Census ponders change in data

The US Census Bureau officials said they may produce less granular data in the next round of information regarding housing and family relationships to protect privacy.


National News

September 24, 2021 - 4:16 PM

Census data has revealed a changing America. (Photo Illustration by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

U.S. Census Bureau officials said Friday that they were pondering whether to produce less granular data in the next round of 2020 census data, dealing with housing and family relationships, in a decision that could upset researchers, city planners and others who rely on neighborhood-level information.

The Census Bureau described the proposal as a trade-off between producing more accurate information while protecting the privacy of participants in the nation’s head count. This year, the Census Bureau introduced a new privacy mechanism into the census data that injects controlled errors into numbers at small geographies, such as neighborhood blocks, so that people can’t be identified.

By limiting some of the next round of 2020 census information to just the level of census tracts, which are made by combining blocks and have on average 4,000 people, the Census Bureau can make the data more accurate because it won’t have to fudge the numbers at smaller levels, Jason Devine, a bureau official, told members of the Census Scientific Advisory Committee during a virtual meeting Friday.

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