Comparing the U.S. Decennial Census Coverage
Estimates for Children from Demographic Analysis
and Coverage Measurement Surveys
William P. O’Hare
J. Gregory Robinson
Received: 28 July 2015 / Accepted: 12 May 2016 / Published online: 24 May 2016
Ó Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2016
Abstract Following every U.S. decennial census since 1960, the U.S. Census
Bureau has evaluated the completeness of coverage using two different methods.
Demographic analysis (DA) compares the census counts to a set of independent
population estimates to infer coverage differences by age, sex, and race. The survey-
based approach (also called dual system estimation or DSE) provides coverage
estimates based on matching data from a post-enumeration survey to census records.
This paper reviews the fundamentals of the two methodological approaches and
then initially examines the results of these two methods for the 2010 decennial
census in terms of consistency and inconsistency for age groups. The authors ﬁnd
that the two methods produce relatively consistent results for all age groups, except
for young children. Consequently, the paper focuses on the results for children.
Results of the 1990, 2000, and 2010 decennial censuses are shown for the overall
population in this age group and by demographic detail (age, race, and Hispanic
origin). Among children, the DA and DSE results are most inconsistent for the
population aged 0–4 and most consistent for ages 10–17. Results also show that DA
and DSE are more consistent for Black than non-Black populations. The authors
discuss possible explanations for the differences in the two methods for young
children and conclude that the DSE approach may underestimate the net undercount
of young children due to correlation bias.
Keywords Census Á Undercount Á Children Á Methodology
& William P. O’Hare
O’Hare Data and Demographic Services LLC, 11 Randolph Avenue, Cape Charles,
VA 23310, USA
U.S. Census Bureau, Washington, DC, USA
Popul Res Policy Rev (2016) 35:685–704