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With a price tag of $13 billion, the 2010 census was the costliest in the nation’s history. A report by the Government Accountability Office uncovered problems that might be contributing to the rising cost of the census.

Among its achievements, the U.S. Census Bureau reached a mail response rate of 63 percent, within its expectations, and recruited 3.8 million workers. This year’s census had more reliable data, better monitoring, and increased outreach to non-English speaking people, the GAO said.

But the GAO pointed out that the census was still a printed questionnaire, the same approach used 40 years ago. It mailed 120 million forms, hand-delivered 12 million and went door-to-door with another 46.6 million households that did not return initial responses.

The GAO suggested refining existing census-taking activities, and creating a plan with specific performance goals, milestones, and estimated costs.

“A fundamental reexamination of the nation’s approach to the census will be needed for a more cost—effective enumeration in 2020,” the GAO said.

GAO also said that if the Census Bureau hopes to match its response rate in future decades, it will have to invest more money to address concerns over privacy, a growing number of non-English speakers, and more people living in makeshift or nontraditional living.

FAST FACT: The average cost of conducting a census has doubled every decade since 1970.

Following are other new watchdog reports released by the Government Accountability Office (GAO), various federal Offices of Inspector General (OIG), and other government entities.


  • The Attorney General is investigating whether the Department of Justice and Pentagon can prosecute anyone over the recent leak of diplomatic cables. Leaks of classified information to the press are rarely punished, and First Amendment protections could complicate the effort. The Espionage Act only protects national defense information, while other types of protections are covered elsewhere. (Congressional Research Service)


  • Efforts to reform state-level transportation funding, which amounted to about $46 billion in federal funds, could be hampered by lack of planning. Most states lacked frequent updates, performance targets or other requirements in their transportation plans. (GAO)

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