Looking Ahead to 2030

A look at the Census Bureau's newest developments on the next decennial census

Wed 02 August 2023 4 minutes

Believe it or not, it's almost been a year since we published our exploration into the forthcoming 2030 Decenniel Census, and now we bring tidings of the Census Bureau's newest developments on the project.

To play a bit of review, the Census Bureau doesn't just sit around twiddling their thumbs until it's time to collect some information. They instead spend the entire decade - often times, more than a decade - researching, planning, developing, and testing new ways to solve old problems and increase the reliability of data. Even though it's only 2023 now there's still a lot of time to figure things out and the Bureau has just released a great display of where they are at currently.

If you really want to see just how much is on the table in preparing for 2030 you can take a look at the 2030 Census Research Project Explorer, a directory of every task and project within the 2030 Decenniel Census development that is being dealt with. Of the 53 viewable projects, categorized by five "Enhancement Areas", they range from improving data collection to improving operational support in general.

(For a more general overview of what's what with the 2030 project, you can read up on their work here.)

With the Project Explorer available, and its related documentation on hand as well, we want to take a moment to look at just a couple of examples of the kind of problems being taken to task:

First of all, we have EA 1.5: Data Collection - Post-Enumeration Survey (PES). The PES is a process the Bureau undergoes to analyze errors in the census' coverage; It's through this that they're able to pick up on when a count is over or under and why that might be. What's interesting to note are the research topics aligned with this project:

This sort of project is actually a bit more significant than some of the other ones in terms of reimagining how to effectively collect accurate data, especially with the introduction of automation. Much of the subsequent research questions involved in this project focus heavily on the premise of if the current model for the PES is efficient to what the Census Bureau is required to gather and how that might be rectified for the next census count.

From there, you also have the entirety of Enhancement Area 3: Integrate Data Processing with Data Collection in Near Real Time which emphasises in more diverse detail different proposed systems to keep data and have it constantly updated against new data. Enhancement Area 5 is similar: Continuous Data Collection and Aggregation, wherein data is updated on a more longitudinal scale - across the ten years it takes to develop and implement a new decenniel census.

In previous posts we've discussed various challenges that the Census Bureau has had to confront, such as outreach and representation, but a lot of the documentation featured here speaks to the common struggle of collecting more and more data as populations increase with sometimes relatively less and less people to count it. You can read up on the more organizational proposals that the Bureau has in mind with Enhancement Area 4.

Overall, this won't be the last time we receive an inside look at what the crafting of a census looks like and the amount of foresight that goes into this ordeal. What it does give us is a curious, currently unanswerable question of what other challenges the Census Bureau might face in the future - even after 2030 has passed and 2040 is their next target.

Header image sourced with permission from Nugraha Rian.

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