Planning for the 2020 Census

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Written by: John H. Thompson

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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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Improvements to the Release of Economic Indicators Mean You Get Data Faster

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Written by: John H. Thompson

Every month, the Census Bureau releases key indicators of America’s economy. These indicators are critical to the analysis of the nation’s current and future economic performance. Businesses in America, and around the world, rely heavily upon them to make decisions every day.

Today, the Census Bureau announced a significant improvement in the way we release these indicators. We’ve reduced the lag between the indicators’ official release and when they are posted to the web to the smallest it’s ever been. As of today, every person in America will have access to the indicators in as little as one second after their release.

IRIP graphic final

This improvement comes in response to our customers’ requests for more timely access to our data. Because of the indicators’ value, data users such as business owners, researchers, investors, economists and policymakers want access to it as quickly as possible.

Enhancing the accessibility of our data via the web is a key aspect of the Census Bureau’s digital transformation. The new streamlined, automated method allows customers to access economic indicators on census.gov more expeditiously and efficiently by optimizing the process required to post economic indicator data to the Internet.

To view today’s release of economic indicators, click here. You can find more economic indicators from the Census Bureau at www.census.gov/economic-indicators or by downloading the America’s Economy app.

Fore more information about the Census Bureau’s digital transformation and the release of economic indicators, please contact the Public Information Office at pio@census.gov.

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The Year in Review

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Written by: John H. Thompson

As the year comes to a close, I want to recognize all of the hard work and notable achievements that have taken place at the U.S. Census Bureau over the past year. As the leading source of statistics on our nation’s people, places and economy, we’re always striving to serve our customers better – whether they are responding to a survey or want data about their community. 2015 was no exception.

This year, we conducted over 130 surveys. We published a wealth of statistics and data, including a major release on income, poverty and health insurance in America. We rolled out several exciting tools to make our data easier to use, such as Census Business Builder: Small Business Edition, a new tool aimed at helping entrepreneurs start businesses. We announced new ways to get our data earlier than before, and made some of our existing data sets available for free.

We added three new Federal Statistical Research Data Centers to our data center network, bringing our total to 22. We continued to produce research that is central to our mission, with over 70 research papers and over 100 presentations at a variety of major scientific forums – including the Joint Statistical Meetings, the Population Association of America, the American Association of Geographers, the American Association of Public Opinion Research and the Allied Social Science Association Meetings. And of course, we continued to map out improvements for future censuses and surveys, including the American Community Survey, the 2017 Economic Census and the 2020 Census. In addition to the excellent, ongoing work that the Census Bureau does, I want to highlight some key achievements from 2015:

  • I’m very proud that we released the operational plan for the 2020 Census, the blueprint for a historic census of “firsts.” The 2020 Census will be the most automated and technologically advanced census ever. Innovations in the operational plan will make it easier than ever for people to respond to the census, and will save taxpayers more than $5 billion compared to doing the census the old way. Through the smart use of technology and information, we can automate our data collection and field operations to make the entire census more efficient and accessible.
  • This year we conducted two successful census tests. In Georgia and South Carolina, we explored new outreach and promotion strategies, and learned more about the best ways for people to complete the census quickly and securely over the Internet. In Maricopa County, Arizona, we evaluated new technologies for collecting and processing responses to the census, and tested a new field management structure. This research is critical to making important design decisions for the 2020 Census. We’ll continue our preparations for the 2020 Census with two more tests in 2016 – in Harris County, Texas and Los Angeles County, California.
  • 2015 marked the anniversary of the American Community Survey, which has now provided U.S. communities with detailed information for 10 years. As the nation’s largest ongoing household survey, the ACS produced statistics annually – down to the block group level – for every community in the nation. In December, we released the latest ACS five-year statistics, which allowed users to compare two non-overlapping, five-year data sets for the first time. Users can now identify trends for social and economic characteristics for even the smallest communities on a more frequent basis.
  • We began collecting data for the first Annual Survey of Entrepreneurs as part of a three-year pilot project in partnership with the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation and the Minority Business Development Agency.  This new survey responds to our customers’ requests for more timely data by providing an updated socio-economic portrait of America’s business owners in the years between the Survey of Business Owners. Data from the 2014 Annual Survey of Entrepreneurs – including estimates on firms, receipts, payroll and employment by business owners’ gender, ethnicity, race and veteran status – are tentatively scheduled to be released next summer.
  • Earlier this year we debuted our City Software Development Kit (SDK), a user-friendly “toolbox” for civic hackers to connect local and national public data. Developers asked for an easier way to use the Census API for common tasks, and the SDK is our answer. Currently, we have distributed over 12,030 developer keys. Last month the SDK was named the Federal Government’s 2015 Innovation of the Year by Fed Scoop.
  • In January, 55 Census Bureau employees won Gold and Silver Medal awards from the Secretary of Commerce for distinguished and exceptional service. Throughout the year, employees have continued to win accolades, including the Arthur S. Flemming Award in Applied Science; the Innovation Initiative Excellence Award from AFCEA Bethesda; the Special Achievement in GIS Award from Esri; the Leader of the Year in Enterprise Risk Management from the Association for Federal Enterprise Risk Management; and the Energy and Environmental Stewardship Award from the Department of Commerce.

