition due to limited response options. This cognitive test sought to understand whether new wording and new response categories might increase the accuracy of responses.

A total of 40 interviews were conducted in the Washington, DC metro area in September and October of 2012 in order to explore these issues. The results of this research are presented in this report.


Michelle Smirnova and Paul Scanlon . (2013). 2013 Census Test Cognitive Interview Report. Center for Survey Measurement Study Series (Survey Methodology #2013-18). U.S. Census Bureau. Available online at <>.

Source: U.S. Census Bureau, Research and Methodology Directorate, Center for Survey Measurement

Published online: July 16, 2013
Last revised: July 16, 2013


Source: U.S. Census Bureau | Research and Methodology Directorate | Center for Survey Measurement | (301) 763-3215 (or |   Last Revised: September 11, 2013