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We are hiring thousands of people for the 2020 Census. Click to learn more and apply.

Take Your Best Shot– (and may the best model win)!

Thu Sep 27 2012
Nancy Bates,
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Senior Researcher for Survey Methodology, Associate Directorate for Research and Methodology

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On August 31, the Census Bureau launched a nationwide prize competition under Section 105 of the America COMPETES Reauthorization Act of 2011, Public Law 111-358 (2011). The contest – dubbed the Census Return Rate Challenge – encourages teams and individuals to compete for prize money for predicting 2010 Census mail return rates. The contest ends on November 1st.

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The challenge is to create a statistical model that accurately predicts 2010 Census mail return rates for small geographic areas (census block groups). Nationwide, 79.3% of households that received a 2010 Census mail form completed it and mailed it back. However, the level of mail  return varied greatly by geography.  The Census Return Rate Challenge asks participants to model these variations using predictive variables found in the updated 2010 Census Planning Database.

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The 2010 Census Planning Database is a block-group level database that assembles a range of geographic, housing, demographic, and census operational data extracted from the 2010 Census and 2006-2010 American Community Surveys.  Participants are provided a sample of the database upon which to build their models.

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The Census Bureau will use the winning models for planning purposes for the decennial census and for demographic sample surveys. Participants are encouraged to develop and evaluate different statistical approaches to proposing the best predictive model for geographic units.

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We hope the competition will generate new ideas on predicting census return rates as well as attract a range of talent and expertise. To help attract this talent, prizes are offered.

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1st place: $14,000 / Visualization $1,000
2nd place: $7,500
3rd place: $2,500

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Rules and Information

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Contest details, rules, and eligibility guidelines are available at

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