Thank you to all of the Census Bureau employees whose hard work has paid off so impressively this year. As we look forward to the New Year, 2016 is shaping up to be just as productive. With research and innovation, we’ll continue to provide quality data about America’s people and economy.

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On the Road in New Mexico

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Written by: John H. Thompson

Earlier this month I visited New Mexico to participate in the Census Bureau’s fifth tribal consultation meeting this year. These meetings are a key part of our preparations for the 2020 Census, and I’m grateful to the All Pueblo Council of Governors and the Pueblo of Isleta for hosting and to the attendees who contributed to a thoughtful and productive discussion.

New Mexico is a remarkable state, and I enjoyed meeting its people and learning more about the challenges of counting those who live in rural areas. Here are some photos from my visit to Albuquerque, parts of the Navajo Nation including the To’hajiilee Indian Reservation, Laguna Pueblo and Acoma Pueblo.

For more information about the topics of discussion at the Census Bureau’s meetings with tribes, check out my blog posts on the tribal consultation process and on my trip to Alaska in October. There are more pictures of my trip on Facebook and Instagram.

In the Navajo Nation, I learned about challenges associated with census interviews in Indian Country. I also visited the monument to the Navajo Code Talkers in Window Rock.

3 - Canyon de Chelly

The Canyon de Chelly was a great place to learn about the challenges of enumerating hard-to-count populations. In 2020, our mission will be to count every American in the right place – including those living on the canyon floor.

The landscape of the Laguna Pueblo illustrates some of the challenges of rural enumeration. The pueblo includes the six villages of Encinal, Laguna, Mesita, Paguate, Paraje and Seama, whose combined total population was 3,815 persons in the 2000 Census.

The landscape of the Laguna Pueblo illustrates some of the challenges of rural enumeration. The pueblo includes the six villages of Encinal, Laguna, Mesita, Paguate, Paraje and Seama, whose combined total population was 3,815 persons in the 2000 Census.

I met with Data Dissemination Specialist Amadeo Shije and Field Supervisor Mark Zyniecki to talk about enumeration in Indian Country.

I met with Data Dissemination Specialist Amadeo Shije and Field Supervisor Mark Zyniecki to talk about enumeration in Indian Country.

I met with the Governor of the Pueblo of Acoma, Fred S. Vallo, Sr.

I met with the Governor of the Pueblo of Acoma, Fred S. Vallo, Sr.

This beautiful rock formation is on the Acoma Pueblo. According to the 2010 Census, 4,989 people identified as Acoma.

This beautiful rock formation is on the Acoma Pueblo. According to the 2010 Census, 4,989 people identified as Acoma.

I met with the New Mexico state offices of Rep. Michelle Lujan Grisham, Rep. Stevan Pierce, Rep. Ben Ray Lujan, Senator Martin Heinrich, and Sen. Tom Udall to discuss the tribal consultation process and the operating plan for the 2020 Census.

