Technology is replacing a lot of things: landline phones, television armoires, pocket pagers, election paper ballots, and now paper census forms. The U.S. Census Bureau expects to use the Internet — plus smart phones and perhaps some other technologies yet to be invented — for the next decennial census, in 2020. Welcome to iCensus2020!
The primary reason for the change is to save money. The 2010 Census cost taxpayers $96 per household, including the American Community Survey that has now replaced the old long form. The cost of taking the census has more than doubled in two decades, up from $70 per household in 2000 and $39 as recently as 1990. The 2020 Census undoubtedly would cost more if it relied on paper forms.
The savings are potentially huge, said Frank Vitrano, associate director for the 2020 Census. “It reduces the cost of printing, the cost of postage and the cost of data capture off paper forms,” he said. “And we see it as more convenient for the public.” Vitrano said other cost-cutting options also are being studied for the 2020 count.
While the decision to move to online census forms has been made, millions of details have yet to be worked out. Final plans are expected to be completed in 2017 or 2018. While the overwhelming majority of Americans now have access to the Internet, manual methods will still be used for the minority who do not have or do not know how to use Internet-based data collection.
The current version of the Census 2020 Operational Plan may be downloaded from http://goo.gl/0cd8cT.