Census Day in the Houston and Los Angeles Areas

Written by: John H. Thompson

Today is Census Day for Harris County, Texas and Los Angeles County, Calif., the two sites taking part in the 2016 Census Test. Almost 225,000 households in each location have received a notification by mail asking them to complete the questionnaire. During the decennial census, Census Day – April 1 – provides the reference day for measuring the population; we’re using the same reference day for the 2016 Census Test.

The 2016 Census Test is part of the extensive research and testing that will help us make key decisions about how we will carry out the next census. From 2012 through 2015, we conducted seven census tests across the country that informed our 2020 Census Operational Plan. The test underway in Texas and California is a large-scale implementation of innovations from the 2020 Census Operational Plan.

The 2020 Census will be easy to respond to, because it will be our most automated and technologically advanced census ever. In 2020, Americans will be able to respond from anywhere – by mail, phone, or online using a laptop, tablet or smartphone. We’re replacing paper and pencil with mobile devices for enumerators who visit nonresponding households. We’ll also count people using information they have already given to the government, if they don’t respond after we’ve provided them with multiple opportunities to participate. The 2016 Census Test is a vital step in operationalizing all of these innovations. Based on its results, we’ll refine many of the innovative and cost-saving procedures and methods in the plan for use in 2020.

We’re now more than halfway to 2020, and we’re planning, researching, testing, and getting feedback to ensure that responding to the census is easy and secure. By using the innovations that are laid out in the 2020 Census Operational Plan and that are being tested in 2016, we’ll be able to avoid an estimated $5 billion in costs (compared to the projected cost of using the same methods as the 2010 Census).

If you live in Harris County or Los Angeles County, I encourage you to learn more about the 2016 Census Test by visiting www.census.gov/2016censustest. The 2020 Census will be unlike any other in our history. Your participation is critical to testing the innovations that will make the 2020 Census easier than ever to respond to, save taxpayers money, and ensure a complete and accurate census. Happy Census Day!


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Planning and Testing for the 2020 Census in Harris County, Texas

Written by: John H. Thompson

Today I am visiting Harris County, Texas, one of two sites now taking part in the 2016 Census Test that will help us prepare for the decennial census in 2020. The census is the most important barometer of population change in America – an issue that’s increasingly important here in the Houston area. Yesterday, the U.S. Census Bureau’s Population Estimates Program announced that the Houston-The Woodlands-Sugar Land gained 159,000 new residents last year, the largest gain of any metro area in the nation.

This is a time of transition and growth for the Houston area. Census data is the way that America measures population growth and change. Local areas rely on our statistics for planning where to build new schools and roads.  Businesses use our data to track economic and demographic trends – for example, the Greater Houston Partnership uses Census Bureau statistics to provide information to companies and attract new jobs to the area. And each year, the federal government distributes more than $400 billion to states and communities based on Census Bureau data. The 2020 Census will provide critical information that empowers the more than 4.5 million people and over 95,000 businesses with paid employees in communities across Harris County and across the country.


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Director Thompson talks with Khalilat Adesokan, Tonya Netters and Fred Darden of Goodwill Industries of Houston, a 2016 Census Test partner and a trusted voice in the community.

The 2016 Census Test is part of the extensive research and testing that will help us make key decisions about how the next census will be carried out. The 2020 Census will be the most automated and technologically advanced census ever. Americans will be able to answer the questionnaire from anywhere – by mail, phone, or online using a laptop, tablet or smartphone.

The test currently underway in Texas and California is a large-scale implementation of innovations that will make the 2020 Census easier than ever to respond to, while saving taxpayers more than $5 billion compared to doing the census the old way. We’re now more than halfway to the 2020 Census, and we’re doing everything we can – planning, researching, testing, and getting feedback – to ensure that responding to it is easy and secure. Based on the results of the 2016 Census Test, we’ll refine many of the innovative and cost-saving procedures and methods in our plan.

Thank you to the residents of Harris County for your participation in this critical census test. I’m also grateful for the support of local officials and our partners – especially from schools, which have been crucial in raising awareness about the test and its importance to students and their families.

The 2016 Census Test is critical to ensuring a complete and accurate census in 2020, one that will give America the data it needs to make good policies and decisions for its growing population. You can track the results of the 2016 Census Test and other developments in our planning for the 2020 Census – and give us your input – at Census.gov.

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Opportunity Data Set Powered by U.S. Census Bureau Information

Written by: John H. Thompson

This afternoon, I attended the launch of the Opportunity Project at the White House. The Opportunity Project is an initiative from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development that uses Census Bureau data to help cities and local governments use new, curated, open data to account for how they use federal housing dollars.

The Opportunity Project’s curated data set is a new way that the federal government is collaborating with local leaders, technologists, non-profits and community members to leverage data to expand access to opportunity and fair housing across the country. Through this data set – which is derived from American Community Survey data and other Census Bureau sources – users can navigate a wealth of information on access to jobs, transit and schools. Armed with this information on neighborhood-level opportunities and challenges, communities can expand access to opportunity for their members.


Director Thompson speaks about The Opportunity Project.

