May 25, 2022

New GAO Report: “Recent Decision to Compress Census Timeframes Poses Additional Risks to an Accurate Count”

From the Government Accountability Office:

The 2020 Decennial Census is underway after pausing operations in response to the COVID-19 national emergency. As the Bureau resumes its operations, it faces a new set of operational and public safety challenges as a result of COVID-19. These delays, the resulting compressed timeframes, implementation of untested procedures, and additional challenges such as COVID-19 could adversely impact downstream operations, escalate census costs and undermine the overall quality of the count. In recent years, GAO has identified challenges to the Bureau’s ability to conduct a cost-effective count of the nation, including new innovations, acquisition and development of IT systems, and other challenges. In 2017, these challenges led GAO to place the 2020 Census on its High-Risk list.


On August 3, the Bureau announced it would accelerate completion of its data collection and data processing operations to deliver the apportionment counts by the statutory deadline of December 31, 2020. To do so, the Bureau announced it would end all data collection operations by September 30, reducing the amount of time the Bureau has to complete its nonresponse follow-up (NRFU) operation. GAO and the Bureau have previously identified late design changes as a risk to a complete and accurate count. As of August 10, the Bureau had received responses from 63.4 percent of households and plans to hire up to approximately 435,000 enumerators to follow-up with the approximately 56.4 million nonresponding households. Areas for Continued Bureau Attention to Help Ensure a Complete and Accurate Census COVID-19 has forced the Bureau to change how it will conduct its operations. As it implements those operations and anticipates completing them within the new compressed timeframes, the Bureau must monitor a number of areas to help ensure a complete and accurate census…

Direct to Full Text Report
25 pages; PDF.

About Gary Price

Gary Price ( is a librarian, writer, consultant, and frequent conference speaker based in the Washington D.C. metro area. Before launching INFOdocket, Price and Shirl Kennedy were the founders and senior editors at ResourceShelf and DocuTicker for 10 years. From 2006-2009 he was Director of Online Information Services at, and is currently a contributing editor at Search Engine Land.