Developing Instruments for All-Electronic Data Collection from Business Establishments: Pretesting Methods and Processes for Re-Engineering the 2017 Economic Census (303551)*Amy E Anderson Riemer, U.S. Census Bureau
Jennifer L Beck, U.S. Census Bureau
Alfred D Tuttle, U.S. Census Bureau
Keywords: economic census, establishment survey, web survey, online survey, pretesting
The Economic Census, conducted every five years by the U.S. Census Bureau, collects detailed business data for approximately 4 million establishments nationwide. Until now, data were collected using multiple self-administered modes. Electronic instruments were offered in addition to paper questionnaires, with design and content tailored by size and industry. Due to special reporting requirements for companies with many locations, larger companies were required to download software to their computers and use it to enter and upload data. Small companies were offered a simpler web-based application because they did not need the same types of functionality that facilitated reporting and reduced burden for larger companies. For the 2017 Economic Census, we are re-engineering the electronic instruments and consolidating them into one application on the Web for all respondents, regardless of size. In addition, paper questionnaires will no longer be available. Given the magnitude of this change, and the potential impact on respondents, we developed a multi-year, multi-method/stage research plan to identify system requirements and test early versions.
In addition, the 2017 Economic Census must introduce a new framework for collecting details about sales of products, according to the North American Product Classification System (NAPCS). Implementing the new NAPCS structure presents additional challenges for the new electronic instrument, yet takes advantage of electronic design features well suited for presenting and collecting long detailed lists that may contain more than a hundred items. This paper will provide an overview of these various research endeavors, along with a discussion of the benefits and drawbacks associated with this research plan. We will discuss the methodological and practical challenges faced in creating and conducting this research, including lessons learned.