Since its inception at the turn of the 20th century, the Census Bureau has pioneered cutting edge methods and technologies to meet the vast and increasingly complex challenge of counting everyone in the United States. Civil rights organizations often work with the Census Bureau to ensure that innovations advance the accuracy and fairness of the decennial census. This brief focuses on one of the most significant areas of innovation over the past century: the use of “administrative data” (AD). AD are typically collected by government agencies and private-sector organizations while administering a program or service. For example, the U.S. Postal Services collects address information while delivering mail, creating an address dataset. This brief provides a definition of AD and a summary of how AD were used in the 2020 Census. The brief also introduces some key equity considerations regarding AD usage and offers potential next steps for civil rights groups.
2020 Census Count Question Resolution & Population Estimates Challenge Programs: Opportunities for Improving Postcensal Population Estimates
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.
Who Responded in the 2020 Census? Variation in Tract-Level Self-Response Rates in the 2020 U.S. Census
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.
Differential Privacy in the 2020 Census: New Confidentiality Protections & the Implications for Data Users
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.
Evaluating the Accuracy of the Decennial Census: A Primer on the Fundamentals of Census Accuracy and Coverage Evaluation
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.