As the Census Bureau prepares for its planning of the 2030 Census, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) is recommending that the Bureau assess data collection challenges.

For the 2020 Census, technology is cited as a major factor for the Bureau completing more than 99 percent of nonresponse follow-up cases by Oct. 15, 2020. Additionally, GAO stated that the Bureau faced challenges in local geographic areas for data collection due to natural disasters and the COVID-19 pandemic. To mitigate these challenges, the Bureau shifted to telephone enumeration in some cases, and imputation in others.

“As GAO previously reported, these changes introduced risks to the quality of data that the Bureau provides for congressional apportionment and redistricting purposes,” said GAO in its report.

To monitor nonresponse follow-up, the Bureau used quality control procedures, but GAO found that the Bureau didn’t have proper controls in place for quality control procedures to monitor nonresponse follow-up.

GAO recommended “that the Bureau inform 2030 Census planning by evaluating the effects of major operational changes made during data collection and challenges encountered for nonresponse follow-up and group quarters enumerations.”

The Department of Commerce – which houses the Census Bureau – agreed with GAO’s findings and its recommendation.

“The Bureau is updating plans to assess operations and identify resulting lessons learned from the 2020 Census,” said GAO. “As part of its planning for 2030, it will be important for the Bureau to assess the impact of the 2020 late design changes and the operations’ challenges that arose.”

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Jordan Smith
Jordan Smith
Jordan Smith is a MeriTalk Senior Technology Reporter covering the intersection of government and technology.