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Economic Indicators Data Release Featured

Our goal for every census is to count everyone once, only once, and in the right place.

Ensuring the quality of the census results is built into every step of conducting the census. Once we release the results, we continue to do an even deeper dive to evaluate the quality of the census.

When we release numbers, we make sure they meet our quality standards.

On this page:

Ensuring Quality

Ensuring we conduct a complete and accurate count is part of every step of the census—from designing the census to collecting and processing the data.

We designed the census based on research and testing.

  • We began preparing for the 2020 Census even before the 2010 Census ended and made changes to account for lessons learned in 2010.
  • We conducted operational census tests—in cities across the country—in 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, and 2018.
  • Throughout the decade, we also extensively researched how people perceived the census and what would motivate them to complete it.

We conducted operations and outreach to get responses from everyone.

  • We mailed up to 7 invitations and reminders, including up to 2 paper questionnaires to households, and gave the public 3 options to respond—online, by phone or by mail.
  • For households that we couldn’t reach by mail, a census taker dropped off a paper questionnaire or visited to interview the household.
  • The census questionnaire was available in 13 languages—giving over 99% of U.S. households the option of responding online or by phone in their language. Help with responding was also available in 59 languages through Language Guides available in print and video on 2020census.gov.
  • We encouraged response through advertisements in English and 46 additional languages, reaching over 99% of households more than 300 times.
  • Over 400,000 partners encouraged people in their communities to respond.
  • When we didn’t receive a response, census takers visited or called to interview households.
  • We also had special operations to count people living in group quarters, transitory locations, and other types of living situations.

We have numerous quality checks built into data collection and data processing.

  • For example, the online questionnaire has prompts built in to help people respond completely and accurately.
  • When we send census takers to knock on people’s doors — we check the quality of the census taker’s work too.
  • As we add up the numbers, we check to make sure they were processed correctly and that they make sense by comparing them to other data. If something doesn’t look right, we take a closer look and fix it if there’s a problem.

More information about the extensive planning and operations that go into conducting a quality census are available in the 2020 Census Operational Plan.

Evaluating Quality

After the data are released, we continue to do an even deeper dive to evaluate the quality of the census. We’re also committed to sharing what we know, when we know it, so that data users can feel confident in the results too.

We use a variety of techniques to evaluate the quality of a census. These fall into two major categories:

We look at how well we conducted the census.

  • We look at operational quality metrics on how we collected the responses.
  • We do a thorough review of census operations.
  • We also ask outside experts to independently review our work.

We compare the census results to other ways of measuring the population.

  • We compare the census results to estimates of the population, such as demographic analysis and our population estimates.
  • We conduct the Post-Enumeration Survey to measure how many people and housing units were missed or counted erroneously in the census.

Operational Quality Metrics

One way we evaluate the quality of a census is looking at operational quality metrics. For the first time, we plan to release a number of data quality indicators along with the first results from the 2020 Census.

These metrics will provide information on the status of addresses in the census and how we resolved addresses across each of the data collection modes.

Released on May 27, 2021

xls 2020 Census Data Quality Operational Metrics: Release 2 [<1.0 MB]
This table shell provides a preview of the metrics that will be available.

Previously Released

2020 Census Operational Quality Metrics Webinar

On April 21, 2021, the Census Bureau held a technical webinar to preview the type and meaning behind the data quality metrics.

xls 2020 Census Data Quality Operational Metrics: Release 1 [<1.0 MB]
This table shell provides a preview of the metrics that will be available.

Outside Expert Reviews

We are engaging respected members of the scientific and statistical community to conduct independent assessments of the 2020 Census.

Their reports will advise the Census Bureau on improving future censuses and will help the public to understand the quality of the 2020 Census data.

The experts are from three groups:

Comparisons to Population Benchmarks

Another way of evaluating the quality of a census is comparing the census results to other ways of measuring the population.

On the same day we release the first 2020 Census results, we will release analyses that compare the census results to the 2020 Demographic Analysis, prior censuses, and population estimates from the Census Bureau’s Population Estimates Program.

Demographic Analysis

Post-Enumeration Survey

We are conducting a Post-Enumeration Survey to measure how many people and housing units were missed or counted erroneously in the census.

 

Operational Quality Metrics Visualization

Operational Assessments and Evaluations

We will conduct a series of formal assessments and evaluation reports that will measure and document different aspects of the 2020 Census operations. We will share these as they become available.

 

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