Updating Congress on Testing for the 2020 Census

Written by John H. Thompson

We’re continuing to make great progress at the U.S. Census Bureau in preparing for the 2020 Census. On Nov. 16, I was proud to testify before the U.S. House of Representatives Subcommittee on Government Operations that our preparations remain on track and on schedule. As of right now, we have made 259 of our 350, 2020 Census Operational Plan design decisions and the remaining are on schedule. We continue to work with the Government Accountability Office, receiving thoughtful input on our plans.

Census tests are critical to implementing the four key innovation areas that will make it easier for people to respond to the census, and save taxpayers more than $5 billion. From testing, we learn what works and what doesn’t, and we make adjustments. In September, we began testing our address canvassing procedures and systems in parts of Buncombe County, N.C., where Subcommittee Chairman Rep. Mark Meadows observed our field operations, and in parts of St. Louis, Mo.  As part of this test, we’re assessing methodologies and data sources to detect new residential developments, or to show neighborhoods that remain unchanged since the 2010 Census.

Earlier this year, we tested core census operations — including how we process, store and protect the data we receive from respondents — in Harris County, Texas, and Los Angeles County, Calif. It was a valuable learning experience with several notable successes. For example, we achieved a positive impact on response rates by using a letter as the first reminder; as in past census tests, we successfully matched a large majority of respondent addresses to our frame without a Census ID; we expanded our language support services to include Chinese and Korean; and we gained insight into several areas that we need to improve, such as better training for enumerators and better procedures for enumerators at multiunit structures, like apartment buildings.

In addition to the address canvassing test, the Census Bureau had been planning field test operations in 2017. Due to funding uncertainty, on Oct. 18, the Census Bureau was forced to announce that we’re stopping work on the Puerto Rico Census Test, as well as the field component of the 2017 Census Test in the Standing Rock Reservation in North and South Dakota and the Colville Reservation and Off-Reservation Trust Land in Washington state. These requirements and their related costs have been driven into potential consideration for incorporation into the 2018 End-to-End Census Test. Stopping these tests is not an ideal outcome for the operational risk of the 2018 End-to-End Census Test and the 2020 Census; but overall, it’s the best option, given the funding uncertainty.

It was an honor to testify before the Subcommittee on Government Operations and to answer lawmakers’ questions about our work. I thank the subcommittee for its continued support and interest in the 2020 Census. I am confident the Census Bureau will achieve its goal of counting everyone in America once, only once, and in the right place in 2020.

Posted in 2020 Census, About the Agency | 2 Comments

U.S. Census Bureau Announces Changes to 2017 Field Tests

Written by: John H. Thompson

Today, the U.S. Census Bureau announced that it will stop plans to test field operations in Puerto Rico, the Standing Rock Reservation in North and South Dakota, and the Colville Reservation and Off-Reservation Trust Land in Washington State in 2017. Instead, we will consider including these sites in our 2018 End-to-End Census Test.

We did not make this decision lightly; we’re less than one year from beginning field work on the 2018 End-to-End Census Test – the final, major test for the 2020 Census. But as we enter FY 2017, we don’t have clarity about our funding for the year. Based on what we know now, the proposed funding levels require us to prioritize other activities in 2017 rather than expend the resources necessary to conduct the two field tests we had planned for 2017.

Given the current uncertainty about FY 2017 funding, the Census Bureau will not continue expending resources to prepare for the 2017 field tests. Continuing amid such uncertainty would all but guarantee wasted efforts and resources. It would risk our readiness for the 2018 End-to-End Census Test; more than $5 billion in cost avoidance; and the high data quality of the 2020 Census – and those are risks we aren’t willing to take.

While we will not conduct these field operations in 2017, we will consider testing them in 2018. Also, we must re-plan the 2017 Census Test to only include the activities necessary to ensure we are best prepared for the 2018 End-to-End Census Test – the national self-response component including the real-time non-ID operation, the use of Census Questionnaire Assistance, and internet collection using Cloud technology.

This decision lets us focus our 2017 program resources on operational and systems readiness, including integrating, securing, and testing our systems. It ensures that we can smoothly deploy the integrated suite of 2020 Census systems in time for the 2018 End-to-End Census Test.

For more information about the Census Bureau’s decision to postpone the 2017 Census Test on tribal lands and the 2017 Puerto Rico Census Test, see our decision memo. You can follow along with all of our preparations for the 2020 Census at www.census.gov/2020census.

Posted in 2020 Census, Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Showcasing American Manufacturing With U.S. Census Bureau Data

Written by: John H. Thompson

Today is Manufacturing Day, a nationwide observance of the businesses and workers that manufacture everything from textiles to machinery to food. It’s also an opportunity to showcase an important sector of the U.S. economy. Manufacturers are America’s fourth-largest employer — with 11.4 million employees across the nation and an annual payroll of $639.9 billion — and produce trillions of dollars in shipments annually.

