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A Planning Database to Identify Areas that Are Hard-to-Enumerate and Hard-To-Survey in the United States

Antonio Bruce, U.S. Census Bureau 
*J. Gregory Robinson, U.S. Census Bureau 
Jason E Devine, U.S. Census Bureau 

Keywords: Planning Database, Barriers to Enumeration, Demographic Strata, and Hard-to-Count Scores.

The Census Bureau has developed a Planning Database (PDB) to systematically identify geographic areas with characteristics associated with hard-to-enumerate populations. This PDB was an integral component of the Census 2010 communications campaign designed to increase response rates. In this paper we will describe the methods used to identify variables included in the PDB and develop hard-to-count (HTC) scores. Response rates from the 2010 census will be examined to determine how well the HTC scores predicted areas with lower response rates.

The paper describes the housing indicators, person or demographic indicators, and operational indicators that have been found to be correlated with lower response rates used in the PDB. The HTC score is a summary indicator by which geographies (e.g., census tracts) can be sorted on a hard-to-count continuum. The “difficult-to-enumerate” areas can be systematically distinguished from other areas and the specific characteristics of the areas that make it a hard-to-count area can be identified, making it possible to tailor the outreach for a particular area. In order to assess the PDB’s usefulness in identifying hard-to-enumerate populations, 2010 Census tract-level response rates will be examined by demographic and hard-to-count attributes. The 2010 response rates will also be compared to response rates from the 2000 and 1990 censuses. The specific demographic and socioeconomic variables underlying the HTC scores allow us to systematically identify the attributes of the population associated with a particular response rate.

In the past, the PDB was based on data from recent decennial census (2000, 1990). With the advent of the American Community Survey (ACS), which collects the same demographic and socioeconomic data on an annual basis, we can keep the PDB current and update the Hard-to-Count scores. In addition to decennial uses, the PDB could be used to increase response rates in the ACS and other surveys.

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