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2020 Census Operational Plan and Detailed Operational Plans

The U.S. Census Bureau’s 2020 Census Operational Plan documents the high-level design for conducting the 2020 Census. This plan supported evidence-based decision-making by describing design concepts and their rationale, identifying decisions made and remaining decisions, and outlining implementation risks.

Detailed Operational Plans (DOPs) outline the processes associated with a specific operation. These documents were produced for 33 of the 35 operations implemented during the 2020 Census.

Most DOPs are accompanied by a Business Process Model (BPM), which describes the operation’s business processes, such as activities, resources, and key milestones.

The operational plan, DOP, and BPM documents are available for download below. If an operation published additional update documentation, it will be available as well.

2020 Census Operational Plan

The 2020 Census Operational Plan version 5.0, published in 2022, provides the as-performed 2020 Census operational design, including summarized updates related to the COVID-19 pandemic and other operational updates.

The 2020 Census Operational Plan version 4.0 outlines the as-planned design of the 2020 Census as of December 2018 when the document was published. This is the final version published before the census was conducted.

2020 Census Detailed Operational Plans

Each DOP includes a summary of the operational processes involved in the respective operation, their inputs, outputs, and controls, as well as the basic mechanisms employed to conduct the operational work. If a BPM was published along with a DOP, it is available below.

Many of these plans were updated over the course of the census lifecycle. These updates reflect strategy changes in accordance with planning, research, testing, and the COVID-19 pandemic. The most recent updates are documented in a memo, which is merged into the respective detailed operational plan’s file, accessible below.

The numbers listed before each operation below correspond to how the operations are numbered in the 2020 Census Operational Plan.

The PM Operation is responsible for the planning and implementation of the 2020 Census. Specifically, this operation defines the overall 2020 Census program and project management policies, framework, and control processes used across the entire 2020 Census and all projects established within the program.

*A DOP was not produced for this operation*
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The SEI Program Area serves as a centralized functional group with the Decennial Census Programs Directorate to manage development of the System of Systems that meets 2020 Census business and capability requirements. SEI has five major components:

  • Requirements Engineering,
  • Solution Architecture,
  • Technical Integration and Solution Development Oversight,
  • Test and Evaluation, and
  • Deployment Operations and Maintenance.
*A DOP was not produced for this operation*
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The purpose of the SPC operation was to ensure that all operations and systems used in the 2020 Census adhered to laws, policies, and regulations that ensured appropriate systems and data security and to protect respondent and employee privacy and confidentiality.

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The purpose of the CFD operation was to identify and finalize content and design of questionnaires and other associated nonquestionnaire materials, ensure consistency across data collection modes and operations, and provide the optimal design and content of the questionnaires to encourage high response rates.

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The purpose of the LNG operation was to assess and support language needs of non-English speaking populations, determine the number of non-English languages and level of support for the 2020 Census, optimize the non-English content of questionnaires and associated nonquestionnaire materials across data collection modes and operations, and ensure cultural relevancy and meaningful translation of 2020 Census questionnaires and associated nonquestionnaire materials.

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The purpose of the GEOP operation was to provide the geographic foundation in support of the 2020 Census data collection and tabulation activities, within the Master Address File (MAF)/ Topologically Integrated Geographic Encoding and Referencing (TIGER) System.

The MAF/TIGER System (software applications and databases) served as the national repository for all the spatial, geographic, and residential address data needed for census and survey data collection, data tabulation, data dissemination, geocoding services, and map production. Components of this operation included Geographic Delineations, Geographic Partnership Programs, and Geographic Data Processing:

Geographic Delineations

The Geographic Delineation component of the GEOP worked to determine, delineate, and update the geographic area boundaries for 2020 Census data collection and data tabulation. Census data collection relied on the delineation of various geographic areas, known as “collection geography,” to support the capture of data during census activities. This included delineating the methods used to enumerate households and defining field management areas.

