Statistical Science

Can We Reach Consensus on Census Adjustment?

Thomas R. Belin and John E. Rolph

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Abstract

Attempting a complete headcount is an imperfect method for carrying out a census, as is modifying an attempted headcount with sample-based adjustments. It is a mistake to assume that one approach enjoys a scientific presumption over the other. There are important details available from evaluation studies of the 1990 decennial census that reflect upon the accuracy of adjusted and unadjusted census figures. Decisions about adjustment might therefore be based on comparing the accuracy of alternative census-taking strategies at some level of aggregation of the population. In any such comparison, the choices of an appropriate level of aggregation, the factors defining the aggregation, and appropriate loss criteria are important issues to decide in advance. After providing context for decisions about census-taking strategy, we comment on the recent literature on census adjustment, including the papers by Freedman and Wachter and by Breiman contained in this issue; we also discuss the Census Bureau's plans for the year 2000. We conclude that the 1990 approach to summarizing the accuracy of an adjusted census can be improved upon, but that many of the criticisms of census adjustment do not reflect a balanced decision-making perspective. We also conclude that the Census Bureau is pursuing constructive research in evaluating a "one-number census," and we suggest that statisticians have a role to play in avoiding the costly legal battles that have plagued recent censuses by assisting in the process of deciding on a design for the 2000 census.

Article information

Source
Statist. Sci., Volume 9, Number 4 (1994), 486-508.

Dates
First available in Project Euclid: 19 April 2007

Permanent link to this document
https://projecteuclid.org/euclid.ss/1177010261

Digital Object Identifier
doi:10.1214/ss/1177010261

JSTOR
links.jstor.org

Keywords
Decision loss function census adjustment one-number census

Citation

Belin, Thomas R.; Rolph, John E. Can We Reach Consensus on Census Adjustment?. Statist. Sci. 9 (1994), no. 4, 486--508. doi:10.1214/ss/1177010261. https://projecteuclid.org/euclid.ss/1177010261


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See also

  • See Comment: Ian Diamond, Chris Skinner. [Can We Reach Consensus on Census Adjustment?]: Comment. Statist. Sci., Volume 9, Number 4 (1994), 508--510.
  • See Comment: Eugene P. Ericksen, Stephen E. Fienberg, Joseph B. Kadane. [Can We Reach Consensus on Census Adjustment?]: Comment. Statist. Sci., Volume 9, Number 4 (1994), 511--515.
  • See Comment: Lars Lyberg, Sixten Lundstrom. [Can We Reach Consensus on Census Adjustment?]: Comment. Statist. Sci., Volume 9, Number 4 (1994), 515--517.
  • See Comment: David Steel. [Can We Reach Consensus on Census Adjustment?]: Comment. Statist. Sci., Volume 9, Number 4 (1994), 517--519.
  • See Comment: Thomas R. Belin, John E. Rolph. [Can We Reach Consensus on Census Adjustment?]: Rejoinder. Statist. Sci., Volume 9, Number 4 (1994), 520--521.
  • See Comment: Leo Breiman. [Can We Reach Consensus on Census Adjustment?]: Rejoinder. Statist. Sci., Volume 9, Number 4 (1994), 521--527.
  • See Comment: D. Freedman, K. Wachter. [Can We Reach Consensus on Census Adjustment?]: Rejoinder. Statist. Sci., Volume 9, Number 4 (1994), 527--537.