December 01, 2008

Now, what are the questions we'll be asking? Did the tract action plans that I mentioned - were they working the way they wanted? Are there some ideas for certain kinds of tracts that were just killer ideas that really worked well? And were those killer ideas used or not used in these newly identified outlier tracts? If they weren't used, then we have April 1 through April 22nd to intervene.

And we have our partners ready to go into tracts that are unusually low performers, surprise-low performers, and do things for a three-week period to get the forms back. This is new. Whether it will work, since it's never been done before, it won't work perfectly; it'll be ugly in certain areas. I think it makes sense to try it. And we're calling this the "April Blitz."

The big thing that we have this decade that we had last decade also is trying to get a handle on the undocumented immigrant population. This is a component of demographic analysis that's really hard to estimate. What we are planning to do actually, in an honest portrayal of demographic analysis this decade, is to present several different estimates of counts for these subgroups based on different assumptions; different logical, plausible options for the value of key components. It will be an honest portrayal -- what we know and don't know -- and hopefully be more useful and less susceptible to misunderstandings.

Post-Census Evaluation

We also do a very large post-enumeration survey. For some reason, the name changes every decade. This decade, it's called "Census Coverage Measurement." But it is, in essence, a very large post-censal sample survey independently done of the census. So if you go into our local census offices now, there's always a locked subset of the census office. It's a room filled with people who are preparing to do this. They are like the Secret Service of the census.

As you know, the 2010 Census will not have a statistical adjustment. This is something that became crystal clear from a Supreme Court case at the end of the '90s. We are using this post-enumeration survey to evaluate. What's new about this is that we're going to be able to track components of census coverage at certain levels.

We're also going to be able to break down the value of a census operation. For example, the mail-out areas versus the areas where we drop off a questionnaire, nonresponse follow-up as an operation, to assess its value in affecting differential undercount. That's something new; we'll see how well it goes.

The summary of this is -- if you didn't get it yet -- this is a massive undertaking. I thought I did big sample surveys in my life before but nothing relative to this. It is not unlike going to war. You need field generals, you need tacticians, you need strategists, and you need foot soldiers.

It is not a pretty process. It is a lot like all sample surveys that I've done: The data set often looks a lot better than the interviewing and all the horrible things that happen when people try to get information from people. It's an ugly process. There are going to be things that will happen over the next few weeks that I can't predict, you can't predict; they're going to happen, though. And they're mainly bad things, it seems.

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