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What Factors Affect Miscounts of Blacks in the Census?
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*Karyn Lacy, University of Michigan 

Keywords: blacks, coverage error, census

This study is one of nine ethnographic studies of the Census Coverage Measurement Personal Interview (CCM PI) Survey Operation conducted in 2010. The CCM obtains information on both the Census Day and CCM Interview Day residences of respondents. The goal is to “determine where each person should have been counted in the census and where they may have been counted” (Kostanich and Whitford, 2008; Schwede, 2010). CCM data provide insight into the relationship between different types of coverage error and specific census methods or procedures.

Blacks are consistently undercounted in the census. This study’s findings build on existing studies which reveal factors contributing to coverage error among black populations (Hainer, 2006; Schwede, 2003). I observed seven CCM enumerators during 27 interviews with respondents, conducting debriefings just after the standard interview when the respondent’s usual residence was ambiguous. Assessment of the CCM research questions and analysis of sources of coverage error, as well as contrasts between complex and non-complex households, reveal that enumerators’ behaviors, certain survey instrument questions, and specific characteristics of households contribute to possible coverage error. I present recommendations that could help to reduce coverage error among black populations in the future.

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