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November 2017

How Does the Census Use Local Administrative Data?

This is the fifth blog post in an in-depth series exploring the history and future of the US Census. Explore our first post introducing readers to the history of the census and its importance or the first post introducing the census budget. If you’re interested in other subjects related to Census 2020, check out the list of all our blog posts about it at the end of this post.

Being a local data intermediary, D3 was particularly interested in learning how the US Census Bureau utilizes local data sources. The US Census Bureau collects data from several different sources in tandem with the information it gathers through the Census survey itself. This includes other surveys, direct responses, and administrative data from tribal, state, and local governments. Administrative data is data gathered and maintained by government agencies to provide services to the public. The Census Bureau uses this data to reduce survey fatigue for participants and save on costs, but also to inform its research about government initiatives that are separate from the Census. This data can help agencies improve programs and services to better assist the communities they are located in. Combining administrative data with collected data allows the Census Bureau to gain additional insight that it may not have had before with only information from the Census.

What is the Local Update of Census Addresses (LUCA) Operation?

The largest and perhaps most important compilation of local administrative data the Census utilizes is a program created in 1994 called the Local Update of Census Addresses (LUCA). LUCA’s aim is to improve the accuracy and completeness of the Census Bureau’s address list in order to reach every person in every living quarter across the country. LUCA gives local and state governments the ability to add and make corrections to the list of addresses, which is mainly sourced from the US Postal Service.

LUCA is significant because the master address list usually does not include unconventional housing accommodations where low-income and immigrant families sometimes live. Families in these situations often do not receive a Census form at all. (A future blog post in our in-depth series called Measuring Hard to Count Populations” explores the challenges of low response rates to Census Surveys.) These can include trailers, sheds, garages, basements, etc. that are difficult to see or reach by simple door-to-door canvassing. Improving the accuracy of the number of low-visibility housing in a neighborhood can dramatically alter the amount of resources and funding provided to these communities. For a municipality like Detroit, with a relatively large hard-to-count population and a higher frequency of unconventional housing options, LUCA is critical to achieve an accurate census count.

Although confidentiality and protection are explicit priorities for the Census, overall distrust of the government can lead some families to be wary of adding their address to LUCA. Research examining the disproportionate undercount of Mexican immigrants has shown a decrease in involvement in civic interactions due to recent changes in the sociopolitical environment and a rise in anti-immigration messaging from the current administration. Legally, the Census Bureau will never use any information it collects to harm individuals and it will never publish any research or data that could identify a specific person or business. The Census Bureau only supports research conducive to the Census’s mission and cannot share any information with other government agencies. We explored Census data security in depth recently.

LUCA Participants

You can see the updated list of registered 2020 LUCA participants in the form of an interactive map here. Any active government including tribes, townships, and cities are allowed to register and participate in LUCA. Many counties in Michigan are registered LUCA contributors. Wayne County and Detroit are not currently registered to participate in LUCA for the 2020 Census. The deadline to register is December 15, 2017.

If you are interested in reviewing address counts for your neighborhood, Detroit’s address block counts are given here. All other township and city block count files by state can be found at the at first link given below, under the subtitle “How Can I Review the Address Block Counts for My Entity?”

If you would like to learn more about LUCA and how to get your local government involved, check out these resources:


Census 2020 Blog Posts

  1. What is the Census?
  2. U.S. Census Budget Introduction
  3. 2020 Census Budget Challenges
  4. 2020 Cost-Saving Innovations
  5. How Does the Census Use Local Administrative Data?
  6. Data Security and the Census
  7. Redistricting and the Census

The Kresge Foundation and Data Driven Detroit – Hope Starts Here

by Meghin Mather, Operations Coordinator
In the spirit of showcasing the important work we do with our various partners, we at D3 are beginning a series that will highlight these different projects and the impact we accomplish together.

In August of 2016, The Kresge Foundation awarded Data Driven Detroit a grant to support the Hope Starts Here: Early Childhood Partnership in its effort to create a comprehensive vision for the early childhood ecosystem in Detroit.

There were two main focuses of this project:

  1. Hope Starts Here support and leadership
  2. Early childhood data development

Hope Starts Here Support and Leadership

Community-based organizations, parent-leaders, and philanthropic sector representatives met on a regular basis to develop strategies related to child health and wellbeing, early care quality, early childhood teacher talent, systems financing, and early childhood facilities. D3 participated in Hope Starts Here’s Strategy Team meetings and used data and analysis to help inform the strategy teams in their decision-making and recommendations.

The data D3 offered not only identified areas in Detroit demonstrating need, but also helped highlight areas strategy teams might not have initially considered. D3 also assisted in identifying indicators to measure the progress of the strategies, helping the strategy teams understand the right questions to ask and how to ask them. You can read more about Hope Start Here’s engagement plans on its website.

Early Childhood Data Development

In addition to the needs identified in the working group meetings, D3 conducted data acquisition and data development activities to work toward building a more complete and comprehensive early childhood data system. This allowed us to respond to data requests from the strategy teams in real time. For example, D3 cleaned and published aggregated 2014 births data for the entire State of Michigan at various geographic levels. In addition, this data acquisition and development allowed us to head down a path of designing and creating resources that will begin to better serve Detroit’s children, families, and communities. This work built on previous research that D3 conducted related to early childhood education.  You can learn more about D3’s work with early childhood education from an interview that our research analyst, Stephanie Quesnelle, participated in a few months ago.

