STANDARD DEVIATIONS: New Report Discusses Implications of the Census Bureau’s Blended Base

By Dr. William P. O’Hare, President, O’Hare Data and Demographic Services LLC
Standard Deviations blog posts represent the views of the author/organization, but not necessarily those of The Census Project.

Since the 1970s, the Census Bureau has produced yearly population estimates for states and counties for the decade following each Decennial Census. The estimation method used by the Census Bureau starts with a population base and then adds or subtracts estimated yearly incremental change to that base.

In the past, the Decennial Census counts have provided the estimates base, but the 2020 Census detailed data needed for the base was not available in time to use with the 2021 and 2022 population estimates, so the Census Bureau staff developed a new methodology called the PEP (Population Estimates Program) blended base.

It is important to assess the implications of the PEP blended base for children, because children (ages 0 to 17) had a 2.1 percent undercount in the 2020 Census compared to a 0.25 percent overcount for adults. A new paper provides guidance for child advocates, researchers, and data analysts on the potential impact of the Census Bureau’s new PEP blended base methodology for the child population (ages 0 to 17) by looking at how the data from the blended base compares to the data from the 2020 Census for the population ages 0 to 17 (“Comparing the Accuracy of the 2020 Census Counts to Population Estimates Program Blended Base for Age Groups of Children.”)

Key results are shown below:

  • At the national level, the number of children for April 1, 2020 from the PEP blended base was 74,385,212 compared to 73,106,000 in the 2020 Census. 
  • The PEP blended base estimates were larger than the 2020 Census counts in nearly every state (48 out of 50 states and DC). 
  • The 2020 Census count is larger than the PEP blended base in 1,234 counties. On the other hand, there are 1,903 counties where the PEP blended base provided a larger number of children than the 2020 Census count.
  • In terms of the national share of children in a state, there are 35 states where the Census count is larger than the PEP blended base estimate in terms of national shares. 
  • When national shares were examined, the 2020 Census count was larger than the PEP blended base in half (50 percent) of all counties.

The findings suggest that assessing the impact of the PEP blended base on the child population will be complicated. Patterns are different depending on whether one examines absolute numbers of children or the national share of children. Also, there are important differences by level of geography (national, state or county).

  • Dr. O’Hare, a member of The Census Project Advisory Committee, is a social demographer who has spent forty years using data to increase public understanding of disadvantaged groups. For the past 25 years, he has been involved in the KIDS COUNT project at the Annie E. Casey Foundation. Bill has a Bachelor of Science, Master of Arts, and a Ph.D. from Michigan State University.

Stakeholder Letter to OMB Highlighted by Politico Magazine

recent letter to the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), spearheaded by three major census stakeholder coalitions including The Census Project, was rated “Top Doc” by Politico on January 20, 2023:

Census advocates are disappointed with the $1.7 trillion government funding package that passed in December, arguing in a recent letter to administration officials that the bill fell millions short of what the Census Bureau needs to prepare for the 2030 count.

Worried that “the President’s budget request will represent the high-water mark” in FY 2024 budget debates, the letter urged the Biden Administration to “communicate clearly that the Census Bureau and 2030 Census preparations are major Administration priorities.”  

In addition to the Co-Directors of The Census Project, the letter was signed by representatives of the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, and Ready Nation. 

Stakeholders Urge OMB to Prioritize Census Funding in FY 2024 Budget

Leaders of The Census Project, Asian Americans Advancing Justice (AAJC), Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, NALEO Educational Fund, and Ready Nation called upon the Biden Administration to “prioritize funding for the U.S. Census Bureau and 2030 Census in its Fiscal Year (FY) 2024 budget submission.”

On behalf of the broad range of census stakeholders, the groups explained to the Office of Management and Budget on January 11, 2023 that:

Census stakeholders are disappointed by the outcome of the FY 2023 appropriations process, which resulted in the Census Bureau receiving $20.5 million less than the Administration requested. We are especially concerned that this shortfall is a setback for the 2030 Census funding trajectory. Funding for the 2030 Census must begin “ramping up” early in the decade to support critical testing and operations geared toward achieving an inclusive, accurate, and cost-effective decennial census. Given we are a third of the way into the 2030 Census planning cycle, there is an urgent need for the Administration to ensure the Bureau has increased resources and support in FY 2024.

Their letter concluded that:

The new, more fiscally conservative environment in Congress has the potential to complicate FY 2024 appropriations deliberations. It is possible that the President’s budget request will represent the high-water mark of the debate. To improve the Bureau’s chances of receiving a strong final funding level in FY 2024, the President should communicate clearly that the Census Bureau and 2030 Census preparations are major Administration priorities.

Texas’ Census Undercount Under the Microscope

Texas featured an estimated 1.9 percent undercount in the 2020 Census, so a key stakeholder is promoting a way to understand it at a more localized level.

The Texas Census Institute recently presented “a methodology to estimate undercounting by studying what theoretical factors contributed to it. Our exploration of social capital, geography, and other factors offer potential explanations as to why certain counties experienced less participation in census activities.”

The organization hopes “to provide a data-driven exploration of what Texans are counted or not and to pursue ideas for creating an equitable census.”

Final FY 2023 Census Funding Legislation on Path to Approval

An omnibus Fiscal Year 2023 (FY 2023) appropriations bill was introduced overnight, including funding for the U.S. Census Bureau.

