Primer on Evaluating Census Accuracy and Coverage

“It is perhaps more important today than ever before for stakeholders to understand the key approaches and methods for measuring the accuracy of the census.”

A new report by Bill O’Hare, Cara Brumfield and Jae June Lee — “Evaluating the Accuracy of the Decennial Census,” published by the Georgetown Center on Poverty and Inequality—discusses how to evaluate “the accuracy of the census—the extent to which published statistics (and the underlying, internal Census Bureau data) align with reality.” Census accuracy “is just one component—albeit an incredibly important one—of the overall quality of the census,” but also encompasses more factors, “such as how timely the publication of census data is and the extent to which census data are available and useful to the broader public.” Since most stakeholders are not statisticians or demographers, the report authors outline “some of the fundamental measures and methods for evaluating census accuracy and their relative strengths and weaknesses.”