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Planning for the 2020 Census

Fri Feb 05 2016
Written by: John H. Thompson
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As you know, planning for the 2020 Census is underway. We’re already making key decisions about how the next census will be carried out. Our goal is a complete and accurate census — counting everyone once, only once, and in the right place. We’ve been studying cost-saving design innovations for the last three years; now we’re shifting our focus to operationalizing those innovations and ensuring that they will produce a quality census in 2020.

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We are on track to do just that. We’ve already conducted extensive research and testing that makes us confident in our current design plan. From 2012 through 2015, we conducted seven census tests across the country to study a wide range of topics — from race and ethnicity questions to automating field operations to Internet response. The results were critical to informing the decisions in our operational plan.

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The Census Bureau released the 2020 Census Operational Plan in October — three years earlier than we did before the 2010 Census. This means we have additional time to refine and test all of the systems and innovations we need for a complete and accurate count in 2020. We’ve already started making the decisions laid out in the operating plan — right as scheduled — and we’ll continue to do so. We have 62 key decisions to make in 2016, including finalizing how we will follow up with people who don’t respond to the census.

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Releasing the operational plan five years before the 2020 Census also gives us time to communicate our plans and incorporate feedback from experts, Congress, advisory committees and the public in our decision-making process. One way we’re keeping you informed is by webcasting all of our 2020 Census Program Management Reviews so that you can be aware of what decisions we’re making, how we’re making them, and when we are making them. We want to keep everyone apprised of our progress.

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One recommendation we’ve received – and acted on – was from the Government Accountability Office, to examine whether any decisions could be made ahead of schedule to reduce risk. At the last program management review on Jan. 29, we announced a decision about how census takers will collect information via Internet-enabled devices, like smartphones. In our early testing, we examined allowing census takers to “bring your own device” (BYOD) and conduct work using their own smartphone and cellular plans. Based on our research from the 2014 and 2015 tests, we found several challenges that made it clear that BYOD wasn’t the best choice for the 2020 Census. Based on this research, we made an early decision to provide equipment to census takers rather than asking them to use their own.

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Planning for the 2020 Census is on schedule and right where it should be. I urge you to follow along with our progress at the 2020 Census page.

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