Census data are essential to equitable distribution of political power and federal resources for programs that support economic security, health, education, and more. In the years between each census, the Census Bureau produces annually-updated estimates of the nation’s population using the most recent census count as a starting point. To improve the quality of these updated population estimates, the bureau provides Tribal, state, and local governments with opportunities to identify and address a limited range of mistakes. These opportunities include the Count Question Resolution (CQR) and Population Estimates Challenge (Challenge) programs. This brief provides a clear description of these programs (and their limitations) to help stakeholders understand and engage in these opportunities to pursue more accurate population estimates.
The goal of the decennial census is to count everyone once, only once, and in the right place. However, the Census Bureau has historically overcounted certain groups—including white people—while undercounting others—including people of color, young children, and people experiencing homelessness. These gaps undermine the fairness of the census and contribute to an inequitable distribution of political power and federal resources for programs that support economic security, health, and education. This working paper examines the self-response rates to the 2020 Census by various socio-economic, demographic, and housing characteristics in order to gain timely insights into the potential accuracy of the 2020 Census. The paper finds that the 2020 Census likely will contain similar inaccuracies seen in past censuses.
The Census Bureau is modernizing its confidentiality protections for census responses. At the heart of this new approach is a mathematical definition of confidentiality called “differential privacy.” This fact sheet—published jointly with Data & Society and the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights—provides a brief introduction to differential privacy, outlines the implications of the changes for data users, and encourages stakeholders to provide feedback to the Census Bureau.
It is perhaps more important today than ever for stakeholders to understand the key approaches and methods for measuring the accuracy of the decennial census. The 2020 Census faces extraordinary challenges that will impact its fairness and accuracy. The likely consequences may skew political representation and the allocation of federal funds for the next decade and affect an array of other crucial uses of census data. To help stakeholders better engage in public discussions of census accuracy and related actions, this preliminary report introduces measures and methods for evaluating census accuracy, assesses their relative strengths and weaknesses, and provides key historical context needed for interpreting the results of the census.
The Census Bureau has struggled to accurately count people experiencing homelessness in decennial censuses. Due to the unprecedented challenges of conducting the 2020 Census during the COVID-19 pandemic, people experiencing homelessness were likely undercounted and miscounted at even higher rates than in previous decades. These undercounts and miscounts may undermine the fair allocation of federal funding for public programs and services—such as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program and Section 8 Housing Choice Vouchers—that help people experiencing homelessness attain a decent standard of living. This report, published jointly with the Center for American Progress and the National LGBTQ Task Force, explains why the 2020 Census may have undercounted people experiencing homelessness, outlines consequences for public programs, and offers preliminary recommendations for how to improve counts of people experiencing homelessness for the 2030 Census.