A new report from Florida TaxWatch looks at the significance of census and American Community Survey (ACS) data to the people of Florida.
The report contends that, “Florida’s taxpayers will likely receive less than their fair share of services and supports over the coming years, relative to residents in other states,” thanks to imperfect census and ACS data.
“Even though the next decennial Census is eight years away, the preparation to accomplish an accurate count in 2030 begins today. The state of Florida has a prime opportunity to learn from the challenges presented in the 2020 Census and take proactive steps to raise awareness, engage business and community leaders, and mobilize data-driven strategies. In addition to pursuing decennial Census success, the state must take steps to ensure more immediate ACS success, conveying the importance of intermediate data releases for understanding more nuanced population characteristics and catalyzing positive community outcomes.”
On July 25, U.S. Senator Gary Peters (D-MI), Chairman of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, convened a field hearing, “Reviewing the 2022 Census: Local Perspectives in Michigan.” The purpose of the hearing was to examine the impact of the 2020 Census on local communities and, more specifically, to discuss a challenge that the City of Detroit has filed with the U.S. Census Bureau regarding its enumeration.
The witnesses were:
The Honorable Michael E. Duggan, Mayor, City of Detroit
Jeffrey Morenoff, Professor of Public Policy and Sociology, University of Michigan
N. Charles Anderson, President and CEO, Urban League of Detroit and Southeastern Michigan Jane Garcia, Vice Chair, Latin Americans for Social and Economic Development
Maha Freij, President and CEO, Arab Community Center for Economic and Social Services
Kelley Kuhn, President and CEO, Michigan Nonprofit Association
Mary Jo Hoeksema, The Census Project Co-Director and Director of Government and Public Affairs, Population Association of America/Association of Population Centers, did a blog on the hearing focusing on the testimony that her colleague, Dr. Jeffrey Morenoff, delivered.
While the Senate will not move appropriations legislation through normal order for Fiscal Year (FY) 2023, the Senate Appropriations Committee just released its proposed legislation and committee reports for each funding bill, including the Commerce Justice Science (CJS) Appropriations legislation that fund the Census Bureau.
The Senate CJS bill would provide $1.485 billion for the Bureau (including $330 million for Current Surveys and Programs and $1.115 million for Periodic Census and Programs), which is:
The bill provides $3.556 million within the Census Bureau’s funding line to support the Commerce Department’s Office of the Inspector General “for activities associated with carrying out investigations and audits” of the Census Bureau.
Budget account reorganization: The committee again rejected the Bureau’s “proposal to merge Census’s Current Surveys and Programs account with the Periodic Censuses and Programs account to create a new Censuses and Survey account.”
High Frequency Data Program: The committee provided “no less than the fiscal year 2022 enacted level for the High Frequency Data Program.”
Population Estimate Challenge Program: Recognizing “that pandemic-related disruptions to 2020 Census operations may have resulted in significant undercounts in some localities” and since “census counts are the basis for annual population estimates that are used to distribute Federal funding resources through funding formulas, those estimates should be as accurate as possible,” the committee urged the Bureau, in “conducting the Population Estimates Challenge Program,” to “consider more flexible methodologies and broader use of administrative data to ensure that general-purpose governmental units have meaningful opportunities to present data to dispute the accuracy of the estimates.”
Census Data Products: The committee report “encourages the Census Bureau to work closely with its advisory committees, stakeholders representing public interests, and the data user community to ensure the availability of useful data products, especially for population groups in rural and remote areas, while protecting the confidentiality of personal Census data.”
Disclosure Avoidance: The committee said that the Census Bureau “should continue to consult regularly with data users on disclosure avoidance methods under consideration for all 2020 Census data products, as well as for other Bureau data programs, including the American Community Survey [ACS].”
Cybersecurity and Disinformation: “The Committee directs the Census Bureau to coordinate with the Department of Homeland Security, and other relevant agencies, to prepare for, prevent, and disrupt cyber intrusions and disinformation campaigns that have the potential to impact survey participation or compromise data collected by the Census Bureau. The Bureau should also coordinate with State and local stakeholders and private industry, as appropriate.”
