Preparing for the 2020 Census: Announcing Sites for the 2018 End-to-End Census Test

Written by John H. Thompson

At today’s quarterly 2020 Census Program Management Review, the U.S. Census Bureau announced the sites for its largest, most advanced systems and operations test in preparation for the 2020 Census. More than 700,000 housing units will participate in the test in Pierce County, Wash.; Providence County, R.I.; and the Bluefield-Beckley-Oak Hill, W.Va., area. These areas were chosen for their unique characteristics, including a variety of housing types and addresses, and diverse populations with varying demographic characteristics. In addition, the populations in these areas have varying levels of internet access and usage.

Whether you respond via the internet, telephone, traditional paper questionnaire or an in-person visit, the Census Bureau is committed to making the mandatory once-a-decade headcount quick, easy and safe for all to participate. In the 2018 End-to-End Census Test, we’ll confirm the key technologies, data collection methods, outreach and promotional strategies, and management and response processes that will be deployed during the 2020 Census.

The 2018 End-to-End Census Test is the culmination of extensive research and testing we’ve conducted throughout the decade. It supports the goal of the 2020 Census, which is to count everyone once, only once and in the right place. As 2020 Census operations move forward, we will continue to improve the use of mobile technology, administrative records, geospatial data and self-response via the internet. This test will provide insights and guide our planning to ensure an accurate census.

To learn more about this test and how it supports our plans for a complete and accurate census, visit <>.

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Preparing for the 2020 Census in Indian Country

Written by: John H. Thompson

A few weeks ago, I traveled to Spokane, Wash., to the National Congress of American Indians’ midyear meeting. I enjoyed meeting with tribal leaders and telling them about our 2020 Census planning goals in Indian Country.

There are challenges to enumerating any group of people in the census, and counting American Indians and Alaska Natives who live on tribal lands poses its own set of obstacles. Geography and climate can be big challenges. In areas such as the Navajo Nation or Remote Alaska, we may need to use horses, ATVs, helicopters and even dogsleds to reach everyone. Other challenges include language barriers and multigenerational living arrangements, which can affect the accuracy of the count.


Because of these potential obstacles, a key part of our early preparations for the next census is communication with the tribes. The Census Bureau talks to, notifies and consults with the tribes before we make decisions or implement policies, rules or programs that affect tribal governments. This year alone, we’ve conducted eight tribal consultations and one national webinar across Indian Country in order to strengthen our relationship, and ensure a full and accurate count of the Alaska Native and American Indian population.

Tribal members are an important source of information on issues such as enumeration, population statistics, partnerships, geography and recruiting. We depend on their help to identify potential census staff members and enumerators who speak the languages we need, and who understand local living arrangements.


At the NCAI meeting, I was able to meet with several members of the tribal press, whose assistance we will need in communicating the importance of the census to Native Americans and Alaska Natives. I also met Michael Marchand, vice chairman of the Confederated Tribes of the Colville Reservation, and offered my condolences on the passing of tribal Chairman Jim Boyd last month. I was also able to thank Mr. Marchand for his cooperation in allowing the Census Bureau to hold part of the 2017 Census Test on the Colville Indian Reservation and off-reservation trust land in Washington.

I thank NCAI and the tribal leaders for their invitation to speak at their midyear meeting, and I deeply appreciate their interest in and contributions to the 2020 Census. I encourage tribal leaders and members to participate in the tribal consultation meetings that the Census Bureau is holding through the end of 2016. In addition, we hope to learn and gather feedback from the tribes on many more occasions over the decade. Many thanks to NCAI for their collaboration now and in the future.


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New Advance Economic Indicators Report Available This Month

Written by John H. Thompson

Later this month, the U.S. Census Bureau will release the first-ever Advance Economic Indicators Report. Last July, we began issuing the Advance Report: U.S. International Trade in Goods in order to release international trade data to the public as quickly as possible. Continuing our commitment to make our quality statistics as accessible and timely as possible, this new report will expand the advance report by including advance monthly retail and wholesale trade inventories for select aggregate levels in addition to the advance international trade data.

Business leaders, policymakers and other data users rely on Census Bureau statistics to make important decisions. These advance estimates not only give them earlier access to a “snapshot” of key economic data, but also provide more quality inputs for calculating our nation’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP). The new Advance Economic Indicators Report will allow the Bureau of Economic Analysis to make a more precise initial estimate of this major economic indicator, and potentially reduce the size of later revisions. When BEA began incorporating our advance trade report into the advance estimate of GDP last year, it reduced revisions to GDP, on average, by 0.1 to 0.2 percentage points – or by $6 billion – on an annualized basis.


The Census Bureau is constantly looking for ways to improve your access to our statistics, and this new report is a great example of our dedication to releasing the timeliest, accurate and most trusted information about our nation’s economy. We will continue to identify other quality indicators that are suitable for acceleration to expand the Advance Economic Indicators Report.

The first Advance Economic Indicators Report will be available on July 28 at <>.

