2000 Census: Best Practices and Lessons Learned for More Cost-Effective Nonresponse Follow-up

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A letter report issued by the General Accounting Office with an abstract that begins "Nonresponse follow-up--in which Census Bureau enumerators go door-to-door to count individuals who have not mailed back their questionnaires--was the most costly and labor intensive of all 2000 Census operations. According to Bureau data, labor, mileage, and administrative costs totaled $1.4 billion, or 22 percent of the $6.5 billion allocated for the 2000 Census. Several practices were critical to the Bureau's timely competition of nonresponse follow-up. The Bureau (1) had an aggressive outreach and promotion campaign, simplified questionnaire, and other efforts to boost the mail response rate ... continued below

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United States. General Accounting Office. February 11, 2002.

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Description

A letter report issued by the General Accounting Office with an abstract that begins "Nonresponse follow-up--in which Census Bureau enumerators go door-to-door to count individuals who have not mailed back their questionnaires--was the most costly and labor intensive of all 2000 Census operations. According to Bureau data, labor, mileage, and administrative costs totaled $1.4 billion, or 22 percent of the $6.5 billion allocated for the 2000 Census. Several practices were critical to the Bureau's timely competition of nonresponse follow-up. The Bureau (1) had an aggressive outreach and promotion campaign, simplified questionnaire, and other efforts to boost the mail response rate and thus reduce the Bureau's nonresponse follow-up workload; (2) used a flexible human capital strategy that enabled it to meet its national recruiting and hiring goals and position enumerators where they were most needed; (3) called on local census offices to identify local enumeration challenges, such as locked apartment buildings and gated communities, and to develop action plans to address them; and (4) applied ambitious interim "stretch" goals that encouraged local census offices to finish 80 percent of their nonresponse follow-up workload within the first four weeks and be completely finished by the end of the eighth week, as opposed to the ten-week time frame specified in the Bureau's master schedule. Although these initiatives were key to meeting tight time frames for nonresponse follow-ups, the Bureau's experience in implementing them highlights challenges for the next census in 2010. First, maintaining the response rate is becoming increasingly expensive. Second, public participation in the census remains problematic. Third, the address lists used for nonresponse follow-up did not always contain the latest available information because the Bureau found it was infeasible to remove many late-responding households. Fourth, the Bureau's stretch goals appeared to produce mixed results. Finally, there are questions about how reinterview procedures aimed at detecting enumerator fraud and other quality problems were implemented."

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Government Accountability Office Reports

The U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) is an independent, nonpartisan agency that works for the U.S. Congress investigating how the federal government spends taxpayers' money. Its goal is to increase accountability and improve the performance of the federal government. The Government Accountability Office Reports Collection consists of over 13,000 documents on a variety of topics ranging from fiscal issues to international affairs.

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  • February 11, 2002

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  • June 11, 2014, 5:03 a.m.

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United States. General Accounting Office. 2000 Census: Best Practices and Lessons Learned for More Cost-Effective Nonresponse Follow-up, report, February 11, 2002; Washington D.C.. (digital.library.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metadc290405/: accessed April 21, 2018), University of North Texas Libraries, Digital Library, digital.library.unt.edu; crediting UNT Libraries Government Documents Department.