Utilizing Libraries and Community Partners for Census Surveys: “The Committee encourages the Census Bureau to continue its partnership with public libraries and other community technology centers to maximize the response to the ACS and other surveys and assessments as appropriate. The Bureau is encouraged to work with libraries and library organizations, in coordination with the Institute of Museum and Library Services, regarding training for library staff and webinars or conference presentations to library audiences about Census surveys and assessments.”
American Community Survey: The committee report “supports the ACS and directs the Bureau to continue using the ACS as a testbed for innovative survey and data processing techniques that can be used across the Bureau. The Committee notes that the ACS is often the primary or only source of data available to State, local, and Federal agencies that need adequate information on a wide range of topics. These data are especially important to small towns and rural areas across the country, and the Bureau should ensure that rural areas are covered with the same accuracy as urban areas to the maximum extent practicable. The Committee further expects the Bureau to evaluate the current questions to ensure that this survey captures not only the required statutory data needed to be collected, but also captures data that reflects the complex nature of the Nation’s population. To the greatest extent practicable, the ACS should reduce the number of questions included in the survey and ensure steps are being taken to conduct the ACS as efficiently and unobtrusively as possible.”
Race and Ethnicity Data Accuracy: “The Committee continues to be interested in ensuring the publication of accurate data on race and ethnicity across surveys. The Bureau should work with the Office of Management and Budget to facilitate appropriate, scientifically-guided revisions to those standards that will allow the Bureau to modernize its collection of race and ethnicity data based on research and testing results, as soon as practicable. The Bureau is directed to provide a report to the Committee, no later than 180 days after enactment of this act, on its plan for implementing updated race and ethnicity questions for… its surveys, including the ACS and the 2030 Census, and on whether the Bureau believes that additional testing is necessary.”
Ask U.S. Panel Survey: “The Committee is concerned about the lack of transparency related to the Census Bureau’s plans for implementation of the Ask U.S. Panel Survey, particularly given the lack of congressional authorization and the expanding scope of the project since it was initially announced. The Bureau is directed to provide a report to the Committee, no later than 60 days following enactment of this act, on the Ask U.S. Panel Survey’s methodology, data collection processes, implementation, incurred and projected costs, and procurement strategy.”
House appropriators want to bring the CJS bill to the floor of the House in August or September, but a larger omnibus funding bill is the most likely outcome, post-election.
The House Oversight & Reform Committee passed the Ensuring a Fair and Accurate Census Act (H.R. 8326) on July 20, 2022 by a 25 – 17 vote. The legislation aims to “enhance the independence and transparency of the Census Bureau” and “safeguard [it] from undue influence from political parties.”
The bill’s sponsor, Committee Chair Carolyn Maloney (D-NY-12), described the bill as a response to a memo released that same day about the investigation into the Trump Administration’s attempt to add a citizenship question to the 2020 Census. As the memo concluded, the committee’s investigation “exposed how a group of political appointees sought to use the census to advance an ideological agenda and potentially exclude non-citizens from the apportionment count. Despite experts, statisticians, and stakeholders warning of the threats that a citizenship question could pose to the census, Trump Administration officials pressed forward until the Supreme Court ruled their effort was illegal.”
By contrast, Committee Ranking Member James Comer (R-KY-01) contended that the Act would “make it easier for the Census Bureau to conduct an unfair and inaccurate census” by “eliminating nearly all accountability for the Census Bureau” and reducing the Bureau’s flexibility to adapt in future censuses. Rep. Andy Biggs (R-AZ-05) also criticized the bill, saying that it “more completely delegates Census Bureau responsibility to bureaucracy” instead of Congress. Rep. Jody Hice (R-GA-10) concurred, worrying that the bill would make the census director “unremovable.” He said that, “when the federal bureaucracy is unaccountable, that is when it most threatens to undertake rogue activity… precisely what we are looking at right now as it relates to the census.”
The bill avoids making the Census Bureau an independent agency, something that Chair Maloney told NPR that she knows “both Republican and Democratic administrations” have opposed, but she noted that it provides “strict guidelines, rules, regulations” while keeping the bureau within the Department of Commerce.
