The Census Bureau is planning to use high tech aerial technology to collect census data for the 2020 census.
Images from remote communities will be used to determine geographies, verify addresses and send workers out to collect information.
Satellites and planes take photos, and bureau employees compare the housing captured in the images to digital maps from the last census, in 2010. It takes a fraction of the time needed by workers in the field.
The agency has used geographic technology since 1990 but has never had access to such accurate tools from the air, said Deirdre Dalpiaz Bishop, head of the bureau’s geography division.
Critics are worried that using traditional methods or using telephones or the internet might disadvantage people who don’t have access to those things.
The new technology to improve the census comes amid concerns that tribal areas and communities of color may be undercounted in the every-10-year tally that determines the amount of federal money states receive and whether they gain or lose U.S. congressional seats.
Several states have large populations that are difficult to accurately count. New Mexico has the highest percentage of Hispanic residents and a large Native American population. Mississippi’s predominantly African-American Bolivar County had a response rate to the last census that was significantly lower than the national rate. In 2010, the census response rate was 76%.
The effort to ensure an accurate census count is fairly extensive and appears to be more efficient than the last census.
Around 100 technicians are able to examine the entire nation with satellite and aerial images while sitting at their computers. They are assigned specific neighborhood blocks and look for growth and decline in the number of residential buildings by comparing images from 2009 to the present.
Two hours of canvassing in the field during the 2010 census now takes less than two minutes in the office, the bureau said.
The census has been the subject of news attention and buzz recently because of a lawsuit filed against the administration for including a question about the respondents’ citizenship status. The Supreme Court is expected to make a ruling on the suit this week.
(Photo by Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images)