The Commerce Justice Science Appropriations part of the legislation provides $1.485 billion for the Census Bureau, including $330 million for the Current Surveys and Programs account and $1.155 billion for the Periodic Censuses and Programs account.

The $1.485 billion in the FY 2023 omnibus for the Census Bureau is a $131 million increase over FY 2022, but $20.47 million less than the Administration’s budget request.

While census stakeholders urged no less than $1.505 billion in FY 2023 — an amount requested by the White House, approved by the House Appropriations Committee, supported by a stakeholder sign-on letter on September 8 and reiterated by the Census Project on November 15 — Congress is now on track to provide only the amount proposed in July by the Senate Appropriations Committee.

The House and Senate will likely pass the omnibus bill and send it to the President for signature by Friday, December 23, 2022.

The CJS report also includes language of interest to census stakeholders, including:

  • “For fiscal year 2023, the Census Bureau is directed to continue following the directives and reporting requirements in the joint explanatory statement accompanying Public Law 116-260 on “Ensuring the Integrity and Security of Surveys and Data,” “Utilizing Libraries and Community Partners for Census Surveys,” and “American Community Survey.” “
  • “Disclosure Avoidance.- The agreement directs 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 data. The Census Bureau shall continue to consult regularly with data users on disclosure avoidance methods under consideration for all data products and programs.”
  • “Race and Ethnicity Data Accuracy.-The Census Bureau is directed to provide a report to the Committees, 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 American Community Survey and the 2030 Decennial Census, and whether the Census Bureau believes that additional testing is necessary.”
  • “Ask U.S. Panel Survey.-The Census Bureau is directed to provide a report to the Committees, no later than 90 days following enactment of this act, on the Ask U.S. Panel Survey‘s methodology, data collection processes, implementation, incurred and projected costs, procurement strategy, and plans to address any recommendations made by the Inspector General.”

See the full bill text (page 134) and CJS report language (pages 8 and 124).

Event on Proposed Changes to the Population Estimates Challenge Program

The Census Quality Reinforcement Task Force is hosting a webinar on the importance of improvements to the Census Bureau’s population estimates, and stakeholder response, on December 15, 2022, at 4:15 p.m. ET.

The webinar comes after the Census Bureau’s November 22nd Federal Register Notice proposing several changes to the Population Estimates Challenge Program and seeking suggestions for other improvements to the Population Estimates Program.

Responses to the Notice are due by December 22, and the Task Force is offering sign-on opportunities to a general comment letter and a detailed comment letter on the Notice.

Fiscal Year 2023 Stalemate Prompts White House Release of Funding Anomalies

As of the first week of December, leaders on the House and Senate Appropriations Committees have been unable to reach an agreement to fund the federal government beyond December 16 when the current continuing resolution (CR) expires. The ongoing stalemate suggests that a year-long CR, which would hold most agencies at last year’s spending levels through the rest of Fiscal Year 2023, is a strong possibility.  

In light of this threat, on December 6, the White House released a list of funding anomalies that would be needed if Congress resorts to passing a year-long CR. The extensive list includes a request allowing the U.S. Census Bureau to spend $19 million above the agency’s FY 2022 spending level to support “periodic censuses, including the Economic Census and the Census of Governments, which are both on five‐year cycles.”

Congress will have to approve any spending anomalies attached to a year-long CR. There is still hope that Congress will agree upon a FY 2023 spending package. The Census Project has expressed its support for ensuring the Census Bureau receives no less than the $1.5 billion in FY 2023, which is the funding level that the House Appropriations Committee recommended the Bureau receive in its version of the FY 2023 Commerce, Justice, Science Appropriations bill.

Reminding Congressional Appropriators About FY 2023 Census Funding Needs in the Home Stretch

The co-directors of The Census Project reached out to leaders of the House and Senate on November 15, 2022, reiterating the widespread support from the census stakeholder community for ensuring the Census Bureau receives no less than $1.505 billion in Fiscal Year 2023 (FY 2023) – an amount approved by the House Appropriations Committee and requested by the White House – as they negotiate the final FY 2023 Commerce, Justice, Science (CJS) Appropriations bill, or an omnibus measure containing the CJS bill.

Stakeholders may wish to similarly communicate their concerns to CJS Appropriations leaders in both the House and Senate as Congress digs into the final funding battles of the year.

National Advisory Committee’s October 2022 Meeting

The latest meeting of the Census Bureau’s National Advisory Committee on Racial, Ethnic, and Other Populations (NAC) on October 27 and 28, 2022 reviewed a variety of updated Census Bureau tools, the application of differential privacy, and new/upcoming census data products.

See more details, including presentations and recordings, at https://www.census.gov/about/cac/nac/meetings/2022-10-meeting.html.

Census Stakeholder Alert: Deadline to Comment on 2030 Census Plans Approaching

As census stakeholders know, the Census Bureau is always preparing for the next decennial headcount. In August, The Census Project published a blog alerting census stakeholders to a request for comments that the Census Bureau issued seeking input on its preparations for the 2030 Census. We want to remind stakeholders that through November 15 the Bureau is accepting comments, which will be used to inform strategies intended to “improve or enhance the way people respond to the 2030 Census on their own.” They are asking the public to comment on the following topics:

  • Reaching and motivating everyone
  • Technology
  • New data sources
  • How we contact respondents
  • Respondent support services.

More information about how to submit comments and their intended is use is available at: Federal Register : Soliciting Input or Suggestions on 2030 Census Preliminary Research. Additional resources are available on the 2030 Census home page.