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Component ID: #ti365853924

All economic census results are subject to nonsampling error. Nonsampling error can be attributed to many sources during the development or execution of the economic census:

  • inability to identify all cases in the actual universe;
  • definition and classification difficulties;
  • differences in the interpretation of questions;
  • errors in recording or coding the data obtained and
  • other errors of collection, response, coverage, processing and estimation for missing or misreported data.

Although nonsampling error is not measured directly, the Census Bureau employs quality control procedures in all phases of the collection, processing, and tabulation of the data to minimize the effects of nonsampling error.

One source of nonsampling error is nonresponse.  It is important to have metrics to measure, monitor, and manage data collection and the level of response achieved by the data collection methods so that the amount of nonresponse is minimized to the extent possible.  One type of response metric is the check-in rate.  The check-in rate is calculated as the ratio of the number of reporting units returning a questionnaire to the number of reporting units mailed a request to complete a questionnaire.  The check-in rate (expressed as a percentage) for the 2017 Economic Census was just over 75%. 

A returned questionnaire includes receipt of an electronic submission authorized by the respondent, receipt of an acceptable response during telephone follow-up, or, under special circumstances, respondent-authorized submission by some other means.

A reporting unit is an entity from which data are collected.  The economic census uses two types of reporting units.  The first is the establishment, which is an economic unit usually at a single, physical location where business is conducted or where services or industrial operations are performed.  The second type of reporting unit employed by respondents to answer the economic census is referred to as an Alternative Reporting Unit (ARU).  ARUs are generally a consolidation of establishments owned by the same company.  ARUs are typically used by firms engaged in networked industries such as finance, insurance, or utilities to facilitate reporting of revenue and expense data.

Selected results from the economic census are also subject to sampling error as well as nonsampling error. Sampling error occurs because data are requested from a sample instead of a complete enumeration of establishments in the population. The sample selected for each sector is one of many probability samples that could have been selected under identical circumstances. Each of the possible samples would yield a different set of estimates. Common measures of the variability among these estimates are the sampling variance, the standard error, and the relative standard error (RSE). A relative standard error is an expression of the standard error as a percent of the quantity being estimated.

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