GAO No Longer Considers the Decennial Census “High-Risk” But Will Keep an Eye on 2030 Census Planning

The Government Accountability Office (GAO) has removed the decennial census from its list of high-risk federal programs. It had been on the list for a long time. However, GAO will be keeping close watch on preparations for the 2030 Census.

GAO found, “The Census Bureau slowed decades of cost growth while completing the 2020 Decennial Census during a pandemic. However, the continuing undercounts of segments of the population as reported by the Bureau signal that 2030 Census planning should be monitored for emerging risks.”

Costs “escalated with double-digit growth rates in its cost per housing unit from the 1970 through the 2010 Census, after adjusting for inflation. To achieve cost savings, the 2020 Census relied on several innovations. These innovations included re-engineering its field data collection with automated case management. Budget uncertainty caused the Bureau to scale back testing of these innovations in 2017. We are removing the Decennial Census from our High-Risk List because of progress in multiple areas. For example, the Bureau collaborated with independent outside entities for strategies dealing with quality concerns, chartered a high-level governance group, and monitored and demonstrated progress with priority recommendations. We are monitoring the 2030 Census planning—already underway—for emerging risks and challenges. If risks increase or we observe problematic challenges, we will consider moving the Decennial Census back to the High-Risk List.”

GAO plans to monitor various risks in 2030 Census planning, like: “Budgetary uncertainty”; “Inadequate testing”; “Late IT decisions”; and “Declining participation.”

The GAO report also shared a useful life-cycle time frame for the 2030 Census, below.

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