Senator Carper Highlights 2020 Census Operational Plan

“If Congress continues to subject the Bureau to ‘crisis budgeting,’ the plan will quickly be thrown off track.”

WASHINGTON – Today, Sen. Tom Carper (D-Del.), Ranking Member of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, highlighted the release of the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2020 Census Operational Plan. This plan outlines the Bureau’s vision for how it will carry out the upcoming 2020 Census. It also includes details about the Bureau’s plan to conduct tests over the next several years in order to improve the accuracy of the decennial census.

“Given that the 2010 Census was the costliest count in history and faced serious technology failures, it’s critical that we learn from the last decade’s mistakes and make sure that the 2020 Census is on time, on budget, and accurate,” said Sen. Carper. “I am encouraged that the Bureau has laid out a plan for the 2020 count that could save over $5 billion and reduce the cost per household by almost 30 percent compared to the 2010 Census. The operational plan also shows that the Bureau will take important steps to make sure we are getting the most accurate and thorough count.

“That being said, I caution that this plan will only work if Congress provides the Bureau the resources it needs now to plan for the census and develop the innovative technologies that can help reduce costs,” continued Sen. Carper. “Even though the count is more than four years away, conducting a successful and cost-effective census takes years of careful planning. If Congress continues to subject the Bureau to ‘crisis budgeting,’ with repeated stop-gap spending measures, sequester, and shortfalls in funding, the Bureau’s operational plan will quickly be thrown off track. If that happens, taxpayers will have to pick up the tab once again. Congress and the Administration must work together to ensure the Bureau properly implements this plan and ultimately achieves a more cost-efficient, modern, and accurate 2020 Census. I look forward to working with my colleagues and the Bureau to make sure that happens.”  

One of the few governmental activities required by the Constitution, the census determines the apportionment of seats in Congress, helps determine how federal dollars are distributed to states, and informs planning decisions of state, federal, and local governments as well as the private sector. The information it gathers is also used at the federal, state, and local level to determine how hundreds of billions of dollars in funds are distributed and by the private sector for important business decisions.

In all, the Bureau estimates that new changes to the 2020 Census will reduce the cost per household of conducting the census – which was $124 per household in 2010 – down to $88 per household in 2020.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau’s Director John H. Thompson, the 2020 Census will:

1. Making it easier for people to respond. The Bureau will encourage the population to respond to the 2020 Census using the Internet, reducing the need for more expensive data capture. This will save an estimated $400 million.

2. Using existing data to reduce door-to-door visits. The Bureau will use data that the public has already provided to the government and data that is available from commercial sources. The savings from this innovation – estimated at $1.4 billion – will allow the Bureau to focus additional visits in areas that have been traditionally hard-to-enumerate.

3. Automating field operations. The Bureau will use sophisticated operational control systems to send Census enumerators to follow up with non-responding housing units and to track daily progress, saving an estimated $2.5 billion.

4. Building a more accurate address list. The Bureau is adding new addresses to its address frame using geographic information systems and aerial imagery, instead of sending Census employees to walk and physically check 11 million census blocks. This will cut the Bureau’s on-the-ground workload 75 percent, saving an estimated $900 million.