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2020 Census Update

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Last week, the U.S. Census Bureau held our quarterly 2020 Census Program Management Review, where we had the chance to update the public on the progress of the 2020 Census. The success of the 2020 Census rests on the collective talents of teams across the agency working to deliver a complete and accurate count of the population. For those who may not have the chance to watch the full presentation, I wanted to offer an abbreviated update.

To start things off, we have wrapped up the peak operations of the 2018 Census Test and we are pleased to report that we had a strong response rate, even without the advantage of an advertising campaign for the test. Half of all households, 52.3 percent, responded to the test on their own. We are also happy to report that every system we deployed functioned well and integrated with other systems effectively. Starting in September 2018, production systems to support 2020 Census recruiting activities kicked off.

Moving forward, we are now focusing on the performance, scalability and security of our systems. It is important to highlight that we continue, to our robust effort, working with federal and private partners to identify any and all cyber risks, develop cyber solutions and prepare responses for potential cyber incidents. To prepare for the 2020 Census, we are also implementing changes to our operational delivery schedule based on lessons learned from the 2018 Census Test.

Our main priority is to keep your data safe, which is why we continuously add better and stronger protections to keep data that we publish anonymous and all underlying records confidential, including from other government and law enforcement agencies. Before we publish any statistics, we apply safeguards that help prevent data from being traced to anyone specific. The 2020 Disclosure Avoidance System helps to assure that data provided on census forms remain confidential in all Census Bureau publications. The Census Bureau will use an advanced mathematical approach to assure data privacy in the 2020 Census data products—this will ensure your personal information and responses are safe and secure.

The Census Bureau’s goal is a complete and accurate census. Achieving this requires us to understand who the hard-to-count populations are, and how to most effectively reach them and motivate them to respond. That is why we run numerous tailored operations focused on contacting residents and encouraging them to provide responses. For example, people will be able to respond via the internet and over the phone in 12 non-English languages, and we have created support materials in 59 languages. In addition, we will strive to employ Census Enumerators who are familiar with the neighborhoods they work in, and they will often speak the languages that are spoken by the people who live there. We are also taking specific strategic steps to reduce the undercount of many hard-to-count populations, including children under the age of four.

Once the census is completed, the 2020 Post-Enumeration Survey will help assess the accuracy of the 2020 Census and inform plans for future censuses. The results help us understand the extent to which the 2020 Census counted everyone once, only once and in the right place.

Our mission is to serve as the nation’s leading provider of quality data about its people and economy. With less than 18 months from Census Day 2020 (April 1, 2020), we are working toward the first census to offer online response as the primary option to all respondents—a major milestone in our nation’s history of counting the population once a decade since 1790 and as mandated by the U.S. Constitution.

Presentations from the recent 2020 Census Program Management Review, and previous ones, are available online.

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