Director of the Census Bureau on “transformational” changes – and SXSW

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The transformation process is truly a business-level domain. We carry out more than 100 different surveys. And we’re doing that on top of a decennial census, which is a huge effort. We seek, rather than trying to implement them as custom systems, to create a single enterprise that involves bringing data together in a single system. Then, allowing it to generate statistics that are most relevant to the issues we are facing at that time.

So that’s the vision, to have a single system that brings in data, processes it, and exports it so that it provides answers to questions about who we are as a population for portraiture purposes.

This is ultimately a much more efficient operation, so we expect there to be cost savings. There must be an initial investment. But we believe it is the way forward to combine different data sources, including administrative data sources to create data products that are more relevant and timely and hopefully at a lower cost.

You mentioned that the Census Bureau may include external data sources as part of the modernization effort. Proponents argue that many marginalized groups are not represented in other data sources, such as government administrative records and trade data. How do you intend to solve this problem?

Santos: That’s an excellent question. Thank you for asking this question. We could most likely represent an overwhelming majority – perhaps 70, 80, or 90% of the population – with less expensive data collection methods, a combination of a reduced form and some administrative data, or some method yet to be develop.

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