The 2020 Census: The Most Innovative Census in our Nation’s History

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Written by: John H. Thompson

Today is a big day in the U.S. Census Bureau’s planning for the 2020 Census – we are unveiling the operational plan for the most innovative and automated census in our nation’s history.

The census occurs every 10 years and is the largest civilian mobilization effort the nation undertakes. It is the very foundation of our democracy and a constitutional requirement. In 2020, we’ll have just a few short months to count what we estimate will be more than 320 million people in this country – counting them only once, and in the right place. It’s a complicated logistical challenge, and we only have one shot at getting it right.

We’re releasing this plan five years prior to the 2020 Census – three years earlier than we released the 2010 plan a decade ago. This lets us thoroughly test each innovation and refine the plan with those results.

Sweeping innovations in the 2020 Census Operational Plan will make it easier than ever for people to respond, and will save taxpayers more than $5 billion compared to doing the census the old way with pencil and paper. In 2020, the census is making the leap to the Internet. The smart use of technology and information will make the 2020 Census more efficient and accessible.

The most sweeping changes for the 2020 Census focus on these four key innovation areas:

  1. Making it easier for people to respond. We’ll encourage the population to respond to the 2020 Census using the Internet, reducing the need for more expensive data capture. This will save an estimated $400 million.
  2. Using existing data to reduce door-to-door visits. We will use data that the public has already provided to the government and data that is available from commercial sources. The savings from this innovation – estimated at $1.4 billion – will allow us to focus additional visits in areas that have been traditionally hard-to-enumerate.
  3. Automating field operations. We’ll use sophisticated operational control systems to send Census enumerators to follow up with non-responding housing units and to track daily progress, saving an estimated $2.5 billion.
  4. Building a more accurate address list. We are adding new addresses to the Census Bureau’s address frame using geographic information systems and aerial imagery, instead of sending Census employees to walk and physically check 11 million census blocks. This will cut our on-the-ground workload 75%, saving an estimated $900 million.

As always, your confidentiality and privacy are important to us. That’s why the plan spells out how we will thoroughly test every component of census operations, piece-by-piece and as a whole.  We’re working with some of the best minds in industry to ensure the success of the census, borrowing best practices from global companies. We’ll use layers of information security protections and protocol to secure the systems we use and the data we collect. All data will be encrypted and safeguarded, and all staff are trained to protect it and sworn to maintain confidentiality, under penalty of imprisonment or fines.

In closing, this will be a historic census, a census of “firsts.” The first that most of us will respond to online. The first to use aerial imagery to verify that our list of addresses for the nation is correct and up-to-date. The first that automates follow-up work for those that do not respond to the census – optimizing assignments, letting census takers know right away which households have already responded, and sending them GPS-based, turn-by-turn directions to follow up with households that have not.

The automations and innovations that we’ll use are truly groundbreaking for collecting statistics, and everyone here at the Census Bureau is excited to roll out these plans for the American public.

To learn more about the 2020 Census operational plan, tune in to our webcast event today at 1pm ET.

Posted in 2020 Census | 1 Comment

Celebrating Manufacturing Day with U.S. Census Bureau Statistics

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Written by: John H. Thompson

October 2 is Manufacturing Day, and I’m pleased to participate in this year’s observance by recognizing the major role that manufacturing plays in our national and global economy. Every year, U.S. manufacturers produce nearly $6 trillion in shipments and employ people across the nation. Modern manufacturing is a technology-driven industry that produces innovative ideas and products that are used across the globe.

A major source of statistics on our nation’s manufacturing is the Annual Survey of Manufactures (ASM), which provides sample estimates of statistics for manufacturing establishments with one or more paid employees.  Earlier this year, we released statistics from the 2013 ASM for 364 manufacturing industries.  We also released less detailed industry statistics by state in the 2013 ASM.

ASM data tell us a lot about American manufacturing. For example, nationally, there were 11.1 million manufacturing employees, annual payroll of $602.9 billion, and value of shipments and receipts for services of $5.8 trillion. The three states with the most manufacturing employees in 2013 were California, Texas and Ohio. California topped the list with 1.1 million manufacturing employees. The data also show that California’s annual payroll for paid employees was $70.1 billion, and the value of shipments and receipts was $524.5 billion.

In addition to the ASM, the Census Bureau releases a broad range of information relating to American manufacturing from the Economic Census, which provides additional detail on the number of manufacturing establishments, employment, payroll, receipts, value of shipments, expenses, assets and a host of other topics on 364 manufacturing industries.

Census Bureau statistics on the manufacturing sector help manufacturers learn about their industries and communities and grow their businesses. You can check out the Census Bureau’s monthly manufacturing indicators – and a host of other measures of economic activity – by downloading our America’s Economy app to your mobile device.

Posted in Economy | 3 Comments

Census Bureau Director Statement on IG Investigative Report

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The employee misconduct detailed in the recent Department of Commerce Inspector General’s (IG) report is inexcusable and will not be tolerated. Any employees who allegedly falsified timesheets and betrayed the trust of the American public will be held personally accountable to the fullest extent of the law, including possible termination. Those employees implicated in the investigation and who have access to sensitive information and systems are being placed immediately on administrative leave pending further action. We will pursue legal action for reimbursement of money stolen from taxpayers for hours not worked.