This week, we’ve featured Census Bureau data on manufacturing here on census.gov. Part of the mission of Manufacturing Day is to address common misconceptions about manufacturing. As the premiere source of statistics on the American economy, the Census Bureau is in a unique position to be able to use data to show the state of manufacturing today.

For example, findings from the economic census provide detail on the number of manufacturing establishments, employment, payroll, receipts, value of shipments, expenses, assets and many other topics on 364 manufacturing industries. The Annual Survey of Manufactures provides sample estimates of statistics for manufacturing establishments. We have monthly reports on Manufacturers’ Shipments, Inventories, and Orders and Manufacturing and Trade Inventory and Sales, as well as other monthly, quarterly and annual reports on a host of subjects.

Through Census Bureau data sources — in this case, the Manufacturers’ Shipments, Inventories, and Orders (M3) report — we know that new orders for manufactured durable goods in August 2016 increased by $0.7 billion, or 0.2 percent, to $453.1 billion. We also know that, according to the 2014 Annual Survey of Manufactures, transportation equipment manufacturing has the most employees (1.42 million) and the largest value of shipments ($903.3 billion), and that the three states with the most manufacturing employees in 2014 were California, Texas and Ohio —with California topping the list with 1.11 million manufacturing employees.

These data, and many more, can help businesses plan and grow. Through blog posts and infographics, we’ve given you an inside look at trends in employment and receipts, how manufacturing contributes to international trade, and many more topics. Check it all out at <www.census.gov/topics/business/manufacturing/day.html>.Happy Manufacturing Day!


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Providing Information for Emergency Preparedness as Hurricane Matthew Approaches

Written by: John H. Thompson

As millions of Americans prepare for Hurricane Matthew this week, the U.S. Census Bureau’s OnTheMap for Emergency Management tool provides federal, state and local emergency management officials access to statistics about communities in the storm’s path.

OnTheMap for Emergency Management is a web-based resource that provides a live view of selected emergencies and weather events in the U.S., 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. It automatically incorporates real-time updates from federal sources so you can view the potential effects of hurricanes (and other disasters) on America’s population and workforce. The Census Bureau and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration have worked together to bring you this real-time data.

This tool uses rich, local socio-economic and demographic statistics from the American Community Survey and other Census Bureau data sources to give a detailed look at affected areas. It gives you information on the number of people potentially affected by a storm, as well as some of their characteristics down to the neighborhood level — for example, the percentage of residents age 65 or older, or local employment patterns. The Census Bureau provides vital economic and demographic data to federal and local emergency management agencies, which can use this information to better assess the impact hurricanes have on coastal populations. For example, following Super Storm Sandy, New Jersey officials used our data to estimate the volume of traffic in affected areas.

In addition, the Census Bureau will be providing even more data from the economic census, County Business Patterns, the American Community Survey, Survey of Business Owners and Nonemployer Statistics to supplement OnTheMap for Emergency Management. Check our Emergency Preparedness page for the most recent updates.

If you live in a hurricane-prone area, you can find safety and preparedness tips at <www.ready.gov/hurricanes>. You can also visit the National Hurricane Center for the latest forecasts on Hurricane Matthew and the National Weather Service for active weather alerts.


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New American Community Survey Data Released Today

Written by: John H. Thompson

Today, communities across the nation have new American Community Survey (ACS) statistics to help them make informed decisions. The ACS one-year estimates released today provide statistics on dozens of economic, social, housing and demographic topics that are important to people and communities across America.

The ACS is the nation’s largest household survey and it is the only available source of data for many of the issues that it covers. With data released every year, it covers every geographic area in the U.S. – making it the only uniform measure that every county, city and community nationwide can use. Business and community leaders use ACS data to analyze how the needs of their neighborhoods are evolving, and how to use their resources to meet those needs.

For example, the City of New Orleans is putting Census data to use through an innovative program that distributes smoke alarms to households that need them. This is just one powerful example of how people in communities nationwide benefit from the ACS data released today.

Last year, the New Orleans Fire Department and Office of Performance and Accountability used block group-level data from our American Community Survey five-year estimates to identify homes that were most in need of smoke alarms – such as people living in older structures or with young children – and more likely to have fatalities due to fire. Equipped with this data, they have distributed over 10,000 smoke alarms to New Orleans residents since March 2015.

New Orleans used reliable and publicly available data from the Census Bureau about its community to make informed decisions about how to protect residents. Census Bureau data make our governments more responsive and better informed, our businesses more competitive, and our communities better served. This is just one example of how communities have tailored ACS data to guide specific local decisions.

We depend on the public’s cooperation to produce high-quality statistics about our people, places and economy, and I thank everyone who has participated in the ACS and provided important data that the nation depends on. The Census Bureau is proud to provide the timeliest, comprehensive, and statistically precise data available for community decision making – free of charge.

To access today’s release of one-year estimates from the American Community Survey, check out the press release with the findings, and check Census.gov in December for the release of the ACS 5 year data. Use the hashtag #ACSdata to let us know how you use ACS data to benefit your community.

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