Geographic Partnership Programs

The Geographic Partnership Programs component of the GEOP helped define statistical geographic area boundaries that provided meaningful data from the 2020 Census. The following were the 2020 Census Geographic Partnership Programs: Boundary and Annexation Survey (BAS), Participant Statistical Area Program/Tribal Statistical Areas Program (PSAP/TSAP), Boundary Validation Program (BVP), and Public-Use Microdata Areas (PUMA).

Geographic Data Processing

The Geographic Data Processing component of the GEOP included all activities related to the extract, update, and maintenance of the features, boundaries, and addresses in the MAF/TIGER System. Geographic data captured as part of the 2020 Census, including address updates, structure coordinate locations, boundaries, and roads data were processed to ensure that the MAF/TIGER System was up to date.

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The purpose of the LUCA operation was to provide an opportunity for tribal, state, and local governments to review and improve the address lists and maps used to conduct the 2020 Census as required by Public Law (P.L.) 103-430.

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The purpose of the ADC operation was to deliver a complete and accurate address list and spatial database for enumeration and to determine the type and address characteristics for each living quarter.

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The purpose of the FPD operation was to print and distribute Internet invitation letters, reminder cards or letters or both, questionnaire mailing packages, and materials for other special operations, as required. Other materials required to support field operations were handled in the Decennial Logistics Management Operation.

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The purpose of the PDC operation was to capture and convert data from the 2020 Census paper questionnaires, including mail receipt, document preparation, scanning, Optical Character Recognition, Optical Mark Recognition, Key From Image, data delivery, checkout, and form destruction.

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The purpose of the IPC operation was to communicate the importance of participating in the 2020 Census to the entire population of the 50 states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico with the goal of engaging and motivating people to self-respond (preferably via the Internet). It also sought to raise and keep awareness high throughout the entire 2020 Census to encourage response, support field recruitment efforts, and effectively support dissemination of census data to stakeholders and the public.

User note:

When consulting the documents below, please note that the IPC Detailed Operating Plan version 1.0 was published in 2016 and outlines the operation’s research and initial planning phase.

For major planning updates released after the 2016 version was published, please refer to the document “Updates to the Plan for the IPC Operation." It includes updates released in early 2020 and then again in 2021. This document is based on more precise knowledge about how the operation would actually be performed and changes planned in response to the Covid-19 pandemic. Although this document summarizes updates to planned production activities, it is not a detailed operational plan.

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The purpose of the ISR operation was to maximize online response to the 2020 Census via contact strategies and improved access for respondents and to collect response data via the Internet to reduce paper and the Nonresponse Followup operation workload.

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The purpose of the NID operation was to make it easy for people to respond anytime, anywhere. The operation’s goal was to increase self-response rates by providing response options that did not require a unique Census ID, maximize real-time matching of non-ID respondent addresses to the census living quarters address inventory, and accurately assign nonmatching addresses to census blocks.

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The purpose of the UE operation was to update the address and feature data and enumerate respondents in person. UE was designated to occur in areas where the initial visit required enumerating while updating the address frame, particularly in remote geographic areas that had unique challenges associated with accessibility.

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The purpose of the GQ operation was to enumerate people living or staying in group quarters and provide an opportunity for people experiencing homelessness and receiving service at service-based locations, such as soup kitchens, to be counted in the census.

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The purpose of the ETL operation was to enumerate individuals in occupied units at transitory locations who did not have a usual home elsewhere. Transitory locations included recreational vehicle parks, campgrounds, racetracks, circuses, carnivals, marinas, hotels, and motels.

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The purpose of the CQA operation was to provide questionnaire assistance for respondents by answering questions about specific items on the census form or other frequently asked questions about the 2020 Census. It also provided an option for respondents to complete a census interview over the telephone and provided outbound calling support of Coverage Improvement.

