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Susan Smith
Susan Smith
Susan Smith has worked as an editor and writer in the technology industry for over 16 years. As an editor she has been responsible for the launch of a number of technology trade publications, both in print and online. Currently, Susan is the Editor of GISCafe and AECCafe, as well as those sites’ … More »

Complete and Accurate U.S. Census is the Goal for 2020

September 20th, 2018 by Susan Smith

While it’s still early for most of us to be thinking about the 2020 Census, it is not too early for the U.S. Census and most technology providers of Census software to be considering how to prepare.

Michael Ratcliffe, Asst. Division Chief, Geographic Standards, Criteria, Research, and Quality, Geography Division, US Census Bureau, spoke with GISCafe Voice about what the 2020 Census requires, and the Local Update of Census Addresses (LUCA).

With regard to the 2020 Census, an accurate address file for each state is essential, otherwise each state could lose millions of dollars in federal funding. It can also affect state budget obviously, and number of seats in Congress (determined by count).

What are ways the Census can ensure everyone gets counted in 2020?

  • Our goal is a complete and accurate census.
  • An accurate count helps determine how the nation allocates tax dollars to pay for services used by the entire local population — citizens and noncitizens alike and accurate data are crucial for determining how many congressional seats each state gets.
  • We need communities to help us spread the word that all census responses are confidential and we will continue working with trusted voices in local communities to encourage people to participate.

What are any new requirements for the 2020 LUCA program for identifying individuals and how do they contrast with past requirements?

Will townships, tribes, cities and counties submit their Census figures to the state or submit them independently?

  • The Census is self-response only. Census numbers are not compiled by any organization other than the Census Bureau. Residents should provide their 2020 Census responses to the Census Bureau only.

Will citizenship status be included in this collection?

How is the Census collected?

  • Individuals and heads of household respond to 2020 Census questions either online, by phone or through paper questionnaire.

Do you employ geospatial located based technologies for address validation and mail metering, for accurate geocoding?

  • The Census Bureau has multiple processes to update and validate the address frame for the 2020 Census prior to Census Day:
  • Biannual processing of the US Postal Service’s Delivery Sequence File (DSF). The DSF is the Census Bureau’s primary source for address updates, having added 4.8 million new residential addresses to the Master Address File (MAF) since 2010. An additional 2.2 million residential addresses that were new to the DSF matched addresses already in the MAF from other sources.
  • Tribal, state, and local government address lists and roads files provided through the Geographic Support System (GSS) Program. Between 2012 and 2018, the GSS Program acquired 94.6 million addresses for use in updating the MAF. Of these, 94.1 million (99.5 percent) matched addresses that were already in the MAF. The GSS Program also has acquired information that corrected the geographic locations for 2 million addresses.
  • Ungeocoded Resolution Project, in which Census Bureau staff research and identify the census block to which an address should be assigned when the automated geocoding process is unable to make the determination. Since the project began in 2017, nearly 800,000 addresses (75 percent of addresses reviewed) have been geocoded to census blocks.
  • Local Update of Census Addresses (LUCA) Program and the LUCA Appeals process (provides an opportunity for tribal, state, and local governments to review and update the Census Bureau’s address list for their respective jurisdictions).
  • New Construction Program (available to local governments to provide addresses for housing units built after LUCA and ready for occupancy by Census Day).
  • Count Review (conducted in collaboration with state demographer members of the Federal-State Cooperative for Population Estimates (FSCPE) provides an additional opportunity to review counts of housing units prior to the 2020 Census and update as necessary).
  • Each of these programs and processes serves to validate addresses in the MAF, correct address locations, and provide addresses that may not be included in any of the other address datasets. Taken together, along with In-Office Address Canvassing (IOAC) and In-Field Address Canvassing (IFAC), this suite of programs and processes provides multiple opportunities for the Census Bureau to develop an accurate address list.
  • In-Office Address Canvassing utilizes imagery in conjunction with data in the MAF to determine whether individual census blocks are “passive” (that is, the number of housing units visible in current imagery match the number of addresses in the MAF) or “active” (that is, comparison of imagery to the MAF detected undercoverage or overcoverage in the MAF). Census blocks for which the IOAC reviewer could not make a determination (generally due to cloud cover in imagery) are place “on-hold.” The Census Bureau began IOAC in September 2015 and completed initial review of all 11.1 million census blocks in June 2017. The Census Bureau’s “triggering” process (which began in June 2017 after completion of the initial review) identifies census blocks with changes in the inventory of addresses due to processing of the DSF or other address sources and sends those blocks to IOAC Interactive Review (IR) for a new review, which can result in the following:
  • A passive block remains passive (i.e., the MAF has kept up with change on the ground);
  • An active block becomes passive (i.e., updates to the MAF have resolved the coverage issue detected in the previous IOAC review);
  • A passive block becomes active (i.e., updates to the MAF did not account for all of the change detected in imagery); and
  • Clearer imagery allows for determination of passive or active status for an on-hold block.
  • As part of the Address Canvassing operation for the 2010 Census, canvassers collected latitude and longitude coordinates for nearly every housing unit in the United States. These geospatial data have provided a valuable base of information for geocoding addresses to the correct geographic units. In addition, these address coordinates are used to create address ranges along roads, which also are used for geocoding purposes. The Census Bureau has continued to acquire and update coordinate locations for addresses, primarily through the GSS Program. At this time, 92 percent of all addresses in the MAF have an associated latitude and longitude coordinate. Canvassers during the In-Field Address Canvassing operation in 2019 will collect and confirm coordinates as part of their address validation and update work.