Rep. Hice that would have deleted the bill’s provisions on causes for removing the director, the director’s duties, the reporting structure, the advisory committees, the requirement that only the director could make changes to the decennial census, and replacement of the director; and
Rep. Biggs that would have added a citizenship question to the 2030 Census and every decennial thereafter, as well as changed apportionment to include only citizens.
Much of the debate dealt with arguments over the legality of the citizenship question, interpretations of the Supreme Court case that rejected the citizenship question, the legality of whether to count non-citizens.
Census budget provisions of H.R. 8326
The bill would require the Commerce Secretary to include in the Department’s budget request “the estimated costs of carrying out the duties of the Bureau during the five-year period beginning on the fiscal year covered by such request,” starting in Fiscal Year (FY) 2027, “and each fiscal year thereafter.” Those estimates would also need to be delivered to relevant Congressional committees.
When the President submits the Administration’s budget proposal in the final five years of a decennial census cycle, the director of the Census Bureau would be required to “transmit a report describing any changes to the applicable lifecycle estimate”, including:
(A) “The basis for any such changes.”
(B) “Projected impacts on response rates, staffing requirements, or costs throughout the lifecycle.”
(C) “An explanation of any differences in budgetary resources between the amount requested in the President’s annual budget request and the lifecycle cost estimate, as updated by this paragraph.”
Census personnel and leadership
The Census Bureau Director would be allowed to be removed “only for inefficiency, neglect of duty, or malfeasance in office.”
The director would be specifically tasked with performing “such duties as may be imposed upon the Director by law, regulations, or orders of” the Commerce Secretary and would “report directly to the Deputy Secretary of Commerce.”
Per the Act, any “operational, statistical, or technical decision for any decennial census of population” could only be made by the director.
H.R. 8326 would allow for a single deputy director, appointed by the director to a “career reserved position” and “selected from among any career appointee… at any agency.” The deputy would be required to “possess knowledge of, or experience in, the work of the Bureau, and possess experience in relevant fields, including demography, economics, survey methodology, statistics, or data science.”
The deputy would “perform such functions as the Director shall designate” and serve as acting director of the Bureau in case of “any absence or disability” of the director. “In the event of a vacancy in the office of Director, or when the Director is absent or unable to serve,” the deputy would only “act as Director until a Director is appointed.” Should no individual serving as deputy be available, “the highest level career employee of the Bureau” would instead serve as acting director “until a Deputy Director or Director is appointed.”
H.R. 8326 would also cap the Census Bureau at no more than 3 political appointees, including the director – everyone else would need to be career.
The Act would codify the existing Census Scientific Advisory Committee and the National Advisory Committee on Racial, Ethnic, and Other Populations. The bill would also establish a new 2030 Census Advisory Committee “substantially similar to the 2010 Census Advisory Committee, consisting of up to 20 member organizations to address policy, research, and technical issues related to the design and implementation of the 2030 decennial census and the American Community Survey” and a new Committee on Statistical Quality Standards, “composed of five members to review and provide recommendations on the statistical quality standards of the Bureau that guide the production and release of all Bureau decennial census products.”
Adding questions to the census
Current law, 13 U.S. Code § 141(f), requires the Commerce Secretary, for each decennial and mid-decade census, to submit to the relevant Congressional committees:
(1) “not later than 3 years before the appropriate census date, a report containing the Secretary’s determination of the subjects proposed to be included, and the types of information to be compiled, in such census”;
(2) “not later than 2 years before the appropriate census date, a report containing the Secretary’s determination of the questions proposed to be included in such census”; and
(3) “after submission of a report under paragraph (1) or (2) of this subsection and before the appropriate census date, if the Secretary finds new circumstances exist which necessitate that the subjects, types of information, or questions contained in reports so submitted be modified, a report containing the Secretary’s determination of the subjects, types of information, or questions as proposed to be modified.”
Starting with the 2030 Census, the Ensuring a Fair and Accurate Census Act would prohibit the inclusion of “any subject, type of information, or question that was not submitted to Congress in accordance with” that subsection.
