Utah v. Evans, 536 U.S. 452, 20 (2002)

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Cite as: 536 U. S. 452 (2002)

Opinion of the Court

It says that the Bureau, if authorized to engage in imputation, might engage in wide-scale substitution of imputation for person-by-person counting. And it says that, in any event, the Bureau's methods for imputing status and occupancy, see supra, at 458, are inaccurate.

In our view, however, House of Representatives is distinguishable. The two instances of Bureau methodology at issue there satisfied the technical criteria for "sampling" in ways that the imputation here at issue does not. In both instances, the Bureau planned at the outset to produce a statistically sound sample from which it extrapolated characteristics of an entire population. In the first instance it did so by selecting census blocks randomly from which to extrapolate global census figures in order to compare (and adjust) the accuracy of figures obtained in traditional ways with figures obtained through statistical sampling. 525 U. S., at 325-326. In the second instance it used a sample drawn from questionnaire nonrespondents in particular census tracts in order to obtain the population figure for the entire tract. The "sampling" in the second instance more closely resembles the present effort to fill in missing data, for the "sample" of nonrespondents was large (about 20% of the tract) compared to the total nonresponding population (about 30% of the entire tract). Id., at 324-325. Nonetheless, we believe that the Bureau's view of the enterprise as sampling, the deliberate decision taken in advance to find an appropriate sample, the sampling methods used to do so, the immediate objective of determining through extrapolation the size of the entire nonresponding population, and the quantitative figures at issue (10% of the tract there; 0.4% here), all taken together, distinguish it—in degree if not in kind—from the imputation here at issue.

Nor are Utah's other two arguments convincing. As to the first, Utah has not claimed that the Bureau has used imputation to manipulate results. It has not explained how census-taking that fills in ultimate blanks through imputa-


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