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Asking for Input on Counting People in the Right Place in 2020

Written by: John H. Thompson

Note: The comment period for the proposed 2020 Census Residence Criteria and Residence Situations has been extended until September 1, 2016.

The U.S. Census Bureau’s mission is to count every person living in the U.S. every ten years during the decennial census. Just as important as counting each person, though, is making sure we count them in the right place.

Since the first census in 1790, the Census Bureau has followed a basic guideline, given to us by Congress, that says people should be counted where they live and sleep most of the time. For most people, applying this principle is straightforward. But for others — such as college students, members of the military and prisoners — knowing where to count them in the census can be more complicated. Over time, we have developed consistent criteria so that we accurately count people in more complicated situations.

In May 2015, we published a Federal Register notice that described where we counted people in 2010 and solicited comments on how we might change our guidelines for where people are counted in 2020. This decade is the first time that we’ve publicly opened up our deliberations on where we count people.

We received more than 260 comments, mostly focused on prisoners and deployed military personnel. After evaluating all of the comments we received, today we published in the Federal Register the proposed guidance for counting people in 2020.

Now, again, we’re asking the public to comment on our proposed criteria for determining residence that we will use for the 2020 Census. Some of the living situations addressed in the new Federal Register notice are explained here:

  • In 2020, we propose to count deployed military personnel at their usual home address as part of the U.S. resident population. This means that they will be included in the block-level counts that are used to draw boundaries for Congressional, legislative, school and voting districts, and to allocate federal resources at the local level. Previously, military and civilian employees of the U.S. government who were deployed or stationed overseas were counted in their home state of record for apportionment purposes only.
  • We have determined that counting prisoners at the correctional facility in 2020 is consistent with the basic principle of counting people where they live and sleep most of the time. The Census Bureau will provide tools to help states make their own decisions about whether to include prisoners when they redraw district boundaries. We’ll break out the data so that states will have a separate count of prisoners, and we’ll provide a geocoding tool to help states reallocate their prisoner population counts, if needed. Prisoners were counted at the correctional facility in previous censuses as well.
  • In 2020, we propose to count the crews of U.S. flag maritime or merchant vessels who are sailing between U.S. and foreign ports on census day at their usual home address, or at the U.S. port if they have no usual home address. Previously, they were not counted in the census.
  • In 2020, we propose to count juveniles in non-correctional residential treatment centers at their usual home address, or at the facility if they have no usual home address. Previously, they were counted at the facility.
  • In 2020, we propose to count people living in religious group quarters at the facility. Previously, they were counted at their usual home address, or at the facility if they had no usual home address.
  •  In 2020, we propose to count students attending college in the U.S. at the residence where they live and sleep most of the time, whether a parental home, or an on- or off-campus residence. Previously, they were counted the same way.

We know that any change in where we count people can have far-reaching effects — on how we take the census, on political representation, and on funding decisions at every level of government — and we want to give everyone the chance to weigh in. I encourage you to read the proposed guidelines and give us your input. The final 2020 Census Residence Criteria and Residence Situations will be published in the Federal Register by the end of 2016.

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Preparing for the 2020 Census: Observing In-Office Address Canvassing

Written by John H. Thompson

Today I visited the National Processing Center, the U.S. Census Bureau’s large-scale data processing center in Jeffersonville, Indiana, to observe its role in preparing for the 2020 Census. The National Processing Center collects and processes data for more than 150 demographic and economic surveys, including the decennial census. It also houses some of the Census Bureau’s geographic operations, which play a critical role in providing the framework for survey design, sample selection, data collection, tabulation and dissemination for the 2020 Census.


An accurate address list is the cornerstone of a high-quality census. As we prepare for 2020, one of the four key areas of innovation we’re pursuing is re-engineering the way we build our address list. In the past, census workers would build the list by walking every street in America. Today while preparing for 2020, we are using technology and new information sources to update our address list through a process known as “in-office address canvassing.”

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In-office address canvassing starts with clerks updating the 2010 Census address list based on new information from the U.S. Postal Service and tribal, state, and local governments, as well as commercially-available data. Then, they use satellite imagery and use geographic information systems to identify areas where substantial address changes are occurring. This review process gives us a handle on what housing changes have occurred since the last census, how well the Census Bureau’s address list is keeping up with the changes, and how likely changes are to occur in the future. In areas with rapid change or where we can’t verify addresses from the National Processing Center (about 25 percent of addresses), we’ll conduct in-field canvassing.

National Processing Center staff began working on in-office address canvassing in 2015, and they’ll continue all the way through 2020. Address canvassing is an indispensable part of a complete and accurate census that counts everyone in America once, only once, and in the right place. By using more in-office procedures to cut down on in-field canvassing, we can potentially save $900 million, compared to the cost of updating our address lists the old way.

For more information about how we’ll re-engineer our address canvassing process for the 2020 Census, check out the Detailed Operational Plan for the Address Canvassing Operation. To learn more about the National Processing Center, visit <>.

Posted in 2020 Census, Geography, Uncategorized | 6 Comments