The bill would require biennial reports to congress (also posted on the Bureau website), “no later than April 1 of the calendar year beginning after the date of enactment” that:
(i) “describes each component of the operational plan for the subsequent decennial census of population”; and
(ii) “includes a detailed statement on the status of all research, testing, and operations that are part of the Bureau’s com4 prehensive plan for the decennial census.”
Along with the reports, the Commerce Secretary would need to deliver “a certification stating that any question that has not appeared on the previous two decennial censuses has been researched, studied, and tested according to established statistical policies and procedures.”
Within six months of the Secretary’s certification, GAO would need to review it and “and submit a report to Congress on whether the questions to be included in the census have been researched, studied, and tested according to established statistical policies and procedures.”
The House could consider the Ensuring a Fair and Accurate Census Act (H.R. 8326) on the floor before the end of the year. There is no Senate companion.
NCSL and the Census Bureau’s Redistricting and Voting Rights Data Office will host a discussion with census data users and others about the 2030 Redistricting Data Program. The conversation will focus on projects that make up the program and its proposed schedule. Likely topics may include prisoner enumeration, a possible single race and ethnicity question, and a possible Middle Eastern or North African race category. Mostly, though, the bureau wants to hear what’s on the minds of data users.
This free event is open to everyone and will be held on Thursday, August 4, 2022 (9-11 a.m. MT), following NCSL’s Legislative Summit, at the Colorado Convention Center (Room 104).
Standard Deviations blog posts represent the views of the author/organization, but not necessarily those of the Census Project.
The U.S. House of Representatives passed the LGBTQI+ Data Inclusion Act (H.R. 4176) with bipartisan support on a 220 – 201 vote on June 23, 2022. This landmark legislation would require the collection of voluntary, self-disclosed demographic data on sexual orientation, gender identity, and variations in sex characteristics (SOGISC) across federal surveys, while maintaining necessary confidentiality and privacy standards that govern federal statistics.
An overall lack of routine data collection on SOGISC poses a significant barrier for researchers, policymakers, advocates, and other stakeholders seeking to understand and address the challenges that LGBTQI+ communities face, including discrimination and resulting inequities. Although some progress has been made in recent years, currently only a limited number of federally-supported surveys collect data on sexual orientation and gender identity, and none include questions that can identify intersex populations. This results in significant gaps. For example, surveys like the American Community Survey, Current Population Survey, and decennial census permit respondents to identify that they are part of a cohabitating same-sex couple. However, by not including specific questions about SOGISC, these surveys do not account for single LGB people or LGB people who are in a relationship but not residing with their partner, while ignoring transgender and intersex people altogether. In fact, it is estimated that only approximately 1 in 6 LGBT adults can be identified from the nonexperimental U.S. Census Bureau data collected today. Eliminating these blind spots is essential to more effectively measure and meaningfully advance equity for LGBTQI+ communities.
Data from the decennial census, American Community Survey (ACS), and many other federally supported surveys are used to develop governmentwide policy, program, and funding priorities that affect areas of everyday life such as health care, housing, employment, education, public services, and more. For example, decennial census and ACS data are used to determine how more than $1.5 trillion in federal government resources are distributed annually; the communities where schools, public transit, hospitals, and community health centers are built; the allocation of political representation across multiple levels of government; and apportionment of congressional seats among the states. In addition to collecting critical information about the social, economic, housing, and demographic characteristics of households across the country, ACS data are also used to enforce employment nondiscrimination laws, which are of particular importance for LGBTQI+ communities that have historically and continue to experience discrimination with respect to employment.
LGBTQI+ communities deserve to be counted and represented in these and other federally-supported surveys so that their experiences and needs can be better reflected in government policies, programs, and appropriations. This is especially important because the federal government is uniquely positioned to collect data at a scale that allows researchers to analyze the diversity of experiences of different groups of LGBTQI+ communities. For example, this includes transgender people, LGBTQI+ people with disabilities, LGBTQI+ people of color, and other LGBTQI+ people who are members of other marginalized communities and experience heightened inequities. Expanding and enhancing federal data collection to gather more accurate, consistent, and representative data about LGBTQI+ people is crucial to better identify and address longstanding disparities and to design policy solutions that promote more equitable outcomes and close existing gaps.
