RAND Corporation Will Lead Effort to Measure Success of California Census Participation Effort

For Release

October 21, 2019

The RAND Corporation will lead a project to measure the success of California's unprecedented efforts to get the state's residents to participate in the 2020 U.S. Census.

The effort—named the California Neighborhoods Count—will center around creating an inventory of housing units in a selection of neighborhoods that will be targeted by the state's promotional efforts, and then checking with residents in the months following the U.S. Census to determine whether each person was recorded in the federal decennial count.

Workers from RAND and its partners will walk neighborhoods and knock on doors in many areas of the state where participation in the census historically has been low. About 20,000 housing units are expected to be cataloged and surveyed as a part of the study.

“California state government is undertaking its largest-ever effort to support the U.S. Census Bureau in an effort to get a full count of the state's residents,” said Robert Bozick, a RAND demographer who will head the effort. “Our project is intended to help the state determine whether its investment has paid off in a more-accurate count of the state's vast and diverse population.”

California has higher proportions of hard-to-count populations, which can make a complete count more challenging. These populations include large numbers of renters, non-English-speaking residents and a large homeless population. Regions affected include both dense urban neighborhoods and sparsely populated rural areas.

State lawmakers have committed more than $187 million to California Complete Count – Census 2020, a statewide outreach and awareness campaign aimed at ensuring an accurate, complete count of all California residents.

California Complete Count will coordinate and nurture cooperative efforts between tribal organizations, state and local governments, community groups and the U.S. Census Bureau.

The U.S. Census is important because the results are used to apportion seats in the U.S. House of Representatives, guide state legislative redistricting and form the basis for allocating half-a-trillion dollars in federal assistance each year.

The RAND project will be aided by the California Center for Population Research, which is based at UCLA. Both faculty and students at the center will be involved in helping to design and execute the project.

The effort will include visits by project workers to each of the housing units in the targeted areas after the census is finished to ask residents to fill out a separate survey that will include a subset of the questions included on the federal census form, along with questions developed to evaluate the California Complete Count campaign.

In addition to measuring the success of California Complete Count, the RAND project also is intended to help state officials evaluate efforts to improve state demographic estimates by collecting small-area population and housing unit counts.

The project will span 2½ years, including preparation before the U.S. Census occurs, data collecting following the federal count and analysis after new federal Census results become available.

The project is sponsored by the California Department of Finance and the California Government Operations Agency, which oversees California Complete Count.

The project is part of RAND's Social and Economic Well-Being division, which seeks to actively improve the health, social and economic well-being of populations and communities throughout the world.

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