2000 CENSUS: Coverage Evaluation Matching Implemented as Planned, but Census Bureau Should Evaluate Lessons Learned
GENERAL ACCOUNTING OFFICE WASHINGTON DC
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Matching A.C.E. and census records was an inherently complex and labor- intensive process that often relied on the judgment of trained staff, and the bureau prepared itself accordingly. For example, the bureau provided extensive training for its clerical matchers, generally provided thorough documentation of the process and criteria to be used in carrying out their work, and developed quality assurance procedures to cover its critical matching operations. As a result, our review identified few significant operational or procedural deviations from what the bureau planned, and the bureau took timely action to address them. Nevertheless, our work identified opportunities for improvement. These opportunities include a lack of written documentation showing how cutoff scores were determined and programming errors in the clerical matching software and software used to print field follow-up forms. Without written documentation, the bureau will be less likely to capture lessons learned on how cutoff scores should be applied, in order to determine the impact on clerical matching productivity. Moreover, the discovery of programming errors so late in the operation raises questions about the development and acquisition processes used for the affected A.C.E. computer systems. In addition, one lapse in procedures may have resulted in incomplete geocoding sections versifying that the person being matched was in the geographic sample area. The collective effect that these deviations may have had on the accuracy of A.C.E. results is unknown. Although the bureau has concluded that A.C.E. matching quality improved compared to 1990, the bureau has reported that error introduced during matching operations remained and contributed to an overstatement of the A.C.E. estimate of census undercounts.
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