This work also included developing a portal that showcases all the research and data that has been developed over the past few years in the early childhood development sphere.  The web portal highlights six indicators related to early childhood development from 0-8 years old including mothers’ access to prenatal care and 3rd grade English Language Arts proficiency. The Detroit Collaborative Design Center’s early childhood ecosystem map helps provide an understanding of the scope of services available to support young children.  Users can also explore different datasets, maps, news articles, and blog posts related to early childhood to better understand the landscape.  There is also an opportunity to dig deeper into data through an online mapping tool with a wide variety of information from D3, IFF’s Supply and Demand Analysis, and the U.S. Census Bureau.

Tackling the early childhood space in Detroit is not an easy task, but with The Kresge Foundation’s support, we are able to provide accessible, high-quality information and analysis to drive informed decision making for partners in this sector.

Census 2020 Cost-Saving Innovations

2020 Cost-Saving Innovations

This is the fourth blog post in an in-depth series exploring the history and future of the US Census. Explore our first post introducing readers to the history of the census and its importance or the first post introducing the census budget. If you’re interested in other subjects related to Census 2020, check out the list of all our blog posts about it at the end of this post.

In order to meet the ambitious goal of staying under the cost of the 2010 Census with the many challenges the census presents, the Bureau needs to be innovative as they carry out the census in significant ways. Through reports and design documents a few key innovation strategies have been outlined for Census 2020.


The Census Bureau recently announced a plan to develop and maintain a new central and integrated method for managing the core information technology aspects of all censuses and surveys they conduct. This new integrated IT program became known CEDCaP, and is estimated to offer significant cost savings in the long run.

The Census Bureau carries out nearly 100 different surveys and 3 different censuses, including the constitutionally-mandated Decennial Census. Previously, each one of these surveys had unique data collection and processing systems designed for them to meet the specific needs of the survey. These systems were seldom adaptable and new systems had to be developed for new surveys. Developing hundreds of unique systems places significant costs on the Census Bureau, so they decided to develop a single unified set of systems that could be adapted to all surveys regardless of size or subject. The system has large upfront costs, but estimated savings are significant.

Increased use of Administrative Data

Another significant innovation the Bureau is hoping to employ during the 2020 Census is the increased and more effective use of administrative/third party data. Administrative data is any data that comes from other functions of government outside of the census, whereas third-party data comes from private organizations.  The Bureau hopes to cut unnecessary costs from the 2020 budget by using this data to better isolate which houses people are actually living in, and where people most likely are. They are also planning on using the data to conduct a smarter marketing campaign that allows them to send highly targeted ads to populations that would otherwise be difficult to count (look for a 3-part series on Hard to Count populations on our blog soon).

Increased Automation

There are rapid advancements in technology taking place in automation right now, and the Census Bureau hopes to capitalize on it by increasing the amount of processes that are automated. The effort towards automation is an attempt to minimize the number of manual tasks that are done, leading to a more efficient system with significant cost savings.  A big component of this will be the push towards a mostly digital census where data will be automatically sent to a server and processed. Additionally, the Census Bureau also hopes to significantly reduce the number of offices nationwide because many of the offices’ functions can be automated in at least some capacity such as outreach and service/assistance.

Self-Response Rates  

One of the largest portions of the census budget is dedicated to following up with people who do not self-respond to the questionnaire. This is because the Bureau sends staff to homes where residents did not respond in order to collect the information required. This process can be costly and extremely inefficient if non-responders are not clustered, requiring enumeration staff to travel large distances to gather the information. In 2020, the Census Bureau is hoping to develop new methods that will encourage self-response at much greater rates, potentially reducing costs and encouraging efficiency.

The Census Bureau is hoping to increase response rates with a few techniques including more targeted advertising, increased social media presence, direct emails stating the obligation to fill out the form, and a general increase in awareness. Estimates suggest that targeted use of media advertising could lead to significant cost savings down the road.

Moving Forward

The 2020 Census is less than 3 years away which means the Census Bureau is getting much closer to providing a final plan and cost estimate. It is then crucial that they are able to get all plans in order for the upcoming end-to-end census test in 2018. The end-to-end test, commonly dubbed as the census dress rehearsal, involves a full test of all strategies and systems developed employed as they are intended to be delivered during the actual census. The test is crucial for understanding how the strategies will work and making better estimates of resources required. Hopefully, despite the cutbacks to the tests, the bureau will obtain enough useful information to continue towards an accurate 2020 count of the U.S. population.

When the test is complete we will have a much better idea on how close to budget the 2020 Census will be, and reevaluations can be made. Until that point, all eyes are on the Bureau as they attempt to implement significant innovations and bring down the cost of the census.

Census 2020 Blog Posts

  1. What is the Census?
  2. U.S. Census Budget Introduction
  3. 2020 Census Budget Challenges
  4. 2020 Cost-Saving Innovations
  5. How Does the Census Use Local Administrative Data?
  6. Data Security and the Census
  7. Redistricting and the Census