Since the LGBTQI+ Data Inclusion Act was introduced over a year ago, multiple notable changes were made throughout the legislative process to strengthen this bill. First, the scope of the bill was expanded to ensure that people with variations in their sex characteristics, also known as intersex traits, will be seen and counted in federal surveys. Second, the option of a waiver was added for case-by-case use when statistical officials determine that particular confidentiality and privacy standards cannot be met. Finally, a technical change was made to clarify that the legislation does not interfere with the mandatory nature of filling out the decennial census and ACS. Ultimately, the legislation received broad support from members of Congress, LGBTQI+ advocacy organizations, science, technology, engineering, and mathematics organizations, and a supportive Statement of Administration Policy from the White House.
Enacting the LGBTQI+ Data Inclusion Act would meaningfully advance equitable data collection for LGBTQI+ communities, and bipartisan House passage of the bill marks important progress. The Senate should follow the lead of the House and take decisive action to pass the LGBTQI+ Data Inclusion Act.
Caroline Medina is a senior policy analyst for the LGBTQI+ Research and Communications Project at the Center for American Progress.
The House Appropriations Committee approved the Commerce Justice Science (CJS) Appropriations Fiscal Year 2023 legislation on June 28, 2022 by a 31-24 vote, following the prior week’s approval of the bill in the House CJS Subcommittee.
The committee report outlines a variety of priorities of interest to Census Project stakeholders, including:
Appropriators rejected the Census Bureau’s proposed revision of their account structures: “The recommendation does not assume the new appropriation account structure proposed by the Administration.”
Appropriators are eager for details on updating race and ethnicity questions, with a new Middle Eastern and North African (MENA) ethnicity category and the integration of Hispanic origin into the race question: “The Committee looks forward to receiving the report directed in House Report 117–97 under the heading ‘‘Modernizing the collection and publication of race and ethnicity data’’ and continues to urge the Census Bureau to continue its work with the Office of Management and Budget to facilitate appropriate, scientifically-guided revisions to those standards that will allow the Bureau to modernize its collection of race and ethnicity data, including the addition of a Middle Eastern and North African (MENA) ethnicity category and a combined race and Hispanic origin question, as soon as practicable.”
Appropriators provide significant direction to the Census Bureau on the High Frequency Data Program (the pulse surveys), directing “no less than the fiscal year 2022 enacted level” and encouraging the Census Bureau “to include frequent and timely measures of poverty and material hardship, including measures focused on child poverty and children and family wellbeing, as part of the continued expansion of the program,” as well as considering “measures of children and family wellbeing related to housing and food insecurity; access to child care and transportation; ability to balance work, educational, and caregiving responsibilities; ability to pay household expenses; family savings and debt; and ability to afford educational and extracurricular activities for children. Where appropriate, the Committee encourages the Bureau to include a breakdown of data by race and ethnicity, including for Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) racial and ethnic subgroups and for American Indians and Alaska Natives (AIAN). Additionally, the Committee directs the Bureau to report to the Committee not later than 120 days after the date of enactment of this Act on these efforts.”
