Senator Hagerty Raises Questions About 2020 Census Methods at Appropriations Hearing

A hearing of the Senate CJS Appropriations Subcommittee on May 11, 2022, featuring Secretary of Commerce Gina Raimondo, touched on census concerns, since the Census Bureau falls under the Commerce Department.

Sen. Bill Hagerty (R-TN), after noting that the census is “required by the Constitution,” raised concerns about the “statistical methods and the assumptions that are used to supplement the actual data that’s collected. There are methods like Group Quarters imputation, or differential privacy that are employed. I’m not sure if you’re familiar with these methodologies. … I understand the principles of them, but it seems to me that the employees at the Department of the Census are really the only ones that fully understand and appreciate the assumptions, the models, what goes into them. And they’re the ones that are actually charged with looking at the actual numbers, making adjustments, changing the numbers and coming up with a final report. I just feel the American public, certainly the Congress would be well served to have a little more oversight and more visibility into what those methods are and how they’re being deployed. And I wanted to bring this up to you, if you could be supportive of perhaps putting in place a bipartisan panel that would overlook the way the census is conducted, the methodologies. Again, this should be a nonpartisan issue, I think, for us in a bipartisan panel. It has been done, before strikes me, this may be a way to get some more transparency and oversight in place.

Sec. Raimondo replied that she has “set the tone at the top of the Commerce Department that the Census Bureau should be fact-based, data-based, science-based, statistical-based. And Rob Santos, who you – who is the new Census Head has a strong statistical background. And I believe that – I feel confident that that is the way he is running the Department. Having said that, you know, more transparency is always better.

Hagerty appreciated her response and urged the subcommittee to hold an oversight meeting “soon” about the census.