Disclosure Avoidance for the 2020 Decennial Census: Implications for Demographic Research

12-1 pm

PSTC Seminar Room 205, Mencoff Hall

Dave Van Riper, Director of Spatial Analysis, Minnesota Population Center

The US Census Bureau adopted a new disclosure avoidance system to protect the confidentiality of respondents in the 2020 Decennial Census. This new system, based on the concept of differential privacy, injects noise into nearly all published data. While the noise injection may protect confidentiality, it also produces less accurate data, particularly for geographic areas and demographic groups with small populations. It is critical that users of 2020 decennial data are aware of the impacts the disclosure avoidance system has on the quality and accuracy of the data. This presentation describes the current state of the Bureau’s system and analyzes differences between data in the most recent demonstration product, published on March 16, 2022, with comparable counts from the 2010 Decennial Census. Understanding the scale and scope of the differences will be crucial for scientists who use these data. 

David Van Riper is director of spatial analysis at the Minnesota Population Center. He is the co-principal investigator of the National Historical Geographic Information System and leads the Center's differential privacy research group.

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