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Census

The U.S. Census Bureau is a pioneer in survey methodology. It is the agency that introduced scientific sampling methods into large federal surveys. It introduced methods to quantify and control measurement errors in surveys and it introduced the use of computers in large-scale data processing.

True to its pioneering history, the bureau continues to develop methodology, making it an exciting place for statisticians to work.

The variety of problem-solving opportunities at the bureau calls for statisticians who can work on many projects simultaneously, who are creative in their approaches to problems, and who are adaptable. Statisticians often carry out theoretical research on such topics as the following:

  • Time series
  • Estimation
  • Frame comparison
  • Treatment of nonresponse
  • Statistical approaches to maintaining confidentiality of respondent data

Theoretical research may be published in such organs as the Journal of the American Statistical Association, the Journal of Business & Economic Statistics, the Journal of Official Statistics, and Survey Methodology.

The breadth of research opportunities at the U.S. Census Bureau attracts many statisticians from other settings to work under the ASA/NSF/Census Research Program, run by the American Statistical Association and jointly supported by the National Science Foundation.

In addition to the widely known Census of Population, the bureau conducts censuses of the following:

  • Housing
  • Agriculture
  • Manufacturing
  • Business
  • Transportation
  • Governments

There are statistical issues for each of these censuses. Following are some examples:

  • Estimating an undercount
  • Designing public use files with statistical procedures to prevent the inadvertent disclosure of confidential data
  • Designing new ways of displaying data graphically

The U.S. Census Bureau also conducts large-scale surveys that are the basis for important public policy decisions. For example, the monthly employment and unemployment survey is designed and implemented by statisticians at the bureau.

For all the surveys, statisticians do the following:

  • Develop sampling frames
  • Design the sample
  • Develop the most appropriate estimators
  • Decide what to do about nonresponse
  • Analyze data
  • Develop methodology for assessing measurement error
  • Assure the quality of the surveys

Moreover, the bureau works closely with international organizations, giving statisticians the opportunity to analyze and compare data from many nations. This work requires comparing the impact of different methodologies used to produce the data to assess the effect on estimated differences.

The bureau sponsors an annual research conference attended by statisticians from around the world. Bureau statisticians have the opportunity to not only present their work, but also to discuss cutting-edge research with other statisticians.

Altogether, the U.S. Census Bureau provides a stimulating environment for statisticians to work on a variety of surveys that affect the lives of all of us.