U.S. Census Bureau: Addressing Data Collection Vulnerabilities

Published: Sep 18, 2014

Among the report’s findings:

         The Census Bureau’s lack of recordkeeping and deficient data collection system fostered an environment in which data falsification could occur.

         The suspected falsification procedures are inconsistent from region to region and from case to case. The system relies on paper-based forms, making it vulnerable to error and deliberate circumvention.

         Data quality assurance efforts are fundamentally flawed. Regional offices are responsible for both data collection and quality control, which often have conflicting objectives.

         Philadelphia Regional Office supervisors regularly emphasized the importance of obtaining survey response rates, with little to no mention of data integrity. Employees experienced significant pressure to achieve and improve their response rates by any means possible. Pressure to meet these requirements stemmed from both the Regional Office and Census National Headquarters.

         The current mechanisms for data quality control are insufficient and could serve to discourage individuals from identifying and reporting suspected falsification.

         The primary data quality assurance check—reinterview—remains in the original interviewer’s chain of command, effectively diminishing the objectivity of the process.

         There are no clear guidelines available to all Census employees for straightforward reporting of suspected falsification.

         There is no single master record of a case. The case-tracking systems make it difficult—sometimes impossible—to determine the full history and corresponding chain of custody of a particular case.

You can read the report released today here.