I met with the New Mexico state offices of Rep. Michelle Lujan Grisham, Rep. Stevan Pierce, Rep. Ben Ray Lujan, Senator Martin Heinrich, and Sen. Tom Udall to discuss the tribal consultation process and the operating plan for the 2020 Census.

 

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Releasing the 2020 Census Operational Plan to Congress and Our Valued Stakeholders

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Written by: John H. Thompson

On November 3, I presented the Census Bureau’s operational plan for the 2020 Census – the blueprint by which we’ll conduct the next census – to Congress and the public. I was excited to tell the House Subcommittees on Government Operations and Information Technology about the depth and strength of our plan. Today, I want to go over some of the highlights from my testimony about the operational plan and our preparations for the 2020 Census.

In 2013, in response to funding constraints, we prioritized the 2020 Census research program. At that point we established the end of Fiscal Year 2015 as a key milestone for releasing the operational plan for the 2020 Census. I was pleased to inform the Subcommittees that we had met that goal, and that our plan is supported by solid research, including the 2014 and 2015 tests.

I was proud to report that in 2020 we will no longer use the paper-and-pencil processes that have characterized each census since 1970. The operational plan lays out four key areas of innovation that will ultimately deliver $5.2 billion in savings to the American taxpayers. The 2020 Census will be the most automated census ever, and we’re developing technologies and systems that will increase the efficiency of administering the once-a-decade headcount. We’re taking full advantage of the opportunity to innovate and using off-the-shelf technological advances from the last 10 years.

The operational plan details our research on the infrastructure that we need to take the census online. Through testing and development, we’ve developed prototype systems that incorporate mobile technology and optimal work assignments. A key component of these efforts is the Census Enterprise Data Collection and Processing (CEDCaP) initiative, a new agency-wide approach to survey and census data collection and processing. We’re simplifying and integrating – moving to a small suite of shared, reusable systems instead of creating duplicative systems for each survey and census. This new, sustainable approach will enable us to conduct a modernized 2020 Census.

I also told the Subcommittees about our plans to manage the risks associated with delivering the most automated census ever, including:

  • Delivering the 2020 operational plan three years earlier than in the 2010 census cycle. Releasing our plans now gives us additional time to communicate our plans and decision making process to Congress and other stakeholders.
  • Making innovative use of existing technology and software. -to-date tools – instead of inventing our own – we can make the best use of technological advances for an accurate and cost-effective census.
  • Developed a working prototype for the census that we successfully tested in 2015. Based on this prototype, we’ve drawn up most of the census’ specifications; we’ll finish this work based on the results of tests in 2016 and 2017.
  • Establishing milestones for an end-to-end test of our systems. In 2018, we’ll hold a critical test of all of the census’ major systems. This end-to-end test will represent the culmination of research and testing, as we implement the planned census operations in real-time.
  • Minimizing risk by making timely decisions. The operational plan shares a number of decisions that we’ve already made in preparation for the 2018 end-to-end test, and lays out a timeline for the remaining decisions that we must make.
  • Recognizing the need for timely decisions on which systems we need to build internally, and which we need to buy from external sources. We’ve engaged the Carnegie Mellon Software Engineering Institute to guide us in this area and to ensure that this critical decision making process is successful.

Based on my experience in overseeing the 2000 Census and in the private sector, I am confident that the plan outlined above will lead to a successful implementation of our automation and systems development for 2020. Right now, we are on schedule to deliver a census in 2020 that is both innovative and cost effective – but we’re also at a critical juncture. In order to execute a 2020 Census that reduces costs while maintaining quality, we must receive adequate funding for the entire lifecycle. By investing now, we can save more than $5 billion while ensuring we produce an accurate and cost-effective Census.

I must emphasize again how pleased I was to have the opportunity to update our oversight subcommittees in the House of Representatives, and to tell them that we’re on schedule to deliver a 2020 Census that is that is both innovative and cost effective. By taking a proactive approach in researching and testing modern, groundbreaking methods, we can make the 2020 Census the most cost-effective and automated Census ever.

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