As detailed in the report findings, the Census Bureau cooperated fully with the IG throughout the investigation and took prompt action as information about the misconduct surfaced.

The Census Bureau has already implemented or begun to implement all of the OIG’s recommendations, including:

  • Implementing more rigorous timekeeping and telework procedures throughout the agency.
  • Requiring mandatory training on our time and attendance (WebTA) system.
  • Engaging an outside auditor to conduct an agency wide review of time and attendance practices.
  • Initiating new quality control procedures.
  • Reviewing the sufficiency of previously completed background checks.
  • Replacing the office’s management structure.

Census has also retained an additional independent auditor to review the contracts handled by the office.

The unacceptable behavior alleged in the IG’s report does not reflect the work ethic and values held by the vast majority of Census Bureau employees, who are dedicated and professional public servants. We are confident that the findings in the IG report will ultimately make the Census Bureau a stronger institution and enhance our mission as the leading source of quality data about the nation’s people, places and economy.

Posted in About the Agency | 5 Comments

New American Community Survey Data Released Today

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Written by: John H. Thompson

Today the U.S. Census Bureau released a new set of annual data from the American Community Survey (ACS). The data give us unique insight into the year-to-year changes taking place in our communities across the nation. Beyond the topics highlighted in today’s news release – health insurance coverage, income and poverty levels – the ACS also produces statistics on dozens of other economic, social, housing and demographic topics.

To make informed decisions, policy makers, businesses and citizens need reliable and accessible data about the changing needs of their communities. As the largest continuous household survey in the United States, the ACS is uniquely able to provide the depth and range of data needed by both the public and private sectors.

The survey covers every geographic area in the U.S., making it the only uniform measure that every county nationwide can use. It has an unparalleled breadth, and is the only available source of data for many of the issues that it covers. It is from a trusted, unbiased source, and it levels the playing field by providing all of its data to the public free of charge.

Federal programs use ACS data to disburse over $400 billion a year to tribal, state and local areas. Business and community leaders in turn 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 Greater Houston Partnership – a regional economic development organization – uses ACS data to answer companies’ questions about issues like commuting times and the availability of science and engineering workers.
  • Following Super Storm Sandy in 2012, emergency responders in New Jersey used demographic data from the ACS to estimate the volume of traffic in affected areas.
  • When combined with economic and consumer spending data, ACS data can help entrepreneurs identify potential customers and desirable geographic areas to start a business. The Census Bureau recently released Census Business Builder: Small Business Edition to give small business entrepreneurs easier access to that data.
  • Officials from Oklahoma County, Okla., and the United Way use ACS data on poverty, homeownership, and the prevalence of disabilities to identify ways to make their county more senior-friendly.

These are just a few of the many ways that ACS data are tailored to help guide myriad specific decisions across the country. The ACS makes our governments smarter, our businesses more competitive and our citizens more informed. The Census Bureau is proud to provide the most timely, comprehensive, and statistically precise data source for their decision making processes.

To access today’s release of data from the American Community Survey, check out the press release with the findings. You can also check out the data on income, poverty and health insurance coverage from the Current Population Survey that the Census Bureau released this week.

Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments

Expanding Small Business Owners’ Access to Our Data with Census Business Builder

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Written by: John H. Thompson

The U.S. Census Bureau is the premiere source of data about America’s economy and businesses, and we’re committed to making our data more accessible than ever before. I’m pleased to introduce our latest tool in that effort: Census Business Builder: Small Business Edition.

Every day, businesses large and small use Census Bureau data to make important decisions. Large companies have sophisticated research staff to do this work for them, but small business owners are often left to their own devices. We’ve talked to many entrepreneurs across the country, and a common request is for more Census Bureau data in an easier-to-use format. We listened, and in response, we developed Census Business Builder: Small Business Edition to provide them with easier access to more data.

Census Business Builder: Small Business Edition combines economic and demographic data in meaningful ways that are useful to the small business owner. Uniquely, Census Business Builder also uses third party data on consumer spending. While not produced by Census, we believe that the addition of this data will help deliver the information that’s most useful for small business owners’ needs. The result is an innovative data tool that will help small business entrepreneurs determine the best type and location for their small business.


To start, select your business type from a list of over 40 categories – such as a restaurant, construction company or beauty salon – and where you’re considering setting up shop.

Once you input this information, you see a map view of your selected location (county, city, town or ZIP code), along with relevant demographic, economic and housing characteristics for that area’s residents. You can pull up features of other businesses like yours – such as number of establishments or similar businesses, average payroll and consumer spending. You can also add filters in order to see cities, counties and neighborhoods with their potential customers’ desired income, education, poverty and employment characteristics.


The combination of economic and demographic data allows small business owners to make an informed decision about what type of business to open and where to locate it. Once you’ve gathered all of the information you want, Census Business Builder generates a detailed report on the characteristics of your desired geography, its residents and businesses. This critical information can be incorporated into a business plan, a business loan application or shared with others.

Census Business Builder increases the availability and usefulness of the statistics the Census Bureau collects, and it’s a valuable tool for small business owners across America. This is the latest in the Census Bureau’s digital transformation effort, along with major upgrades to, an expanding open API, mobile apps and other interactive data tools.

We hope you visit Census Business Builder at and give us your thoughts via the feedback button. Ideas for improvements to future versions of the tool will come from you, the user.

Posted in Digital Transformation, Economy, Measuring America | 4 Comments