Empirical Ethnographic Evaluations on Coverage of Hard-to-Count Race/Ethnic Minorities in Decennial Censuses in the United States
*Laurie Schwede, U.S. Census Bureau
Keywords: Census coverage, 2010 Census, ethnography, race/ethnic minorities, hard-to-count populations, Census Coverage Measurement Survey, census record check, mixed methods
Why do minority undercounts persist over censuses, despite efforts to reduce them? We review past ethnographic coverage studies, then use a 2010 Census ethnographic evaluation to identify possible differences among race/ethnic groups in types and sources of coverage error, who is affected, and why. This controlled-comparison was done in 9 race/ethnic sites—American Indian, Alaska Native, Native Hawaiian, Asian, black, non-Hispanic white, Hispanic, Middle Eastern, and a general site—in personal-visit 2010 Census and Census Coverage Measurement (CCM) operations.In the field, 17 ethnographers observed and taped live interviews, watched for coverage error cues, and debriefed respondents to decide where to count persons. In the record-check, we matched and compared rosters of ethnographer-observed housing units from 1) the standard interview and 2)the debriefing to the 3)final Census and 4)final CCM records to document who to count. We compare types and sources of possible coverage error and characteristics of affected persons and households to see if they differ by race, Hispanic, or household type. We suggest enumeration and coverage improvements and new race/ethnic research.