Census 2000 Count: Some GIS Ideas

U.S. Census 2000 logoAs Census Day 2000 (April 1, 2000) looms closer, more effort will be expended by the U.S. Census Bureau to enlist the help of state, local, and Native American governments and other stakeholders in ensuring that the enumeration is as accurate as possible. In the precensus/census time frame (now through Summer 2000), the requests for local government assistance are focused on two main arenas: geographic/field operations and recruiting/outreach. Once the census is completed, those same governments will begin receiving the resultant data (beginning Winter 2001). The first of this data will be redistricting population counts.

However, before anyone can look at the finished products, the data must be collected. Also, the quality of the data as products will only be as good as the effort that has gone into collecting them. While the bureau will do its best to gather accurate and complete information, it really cannot accomplish the task without the help of local stakeholders. This is why jumping on the Census 2000 bandwagon now is of prime importance.

In the areas of recruiting and outreach, there are many activities in which local stakeholders can engage. Because of the spatial nature of a census, GIS is a natural tool to use since in so many ways the census is a marketing, siting, and impact analysis problem.

Outreach/Target Marketing

Resistance to and disinterest in census participation is increasing. This drives up the amount of nonresponse follow-up the bureau must do. Specific populations in specific housing settings are more likely not to respond than are others. The result is that specific populations have higher undercount rates than others. To reduce these negative effects and improve general response rates, help is being sought in getting out the count. In part, think of the census as a marketing campaign.

Below are a number of suggested GIS-related activities that local, state, and other agencies can undertake in concert with the Census Bureau with an eye toward improving the count and bringing the census home.

  • Identify key areas that represent other hard-to-enumerate population segments (e.g., non-English speakers, recent immigrants and noncitizens, migrant farm workers, low socioeconomic status households [income, education, occupation]).
  • Build databases and geocode and map local census stakeholders and constituents (e.g., neighborhood groups, places of worship, schools, service groups).
  • Map nonresponse populations with post-1990 local data (e.g., map out a language service provider's mailing list of non-English speakers).
  • Create map presentation graphics to support the message (e.g., how a local government uses census data to support local residents).
  • Create print and graphics file map images for various uses including newspaper stories and PowerPoint-type presentations.
  • Create Web-based thematic and "census operation" maps.
  • Create undercount simulations and federal money loss scenarios that governments can use to drive the message home geographically (e.g., "If our count is off by X percent, then our community gets $Y less, and here is where the missed population is probably located.").

For more information, contact David Beddoe, Esri (E-mail: dbeddoe@esri.com). For more GIS-related activities to help with Census 2000, contact the Census Bureau office serving your area. Coordinate your outreach and recruiting efforts and help make Census 2000 a success. Your community depends on it.

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