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