How can residents participate digitally in the upcoming Census?

  • We want EVERYONE to respond, regardless of citizenship or immigration status. The Census Bureau does not collect information on immigration status and will not share individual census responses to any other organization.
  • Residents can respond online. Information on how to respond will be made available closer to Census Day – April 1, 2020. Responding to the 2020 Census will be easy for everyone to participate in. For the first time, you can choose to respond online, by phone, by mail or when a census taker arrives at your door.  Participating in the 2020 Census is easy, important and safe, and should take less than 10 minutes to complete.
  • Most people will receive a letter inviting them to go online and complete your census form. Residents shouldn’t worry if they don’t have internet access — they can respond by phone or paper, too.
    • If the area has low internet access, we’ll mail a form in March at the beginning of the census.
    • If the area has non-city-style addresses, such as rural route numbers, we’ll deliver a form to the door in person. There are about 12 million addresses like this across the country.
    • If the area is more remote, we’ll send a census taker to take the response in person. There are about 500,000 addresses like this across the country.
  • Anyone can call our toll-free number and respond by phone.
  • We’ll provide the online questionnaire in 12 non-English languages. We’ll also make help available by phone in those same languages.
    • The 12 non-English languages are Spanish, Chinese, Vietnamese, Korean, Russian, Arabic, Tagalog, Polish, French, Haitian Creole, Portuguese and Japanese. (The online questionnaire will be available in simplified Chinese; the over-the-phone help will be available in Mandarin and Cantonese.)
  • When it’s time for the census, it’s important for people respond as soon as you can. We won’t need to keep trying to reach you, and you’ll help save taxpayer dollars.
  • The Census Bureau will send reminders to addresses that don’t respond. The sooner people respond, the fewer reminders we’ll need to send, and the fewer taxpayer dollars we’ll need to spend to get a complete count.
    • It’s much more expensive to send a census taker to someone’s door to interview you in person than it is for them to respond on their own.


Some sites providing GIS Census data:


Esri Data


Duke University GIS Census Data

U.S. Census TIGER Map Data

Pitney Bowes Support

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Categories: analytics, Big Data, cloud, disaster relief, emergency response, Esri, field GIS, geospatial, GIS, government, handhelds, LBS, location based services, location intelligence, mobile, mobile mapping, U.S. Census

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