NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

GAO Has Concerns About 2000 Census

December 13, 1999

Less than four months from the start of the 2000 census, the General Accounting Office is warning the Census Bureau's current plans could produce a count less accurate than that of 1990. Among the GAO's concerns:

  • The Census Bureau won't send a second questionnaire to households that don't respond to the first form.
  • Because of the tight labor market, the Bureau might find it difficult to hire the large number of temps, called enumerators, it needs.
  • The Bureau "may be optimistic" when it predicts 61 percent of households will fill out and return the forms -- important, since every percentage point below 61 will add another $25 million to the census's cost.
  • The 2000 census is already projected to cost $6.2 billion, almost twice the $3.2 billion as the 1990 census, the most expensive in history.

The report notes that the Census Bureau must have about 860,000 temporary workers. Because of the high turnover rate in the positions, that means recruiting nearly 3.5 million people for jobs that don't offer benefits like insurance or child care.

Source: Stephen Holmes, "Census 2000 Plans Leave Much Room for Error, Agency Warns," New York Times, December 13, 1999.


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