Using existing administrative data can help to accurately benchmark community numbers not only in the year of the census, but also the nine years following. Utilizing this data is not a straightforward task, however, as not every domain shares data with one another automatically, and access to this data varies tremendously state-to-state. “How do you incentivize this data sharing, and who gets to be the data holder, is an important question,” O’Hara said.
Looking forward, once local and state governments slow down from focusing on pandemic economic recovery, O’Hara sees that an expanded focus on administrative data sharing can make a substantial difference. “My goal for the 2030 census will be to have a census that uses administrative data more intensively than 2020 did, and to make sure that we focus on hard-to-count communities that may not be present in administrative data,” she said. “The way to do that is to do a lot of research during this decade.”