McCourt School of Public Policy
Massive Data Institute

Tools and Publications about the 2020 Census

Every ten years, the Census of Population and Housing collects information from every household and resident in the United States. It is a mandatory data collection that drives our democratic process and the annual distribution of more than $1.5 trillion in federal funds.  MDI has been monitoring the plans, operations, and products of the Decennial Census Program.  We have produced briefs, tools, and training materials to support data users and influence future programs and products.

Balancing Utility Versus Privacy in the 2020 Census: Sentiments from Data Users is a working paper written by Joseph Scariano and Izzy Youngs from MDI. MDI conducted a series of one-on-one semi-structured interviews with 33 participants across government, research institutions, and community organizations to collect data users’ opinions on the new privacy safeguards implemented by the US Census Bureau for the 2020 Census. This paper outlines MDI’s findings and offers a series of recommendations to federal statistical agencies. 

Census County Assessment Tool (CCAT) MDI partnered with the Urban Institute to develop a web-based interactive tool to determine how different the 2020 Census results are relative to the Census Bureau’s 2020 population estimates. This tool helps researchers and policy officials better understand statistics about their community, especially given the historic challenges surrounding the 2020 Census, including changes to the Census Bureau’s disclosure avoidance system to protect respondent’s privacy.

Population-Calibrated Disclosure Plan MDI developed a data dissemination strategy for the 2020  Demographic and Household Characteristics (DHC) file to maximize usable details about our communities, while minimizing privacy risks from releasing too much information in small areas.  The model proposes a graduated scale of data aggregation that releases grouped data for areas with the lowest population and detailed data for those with the largest populations.  Check out our infographic (forthcoming) about the approach to see how it works for age, race, ethnicity, tenure, and more. 

Census Geographies Project MDI has developed resources using 2020 Census data to educate researchers and Census Bureau officials on the importance of political geographies. The Census Bureau develops its products primarily with statistical geographies in mind – census blocks, block groups, and tracts – yet Congressional districts, state legislative districts, city council districts, county supervisorial districts, school board districts, and special districts are often the most important units of geography for many census uses. Our project argues for increasing the accuracy of these important political geographies.

Workshops and Briefings MDI has coordinated and participated in several workshops, seminars, and trainings discussing the impact of disclosure avoidance system changes on Census data products. 

The staff at the Massive Data Institute periodically publishes blog posts on MDI’s Medium (new window) site about administrative data, data linkage, and our projects. Check out these blog posts to learn more about our work.