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Continuous Measurement - Harry A. Scarr to Association of Public Data Users (APDU)

Harry A. Scarr
Component ID: #ti1339491596

The speech was presented to the Association of Public Data Users (APDU), October 16, 1994.

Since the idea of continuous measurement began to get serious consideration as a real possibility for providing an alternative source of information for the so-called "long form" items in decennial censuses, there has ensued an intense and fruitful polylog about its cost, effects, nature, desirability, and appropriateness as a major defining element of the statistical community of the United States Federal government. It has also provided an opportunity for the personal dimension of comfort with change to manifest itself in various fora where the notion is discussed. Perhaps that element needs to be addressed right up front: when things change, they are different. And, in the case of continuous measurement, it is no longer a case of Plus ca change, plus c’est la m me chose. We are talking about reengineering, to use current jargon, the way statistics are collected and processed in this country.

For years the Census Bureau has been told to improve the timeliness and quality of its data. The Congress has authorized -- but never funded -- a mid decade census as an expression of its frustration with a lack of timely demographic information between decennial censuses. Leslie Kish offered a rolling census to provide, throughout the decade, contemporaneous data. The late Roger Herriot carried Kish's notions several steps further with a variety of designs for collecting information throughout the decade. And, at the moment, Charles Alexander is working with Larry McGinn and the Census Bureau Continuous Measurement Staff to design a specific program in connection with the 2000 census that would provide those data. Even the Congress, in the person of Representative Tom Sawyer, has urged the statistical system to begin considering tradeoffs to assure more timely information.

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