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New Directions in the Development of Population Estimates in the United States?


The advent of a continuously updated Master Area File (MAF) following the 2000 census represents an information resource that can be tapped for purposes of developing timely, cost-effective, and precise population estimates for even the smallest of geographical units (e.g., census blocks). We argue that the MAF can be enhanced (EMAF) for these purposes. In support of our argument we describe a set of activities needed to develop EMAF, each of which is well within the current capabilities of the U.S. Census Bureau and discuss various costs and benefits of each. We also describe how EMAF would provide population estimates containing a wide range of demographic (e.g., age, race, and sex) and socio-economic characteristics (e.g., educational attainment, income, and employment). As such, it could largely negate and eliminate the need for many of the traditional demographic methods of population estimation and possibly reduce the number of sample surveys. We identify important challenges that must be surmounted in order to realize EMAF and make suggestions for doing so. We conclude by noting that the idea of the EMAF could be of interest to other countries with MAF files and strong administrative records systems that, like the United States, are facing the challenge of producing good population information in the face of increasing census costs.

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