Census Bureau: “The ultimate statistical agency”

After “a very tough few years,” the Census Bureau is still “the ultimate statistical agency,” according to Tom Temin of the Federal News Network. He recently interviewed former U.S. Chief Statistician Kathy Wallman about the big challenges at the bureau.

Wallman lamented that, “The Census Bureau has been challenged over the last several years by intrusions into its business by policy folks who would prefer to do things like count citizens rather than counting the entire population by policy officials who would prefer to take those who are not citizens out of the account, and so on. And all of those things on top of a non-political pandemic, if you will, they had really caused a lot of trouble for the professional activities and staff of the Census Bureau.”

Temin asked in return that, if you’re doing a full headcount of the population, “isn’t it useful to know who is a citizen and who is not and of those that are not who are here legally, and who are here illegally?” Wouldn’t that better inform policymakers, he asked?

Wallman agreed that such data is important to policymakers and the public, but said that “the Census Bureau is probably not the proper agency to be doing that kind of activity” because it “crosses the line between what is statistical in nature and what uses might be made of the data down the line.” She also worried that it could have “a very chilling effect on the population you’re trying to get to respond,” which could “actually depresses the response from the public and makes the Census Bureau’s job far more difficult.”