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.

Commerce Department Inspector General Worried About Resources for 2030 Census

The U.S. Commerce Department’s Office of Inspector General’s annual report on “management and performance challenges facing” the Department already includes worries about funding for the 2030 Census.

The report warns that that a strong framework needs to be established with “[a]dequate [r]esources to [s]upport the 2030 Census [p]lanning [e]fforts and [e]nhance [o]verall [s]urvey [q]uality.”

“Fiscal year 2023 marks the last FY of the 2020 Census funding lifecycle and the second one for the 2030 Census lifecycle,” reminds the report, which identifies four priority concerns for the Census Bureau:

  1. “Ensuring the timely delivery of 2020 Census studies and the timely completion of the 2020 Post-Census Group Quarters Review needed to inform 2030 Census planning.”
  2. “Ensuring information from the Post-Enumeration Survey (PES) is used to develop a strategy for obtaining a more accurate count of certain demographic groups and state populations for the 2030 Census.”
  3. “Enhancing the accuracy and reliability of the Census Bureau’s address list.”
  4. “Ensuring data products provide timely, reliable, and quality data to stakeholders.”

Stakeholders can review pages 34-38 of the report for more details. (Hat tip to Hansi Lo Wang.)

U.S. House of Representatives Passes Ensuring A Fair and Accurate Census Act

On September 15, 2022, The U.S. House of Representatives passed a bill, HR 8326, Ensuring a Fair and Accurate Census Act, by a vote of 220-208. The bill, which was sponsored by Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney (D-NY), Chairwoman of the House Oversight and Reform Committee, contains provisions designed to enhance the U.S. Census Bureau’s independence and strengthen its operations. The legislation was informed in part by the results of an investigation that the Committee conducted regarding the conduct of the 2020 Census.

The Census Project covered the committee markup stage in July.

Specifically, the legislation would:

  • Ensure that any question added to a decennial census is researched and tested according established statistical procedures, reviewed by the Government Accountability Office, and shared with Congress in advance. 
     
  • Empower the Census Director to make key decisions about the census, ensure a career expert serves as deputy director, and limit the number of political appointees at the Bureau to no more than 4 positions.  
           
  • Reauthorize existing census advisory committees (Census Scientific Advisory Committee and National Advisory Committee on Racial, Ethnic and Other Populations) and create new advisory entities (2030 Census Advisory Committee and Committee on Statistical Quality Standards).
     
  • Enhance the transparency of the agency’s annual budget process and allow the Director to communicate directly with policymakers regarding the agency’s budgetary needs and the operational status of each decennial census.

During consideration on the House floor, two amendments were offered. The first “en bloc” amendment, which was offered by Congressman Danny Davis (D-IL), contained proposals offered by Congresswoman Shelia Jackson Lee (D-TX) and Congressman Ed Case (D-HI). The amendment, which was approved by a vote of 223-211, would direct the Bureau to: 1) appoint a career official responsible for improving the equity and fairness of the census for all race and ethnic groups and 2) issue a report on how the agency will engage with local partners and governments. The House rejected another amendment offered by Congressman Jody Hice (R-GA) which proposed striking language in the bill that would only allow for-cause removal of the Census Director and would revise details regarding the Deputy Director position.

A similar bill has not been introduced yet in the U.S. Senate. Currently, there are no plans for H.R. 8236 to be considered on the Senate floor.

Prior to the House debate, the White House issued an official Statement of Administration Policy in which it expressed support for the bill. In its statement, the White House also said it “looks forward to working with the Congress to ensure its provisions do not circumvent OMB’s [Office of Management and Budget] role in formulating the President’s budget request and to avoid impinging on the President’s authority over Executive Branch agencies.”

The Oversight and Reform Committee posted the bill text and a fact sheet.

New Report Recommends Census Reforms

Noting that the “bureaucracy and law that govern the census have not been systemically altered in decades,” the Brennan Center for Justice has offered “a blueprint for reform­ing the law and policy of the decennial population count… to make future censuses more accurate, equitable, and legitimate.”

The report, “Improving the Census,” includes 19 proposals that the Center says “will free the Census Bureau from recurring problems that it has never squarely addressed and set it up to respond to future problems in a more flexible, effective, and democratically responsive way,” including:

  1. “Establish the Census Bureau as its own executive agency”;
  2. “Limit the number of political appointees”;
  3. “Require political appointees to publicly disclose communications with the White House”;
  4. “Remove the president from the congressional apportionment process”;
  5. “Bar untimely and untested additions to the census questionnaire”;
  6. “Restructure congressional oversight of the census”;
  7. “Rigorously pursue oversight”;
  8. “Revoke statutory limits on data collection methods”;
  9. “Permit the director to extend the reporting deadlines for apportionment and redistricting data in emergencies”;
  10. “Allow the bureau more freedom to collect data from educational institutions”;
  11. “Facilitate changes to the census’s race and ethnicity questions”;
  12. “Facilitate a sexual orientation and gender identity question”;
  13. “Convene a National Academies panel to evaluate additional operational changes”;
  14. “Change the residence rule”;
  15. “Hold the Census Bureau and other agencies accountable for collecting home address data”;
  16. Clarify the superseding effect of Title 13’s confidentiality provisions”;
  17. “Codify bureau policy requiring specialized review of aggregate data on sensitive populations”;
  18. “Make the Census Bureau’s discretionary spending limits flexible”; and
  19. “Remove obsolete portions of the Census Act.”

How the Census Bureau can help promote accurate research using 2020 Census data

A new paper proposes to help “take into account the planned presence of well-specified, well-justified noise in data releases based on the 2020 Decennial Census” thanks to disclosure avoidance. Erica Groshen and Daniel Goroff reviewed “strategies, trade-offs, and rationales associated with processing and releasing the decennial results” and offer recommendations. They specifically urge the Census Bureau to:

in addition to publishing official tables, the Census Bureau also make either the noisy measurements file (NMF) or unbiased estimates of released table entries available for research purposes. To create official counts, the Census Bureau applies processes to restore face validity to privacy-protected counts (that is, they eliminate disturbing features such as negative and fractional counts). These processes also introduce statistical bias and intractable distortions that researchers may wish to avoid whenever possible. By contrast, the NMF entries do not suffer from the statistical ills added by restoring face validity, and can be easily interpreted by trained analysts. Our other recommendations address critical needs for input to Census Bureau decisions from researchers, for development of suitable statistical tools that work with privacy-protected data, for expanded options with regard to microdata, and for steps to improve the accuracy of decennial census data overall.

Census Bureau Requests Input Regarding 2030 Census Preparations

On August 17, the Census Bureau issued a Federal Register notice seeking comments on the 2030 Census. Specifically, the Bureau is seeking input regarding five major topics:

  • Reaching and Motivating Everyone to Respond to the Census
  • Technology
  • New Data Sources
  • How We Contact Respondents
  • Respondent Support

Comments are due November 15.

In a blog published, September 7, Director Robert Santos said: “I am so excited to be part of the decade-long journey working toward the 2030 Census. I can’t thank you enough for coming along and helping us write the story of the 2030 Census – from the design to its future execution. This is deeply important work. It’s a labor of love, and I’m proud that we are formally engaging the public this early in the process. I appreciate your support and enthusiasm and look forward to receiving your ideas.”

More information is available at: We welcome your ideas for a better 2030 Census!

The Significance of Census and ACS Data to Florida

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.”

Senate Holds Field Hearing to Examine 2020 Census and Impact on City of Detroit

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.