As part of the project, in January the government brought together eight cities and a dozen private sector and non-profit software development teams to use Opportunity Data to create user-friendly digital tools that help communities navigate and visualize information about their neighborhoods. Some of the participants included developers from Zillow, Redfin and Socrata; experts from the Urban Institute, Ford Foundation and Esri; and local data leads from New Orleans, Baltimore and Philadelphia.

Today, the developers launched their tools, which visualize everything from school test scores to community health outcomes to median commute times. In addition, the White House launched the Opportunity interactive site with the curated data set packaged in an accessible format. This information is now at the fingertips of local leaders, community organizers, non-profits, media, and families to use in creative and innovative ways.


U.S. Chief Technology Officer, Megan Smith, introduces Census Bureau Director John Thompson at the White House rollout of the Opportunity Project.

The Opportunity Project is just one example of how the Census Bureau is working to make its data widely and easily accessible. HUD and the Census Bureau have been closely partnering on data outreach for the past year, including on CitySDK, which makes it easier to build products with open data (including the Opportunity data set) from the federal government. The Opportunity Project deepens our engagement with software developers, in conjunction with the newly created Commerce Data Service as well as the White House’s Office of Science and Technology Policy, Domestic Policy Council and Office of Management and Budget. We look forward to continuing to leverage our technology and data in the future to help facilitate agencies and the public in further expanding access to opportunity and fair housing.

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Innovation and Modernization in FY 2017

Written by: John H. Thompson

The mission of the U.S. Census Bureau is to serve as the leading source of quality data about the Nation’s people and economy.  To accomplish this mission, we’re continually innovating ways to modernize our data collection methods and disseminating activities for the 21st century.

FY 2017 is a critical year for innovation at the Census Bureau. One of our major priorities is our commitment to cost containment while maintaining data quality. Our plans for the 2020 Census reflect this goal – it will be the most automated, modern, and dynamic decennial census in history, with sweeping design changes in four key areas. We designed the 2020 Census to cost less per housing unit than the 2010 Census (adjusted for inflation), while maintaining the highest standards of accuracy in counting all individuals once, only once, and in the right place.

We’re also working to contain costs by revamping technology that underpins our work. We’re rethinking the way we collect and process data – including expanding our internet and mobile data collection. These advances will consolidate costs, streamline our work, and reduce the burden on individuals and businesses who respond to all our censuses and surveys.

Another major area of innovation is in unlocking the potential of our data. Businesses, policy makers, and the American public rely on our economic statistics to make data-driven decisions, and in FY 2017, we aim to meet their demands for more accurate, timely and granular data. We’ll deliver a full suite of enhanced macroeconomic indicators to drive decisions on investments, economic growth and job creation. By accelerating and enhancing a substantial number of key economic indicators, we can cumulatively lead to a more precise measure of Gross Domestic Product (GDP). In addition, we’re harnessing the potential of “Big Data” to create new data products and expand our existing products to transform how Americans can find, connect, and use these improved economic data.

Finally, we’re thinking outside the box to tackle some long-standing challenges. For example, we’re using aerial imagery to detect areas where addresses have changed in the U.S. – part of the geographic foundation for nearly every economic and social data product that the Census Bureau produces. We’re also researching new ways to balance the nation’s need for detailed social, economic and housing information with the need to minimize the burden of people who respond to our surveys. Innovation in survey design and data collection can help us reduce that burden while still providing communities and businesses with the data they need to make informed choices.

To learn more about how the Census Bureau plans to innovate and modernize to meet that challenge and fulfill our mission, check out the infographic below.


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New Features for My Congressional District Expand Access to U.S. Census Bureau Data

Written by: John H. Thompson

As the nation’s premiere source of data about America’s economy, businesses and people,  we’re committed to making our data more accessible than ever before through new tools and data sets.  We are always listening to you for ways to improve access to our statistics.

In response to customer feedback, I am pleased to announce that latest phase of our digital transformation. For the first time, our County Business Patterns statistics are available by congressional district and to highlight them, we are making them available through a new update of our popular interactive Web app, My Congressional District. Now – in addition to demographic, socioeconomic and housing data – you can access business data at the congressional district level all in one place.

Whether you’re a constituent, working in a congressional office, or just interested in the data, My Congressional District allows you to easily access both economic and demographic data by Congressional district in an easy-to-use app.

In addition to the American Community Survey statistics on demography, socioeconomics, housing and other topics already available through My Congressional District, County Business Patterns provides annual statistics on establishments, employment and payroll for businesses with paid employees at a detailed industry level. These data give users information about the breadth of business activity within a district and its effects.

My Congressional District is one of a suite of Web tools that are accessible through the Census API, and is part of the Census Bureau’s effort to expand access to our data through new tools and technologies. Our digital transformation aims to help our almost 50 million annual visitors more easily find the information they want, expose our audience to new data sets, and increase statistical literacy.

As with all Census Bureau tools, statistics from My Congressional District are easy to download and share on social media. You can also embed the interactive Web app on your own website. Whether you access My Congressional District as an embedded Web app or through Census.gov, you’ll always get the most up-to-date statistics available.

I hope you enjoy learning more about your congressional district and the communities you care about through our statistics. We’re always looking for ways to make our tools more useful, and I encourage you to submit your feedback through the “Tell us what you think” link. If you like My Congressional District, check out our three mobile apps and other interactive data tools.

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