The first release of results from the 2020 Census is an important milestone in the once-a-decade count of the nation’s population. Over the next decade, lawmakers, business owners, researchers and many others will use the data to make important decisions about their communities.
In order to make those decisions, people using the data need to feel confident in the data’s quality and accuracy. So, how do you gauge the quality of the census?
The Census Bureau is taking a multifaceted approach to studying the quality of the 2020 Census, so as to produce a more complete and informative picture. One way we are doing this, as we described in the previous Introduction to Quality Indicators: Operational Metrics blog, is by providing statistics on other aspects of the census, including operational quality metrics.
Today’s initial release of the 2020 Census operational quality metrics provides important information about the quality of the census by looking at how we obtained a response for each address.
We do this, in part, by examining the final status of addresses in the census and how that status was determined. While this is just one piece of information about the quality of the census, it offers insight into how we collected responses from the different census operations.
For example, if an address was resolved as “self-response occupied,” that means that a household member living at that address responded online, by phone or by mail on their own. Self-responses are preferable because they are quick, efficient, high quality, and don’t typically require further action or follow-up.
These metrics also provide more details on how we resolved addresses in the Nonresponse Followup operation. During this operation, census takers knocked on the doors of addresses that did not self-respond to the census to try to get a response or to verify whether the address was vacant.
Because of the various operational challenges we faced from the COVID-19 pandemic and other major events, it is particularly important to study and understand various metrics about Nonresponse Followup to get a better picture of our success in adapting to these challenges.
The operational quality metrics are available in an interactive dashboard. The dashboard makes it easy to compare metrics among the nation and states.
We are also providing:
It’s important to note that we expect to see some differences across states and from one census to the next. Different doesn’t necessarily imply “better” or “worse.”
Many differences are a result of changes to the way we conducted the 2020 Census as compared with the 2010 Census (for example, adding an internet response option or using administrative records to enumerate some households in Nonresponse Followup in 2020). A difference is just another data point as we consider the breadth of quality assessments in the works for the 2020 Census.
Today’s release contains a wide array of summary statistics and other information to consider on the subject of operational quality metrics.
Some of the highlights include:
While no single number can definitively quantify the quality of the census, examining these metrics and comparing them across geographies and with past censuses can shed light on how our operations and processes affect our ability to accurately count our nation’s population.
Next month, we plan to provide additional operational metrics on topics such as average household size and percentage of single-person housing units and two-person housing units. These will provide more detailed information about the results from census operations and shed more light on the quality of the census.
Providing operational quality metrics is just one example of how the Census Bureau is striving to give the public insight into the efforts we have made to ensure that the 2020 Census counts are the highest quality possible and fit for their many uses.
Other ways that we are measuring the quality include:
As they become available, we look forward to sharing these additional results with the public on our 2020 Census Data Quality webpage.