How much do we count? Interpretation and error-making in the decennial census

Roberta Rehner Iversen, Frank F. Furstenberg, Alisa A. Belzer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

12 Scopus citations


Following a critique of the 1990 decennial census procedures, we conducted afield study among low-income, inner-city residents in 1991 to examine how they conceptualized and managed the civic task of census response. Interpretations about the purpose and meaning of the census, about commitment to the task, and about connection to government, singly and together with literacy skills (e.g., reading and general literacy competence), were associated with errors that are not detectable by evaluative methodologies used regularly by the Census Bureau. The validity and reliability of census data, and possibly other self-administered survey research, will be increased by greater use of knowledge about both interpretation and literacy skills in formulating data collection procedures.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)121-134
Number of pages14
Issue number1
StatePublished - Feb 1999
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Demography

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