June 11, 2006
Federal Census 2010 Expected to Cost $11.3 Billion
In a recent hearing before the U.S. Senate subcommittee on Federal Finanical Management, Government Information, and International Security, Committee on Homeland Security and Government Affairs, Brenda Farrell, acting director of strategic issues at GAO said she expects the 2010 census to be the most expensive in our nation's history, even accounting for inflation. The average cost of the census per household will be about $72, compared to a cost of $56/household for the 2000 census.
A significant expense in the past has been the cost involved in following up on what the Census Bureau calls "non-respondents", those people who do not return their census forms and need to be contacted again. Farrell estimated that, had enumerators spent just one more minute at each household of a non-respondent family in the 2000 census it would have added nearly $10 million more to the total cost of the census.
To try and reduce some of these costs the Census Bureau has been testing the use of GPS enabled mobile computer devises (MCD) instead of using paper questionnaires. There have been reliability problems and other issues related to these devices, however. These issues will need to be resolved by the final dress rehearsal for the census, which will take place in 2008. If the MCDs continue to prove problematic the Census Bureau will be forced to go back to the more costly traditional paper methods of follow-up, significantly increasing the costs of this already expensive census.