Appropriators want improvements in poverty data collection via the Current Population Survey (CPS), including expanding the sample size, conducting the CPS in Puerto Rico, and exploring the possibility to also run it in other territories: “Improving Annual Poverty Data Collection.—Annual estimates of the Official Poverty Measure and the Supplemental Poverty Measure both come from the Annual Social and Economic Supplement (ASEC) sample of the Census’ Current Population Survey (CPS)— sometimes referred to as the ‘‘March sample.’’ The CPS is a monthly survey of employment and labor force activity—and the March sample has additional questions measuring incomes over the prior calendar year that allows both the Census and academic researchers to measure poverty. As with all surveys, estimates are limited by the statistical ‘‘power’’ associated with the sample size. The Committee recognizes that the cost of collecting data for CPS to maintain current sample size and quality requirements has increased significantly over recent years. The recommendation includes the requested increase for CPS in the budget proposal and recognizes the Census Bureau, in coordination with the Bureau of Labor Statistics, will use these additional resources to assess the feasibility of combining CPS survey data with other sources of information, such as administrative data and population estimates, to produce estimates on topics of interest. The Committee recognizes the interest in poverty measures for discrete populations—including AAPI and AIAN, groups of certain ethnicities, or even poverty measures for a congressional district. Within the funds provided, the Committee urges the Census Bureau to increase the sample size of the March supplement of the CPS. Additionally, the Committee recognizes the Census Bureau’s work in determining the feasibility of expanding this survey to Puerto Rico and appreciates the report including estimated costs for implementation provided to the Committee in June 2020. The Committee urges that, within funds provided, steps are taken to begin this work. The Committee encourages the Census Bureau to review the feasibility of expansion in the remaining territories and to report to the Committee on these efforts no later than 120 days after enactment of this Act.”
Appropriators are concerned about 2030 Census political interference: “The Committee is concerned over the accuracy of the 2020 Decennial Census and the impact the Department’s unprecedented engagement in technical matters with the Census Bureau during the years leading up to the 2020 Decennial may have had on the efficacy of response rates. The Committee directs a briefing from the Census Bureau, in coordination with the Scientific Integrity Task Force, no later than 45 days after enactment of this Act on steps it is taking to minimize interference in the 2030 Decennial Census.”
As sought in The Census Project’s FY2023 funding recommendation, appropriators are seeking to bolster the Population Estimates: “Additionally, the Committee recognizes that pandemic-related disruptions to the 2020 Decennial Census operations may have resulted in significant undercounts in some localities. The Committee notes that decennial census counts are the basis for annual population estimates that are used to distribute Federal resources, and therefore, those estimates should be as accurate as possible. As the Census Bureau reinstates the Population Estimates Challenge Program this decade, the Census Bureau should consider more flexible methodologies and broader use of administrative data to ensure meaningful opportunities to improve the accuracy of the estimates, including appropriate improvements to the estimates base. Additionally, the Committee directs GAO to review the Census Bureau’s efforts and brief the Committee within 180 days of the Census Bureau completing its related work on the Population Estimates Challenge Program.”
Appropriators are also keeping an eye on the Bureau’s Ask U.S. Panel project, which is under evaluation by the Office of the Inspector General: “The Committee acknowledges the ongoing work of the OIG regarding the ‘‘Evaluation of the U.S. Census Bureau’s Award and Use of a Cooperative Agreement (#2022–420)’’ and expects the OIG to keep the Committee apprised of its findings.”
The House Oversight and Reform Committee approved the Honest Census Communications Act (H.R. 5815), with a substitute amendment, on June 14, 2022 by a 22 – 16 vote.
As The Census Project covered last year, H.R. 5815 would prohibit “any person, whether acting under color of law or otherwise, to communicate or cause to be communicated any census-related information by any means, including by means of any covered communication, or to produce any census-related information with the intent that the census-related information be communicated”:
“knowing the census-related information to be materially false”; and
“with the intent to impede or prevent another person from participating in any census.”
It would apply to the decennial headcount, the American Community Survey (ACS), the Economic Census and other similar Census Bureau surveys.
Civil penalties for violations could not exceed “the minimum civil penalty under the False Claims 7 Act (31 U.S.C. 3729 et seq.).”
“Census-related information” means any information, including: “The time, place, or manner of holding any census”; or “The qualifications for, or restrictions on, participation in any census.”
“Covered communication” means any:
“electronic or digital communication, including a communication through a website, application, online forum, social media platform, streaming service, or other means of communications using the internet or a similar communications network”; or
“telephonic communication, including any phone call, text message, or other communication sent, received, or transmitted using a wireless or wireline phone or a cellular or other phone network.”
The substitute amendment primarily altered the enforcement of the bill, removing the original bill’s criminal penalties and adding in provisions for enforcement by state Attorneys General.
