SEPT. 5, 2018 — The U.S. Census Bureau is nearing the successful completion of its final test leading up to the 2020 Census. The 2018 Census Test in Providence County, R.I., was the last operational field test prior to the once-a-decade population count taking place in 2020.
The test, which started in 2017 with the Address Canvasing Operation in Providence County, R.I., Beckley-Bluefield-Oak Hill, W.Va., and Pierce County, Wash., was designed to test and assess the readiness and integration of planned 2020 Census operations, procedures, systems and field infrastructure. Moreover, the test built upon the lessons learned from the 2010 Census and from rigorous testing performed since 2013.
“The successful deployment and utilization of our newly developed, secure systems and applications in a real-world environment proved that the Census Bureau is ready to transition from a paper-based census to one where people can respond online using personal computers or mobile devices, by telephone through our questionnaire assistance centers or by using the traditional paper-response option,” said Albert E. Fontenot Jr., Associate Director of Decennial Census Programs. “We will now be continuing our work through the next year to refine and scale our systems to ensure the best possible performance for the 2020 Census.”
More than half of Providence County responded to the test on their own (52.3 percent), surpassing the projected self-response rate by 3 percentage points. The majority of self-responses (61.2 percent) were received through the internet, followed by 31.3 percent responding by paper questionnaire and 7.5 percent responding by phone.
The mail strategy used a two-panel design, encouraging an internet response from the majority, while still sending a paper questionnaire to a smaller portion of the population up-front (knowing some are less likely to respond using the internet).
To help all residents in Providence County respond to the 2018 Census Test, the questionnaire was available online and in paper form in English and Spanish. Additionally, telephone support was offered and tested in seven non-English languages (Spanish, Chinese, Vietnamese, Korean, Russian, Arabic and Tagalog).
During the 2020 Census, people will be able to respond in even more languages (including French, Polish, Haitian Creole, Portuguese and Japanese, in addition to the languages used in the 2018 Census Test), totaling 13 languages available through the internet and phone.
Despite adding additional response modes to the 2020 Census, the Census Bureau will still need to employ thousands of census takers throughout the country to ensure a complete and accurate census.
“In Providence, we tested our modernized approach of managing our field staff who conduct the operations that collect the information from people who did not respond on their own,” said Fontenot. “We were able to test using hand-held smartphones that enumerators will use for all aspects of their work including receiving assignments, viewing the most efficient routing to visit each household, submitting their hours, and securely recording and transmitting each respondent’s information in an encrypted format.”
Enumerator productivity increased with the use of these technologies and automated processes.
“We’ve now successfully tested these technological advances that will allow for a more efficient use of our workforce for the 2020 Census,” added Fontenot. “In the 2018 Census Test, we were able to complete 1.56 cases per hour worked, compared to 1.05 in the 2010 Census.”
For more information on the 2018 Census Test, visit the 2018 Press Kit or to access the 2018 Census Test questionnaire, visit census.gov/2018censustest.
Visit Road to the 2020 Census to find out more about the Census Bureau’s extensive research and testing leading up to the 2020 Census. For status updates, visit 2020 Census Program Management Reviews.