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Journal of Official Statistics, Vol.8, No.4, 1992. pp. 499511

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The United States Decennial Census: Problems, Possibilities, and Prospects

Abstract:
The 1990 U.S. Decennial Census of Population and Housing encountered major problems including rising costs, lower public cooperation, a politically sensitive undercount adjustment issue, increased litigation, and the perception of increasing politicalization of the census. In light of these problems, many researchers and policymakers are calling for alternatives to the current decennial census procedures and raising questions about the need for a decennial census of the type the United States has had in the past.

This article highlights some of the major problems facing the U.S. Census Bureau and reviews some of the proposals that have been put forth to improve the decennial census. The review leads to my prognosis that there will not be any fundamental change in the census methodology for the next U.S. decennial census. This conclusion is largely based on the assumption that the Census Bureau will not be able to identify a single alternative that is clearly better than the methodology used in 1990, that is technically feasible, and that will be quickly accepted by political and public stakeholders in the time frame available.

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