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How Good is 'How Well'? An Examination of the Census English-Speaking Ability Question

Robert Kominski
Component ID: #ti1818557904

Presented at the 1989 Annual Meeting of the American Statistical Association, Washington, D.C., August 6-11, 1989.

Component ID: #ti426472897

Introduction

Over the past few decades, the decennial census has become the servant of an increasingly large number of masters and demands.  Far from the "total count" mechanism that many consider its sole function, the once-a-decade tool has been asked to address and assess numerouns dimensions of the diverse fabric of the U.S. society.  One general focus of interest centers on the many socio-demographic characteristics of the population.  Some items, such as age and sex, are believed to be relatively well-measured by the census, and as such, are established 'constants' of the questionnaire.  Other items such as eduction, while constant in conceptual terms, have been modified over time to reflect emerging needs or changes in the empirical circumstances of the concept.  Part of the challenge of the decennial census is to provide the greatest collective pool of information at the smallest possible burden and cost.

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