Republicans on the committee argued that the bill is superfluous because existing laws already prohibit fraud.
We’ve heard nothing about scheduling, but the bill could be brought to the House floor later this year. The Senate version, S. 3133, has only two cosponsors, and this legislation (like most) seems unlikely to pass the Senate unless bundled into another larger bill.
In June, the House Appropriations Committee expects to act on all 12 of its Fiscal Year 2023 appropriations bills, including the Commerce, Justice, Science Appropriations bill, which funds the Census Bureau and all of its surveys and programs, including the American Community Survey (ACS).
To that end, The Census Project is launching an effort to raise the profile on an urgent issue that census stakeholders can amplify. This week, we began running advertisements on Twitter aimed at Congress and policymakers to draw attention to our recent report on the ACS, “America’s Data At Risk.”
Census Project members can help promote the campaign by either retweeting, through their own accounts, the ads (Ex.1, Ex. 2, Ex.3 and Ex. 4) when they appear in their feeds or using the ad copy to develop their own tweets illustrating how critical ACS data are to their own organizations’ missions.
The campaign will run through early July. Please contact Mary Jo or Howard if you have any questions or need assistance.
Standard Deviations blog posts represent the views of the author/organization, but not necessarily those of the Census Project.
Counting people in group homes, college dorms, and prisons is always a challenging task for the U.S. decennial Census, and when the COVID pandemic shut down access to those facilities in March 2020, it got even harder.
To correct any mistakes in the 2020 Census counts of people living in group quarters the Census Bureau announced the Post-Census Group Quarters Review (PCGQR). This is a unique, one-time, expanded opportunity to submit official data that would change the census base count for group quarters. In early June, the bureau sent letters to 40,000 chief elected officials of local, county, tribal and state governments inviting them to participate in PCGQR – many of these letters were then likely passed along to planning departments.
This new program is an opportunity to fix a specific issue and our advice to officials is: Take the Census Bureau up on this offer. Fixing your group quarters counts can increase your annual population estimates from now until 2030, and your population estimates will determine your portion of the $1.5 trillion that the federal government distributes to states and localities every year.
Review the Group Quarters counts in your town, county, tribal area or state. If something seems amiss, your government can participate in the PCGQR program by providing records showing the population of group quarters facilities that were miscounted or missed entirely.
For more detail on how to do this, the Census Quality Reinforcement Task Force is holding a webinar on July 6th at noon ET (register at this link).
Properly implemented, this initiative can address some undercounts in the 2020 Census. We also like it as a step toward a closer relationship between the Census Bureau and local governments because group quarters are of course not the only issue with the 2020 Census. We hear the bureau is looking to offer more technical support to local governments concerned about their 2020 count and annual estimates. This would be another very positive step – because sharing local knowledge and state datasets can yield better statistics.
The 2020 Census had other challenges: Longstanding undercounts of people of color persisted and in some cases worsened in the 2020 Census and 14 states were under- or overcounted, according to the Post-Enumeration Survey, which does not include group quarters. (Note: no state was miscounted back in 2010). The Census Bureau can and should improve its yearly Population Estimates, to rightsize the flow of $1.5 trillion in federal spending annually.
We recently spent time with former Census Bureau Director James F. Holmes, a longtime census executive (and current Census Project board member). He talked about the close cooperation between local electeds, local planning agencies and the Census Bureau in the 1970s and 80s. “That wasn’t an every 10 years thing, those were ongoing relationships,” he told us. “They helped with the Population Estimates every year and all the other surveys.”
As the Census Bureau plans for a better count of our increasingly diverse, nation beset by social distrust, Director Robert Santos’ leadership and openness to partnering with local governments in PCGQR and improving the Population Estimates, is a commendable strength to build on.
– Cara Brumfield and Allison Plyer are co-chairs of the Census Quality Reinforcement Task Force. Brumfield is associate director of the Economic Security and Opportunity Initiative of the Georgetown Center on Poverty and Inequality. Plyer is chief demographer of The Data Center in New Orleans, and immediate past chair of the Census Scientific Advisory Committee.