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The purpose of the NRFU operation was to determine housing unit status for nonresponding addresses that did not self-respond to the 2020 Census and to enumerate housing units that were determined to have a housing status of occupied.

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The purpose of the RPO was to create and distribute the initial 2020 Census enumeration universe of living quarters, assign the specific enumeration strategy for each living quarter, create and distribute workload files required for enumeration operations, track case enumeration status, run post-data collection processing actions in preparation for producing the final 2020 Census results, and check for suspicious returns.

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The purpose of FACO was to obtain counts by home state of U.S. military and federal civilian employees stationed or assigned overseas and their dependents living with them overseas.

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The purpose of the DPD operation is to prepare and deliver 2020 Census apportionment data to the President of the United States, who will provide it to Congress. This operation also tabulates and disseminates 2020 Census data products for public use as well as states’ use when delineating congressional, state, and local legislative redistricting as required by Public Law 94-171.

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The purpose of the RDP operation was to provide each state the opportunity to identify the small area geographies needed for legislative redistricting and the legally required Public Law (P.L.) 94-171 redistricting data tabulations.

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The purpose of the CRO was to enhance the accuracy of the 2020 Census through remediating potential coverage gaps by: implementing an efficient and equitable process to identify and incorporate housing units that are missing from the Census Master Address File, identifying and including or correcting large group quarters that are missing from the Master Address File or are geographically misallocated, positioning unresolved cases for a smooth transition to the Count Question Resolution operation.

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The purpose of the CQR operation was to provide a mechanism for governmental units to request a review of their official 2020 Census results.

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The purpose of the ARC operation was to coordinate the storage of materials and data and provide 2020 Census records deemed permanent to the National Archives and Records Administration, including files containing individual responses. It was also responsible for providing similar files to the National Processing Center to use as source materials to conduct the Age Search Service and for storing data to cover in-house needs.

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The purpose of the IAC operation was to enumerate all residents of American Samoa, the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI), Guam, and the U.S. Virgin Islands (USVI), process and tabulate the collected data, and disseminate data products to the public.

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The Post-Enumeration Survey includes three operations with the following responsibilities:

27. Coverage Measurement Design and Estimation operation (CMDE): Designed the PES, including sampling and estimation.

28. Coverage Measurement Matching operation (CMM): Identifies matches and nonmatches between the 2020 Census and the PES for the enumerated housing units and people.

29. Coverage Measurement Field Operations (CMFO): Collects person and HU information (independent from the 2020 Census operations) for the sample of housing units in the PES.

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The purpose of the EAE operation is to document how well the 2020 Census was conducted, and analyze, interpret, and synthesize the effectiveness of census components and their impact on data quality, coverage, or both. It also assesses the 2020 Census operations, formulates and executes an experimentation program to support early planning and inform the transition and design of the 2030 Census, and produces an independent assessment of population and housing unit coverage.

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The purpose of the DSC operation was to support 2020 Census field operations for decennial census staff (i.e., headquarters, Paper Data Capture operation (PDC), regional census centers (RCC), area census offices (ACOs), Island Areas Censuses operation (IAC), remote workers, and listers/enumerators).

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The purpose of the FLDI operation was to provide the administrative infrastructure for data collection covering the 50 states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico. The DLM operation managed space acquisition for and lease management of six regional census centers (RCCs). The detailed operating plans for both the FLDI operation and the DLM operation are presented in a single document.

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The purpose of the ITIN operation was to provide IT-related Infrastructure support to the 2020 Census, including enterprise systems and applications, 2020 Census-specific applications, Field IT infrastructure, mobile computing, and cloud computing.

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The purpose of the UL operation was to update the address and feature data for the area assigned, and to digitally link and leave a 2020 Census Internet Choice Questionnaire Package at every housing unit identified to allow the household to self-respond. This operation occurred in areas where the majority of housing units either did not have mail delivered to the physical location of the housing unit, or the mail delivery information for the housing unit could not be verified.

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