House Census Caucus Members Coalesce Around FY21 Funding

Thirty-one Members of Congress submitted a request to the House CJS Appropriations Subcommittee on March 13, 2020, under the auspices of the House Census Caucus, for “at least $1.681 billion in funding for the Census Bureau. This amount is $9 million above the Administration’s FY 2021 request of $1.672 billion for the Bureau.”

As their letter explains, “In FY 2021, the Census Bureau must close out operations around the largest and most technically advanced census in our nation’s history. The Bureau must process 2020 Census data and send it to the President for apportionment by the end of the year, conduct a post-enumeration survey to measure the quality of this data, develop and test tools to ensure data confidentiality, close area census offices, and decommission equipment and devices.”

Read the letter, led by House Census Caucus Chair Carolyn Maloney.

Note Regarding House CJS Testimony Deadline

As you may know, the House Commerce, Justice, Science (CJS) Appropriations Subcommittee is currently accepting written public witness testimony regarding Fiscal Year (FY) 2021 appropriations. The deadline is Friday, March 13.  Instructions for submitting testimony are posted at:

If your organization is submitting testimony in support of any of the agencies and programs funded by the CJS bill, we encourage you to consider including a paragraph in support of funding the Census Bureau in FY 2021.  The Census Project recently released a short document that includes a FY 2021 funding recommendation and a number of issues we encourage the CJS subcommittee explore during the FY 2021 deliberations, including current spending on the 2020 Census. 

Thank you for considering this opportunity to communicate support for the Census Bureau and the decennial census as the FY 2021 appropriations deliberations ensue.

Recent Census Bureau Event in Cleveland Ohio Focused on the High Undercount of Young Children in the U.S Census

By William P. O’Hare, President, O’Hare Data and Demographic Services LLC

On Saturday February 22, the Census Bureau sponsored an event in Cleveland, Ohio, to launch a nationwide effort to make sure all young children are counted in the 2020 Census. The event was held at the beautiful Great Lakes Science Center on the shores of Lake Erie. The first hour of the event was a set of announcements and presentations, and then there was a three hour block of time when families and children could engage in census-related activities and/or pick-up some 2020 Census promotional material such as pens, bibs, sippy cups, etc.

The event started with a choir from a local elementary school singing the ‘We Count’ census song. Then Dr. Kirsten Ellenbogen, President and CEO of the Great Lakes Science Center, provided a countdown of the top five reasons why it is important to make sure every young child is counted in the Census.

Dr. Ellebogen was followed by the Director of the Census Bureau, Dr. Steven Dillingham, who covered some of the reasons why counting young children is such a high priority in the 2020 Census, including the key fact that children age 0 to 4 had a higher net undercount than any other age group in the 2010 Census. Dr. Dillingham also reviewed some of the reasons why young children are missed and some of the changes the Census Bureau has made to the 2020 Census operations and communications campaigns to try and get a more accurate count of young children.

Dr. Judy Aschner, Chairperson of the Federation of Pediatric Organizations, talked about the how important it was to count young children in the Census because so much brain development takes place in the first five years of life and young children need all the support they can get. She pointed out that if a young child is missed in the Census, they are missed for the next ten years and that is the majority of their childhood. Dr. Achner also announced her organization would be launching a nationwide effort on March 25, to make sure every young child is included in the Census

Mr. August A. Napoli of the Greater Cleveland United Way covered many of the ways the census count is linked to programs that help children and programs that support needy families. He also pointed out that because minority children are missed at a higher rate, the children most in need of help often do not get their fair share.

Finally, Ms. Tracy Garrett from the Sesame Workshop reminded the audience that Sesame Street has been involved in promoting the Decennial Census since 1980.  Ms. Garrett also described the ways Sesame Workshop will be helping in the 2020 Census including making some of the Sesame Street characters available for the remainder of the event in Cleveland.

The audience included representatives from child advocacy groups and non-profit organizations in the Cleveland area as well as representatives from the KIDS COUNT network and the Partnership for America’s children network in Ohio. Dr. William O’Hare represented the Count All Kids National Complete Count Committee for young children.

The event in Cleveland follows on the heels of another recent event focused on improving the count of young children in the 2020 Census. On February 5, 2020, the Population Reference Bureau (PRB) released a census tract level database where all the census tracts in 689 large counties were categorized into very high risk of young children being undercounted, high risk of young children being undercounted, and low risk of young children being undercounted.

The information from the tract-level database has been incorporated into the widely used CUNY HTC mapping application. On February 13, there was a webinar going over the data in the database and how to use the information incorporated into the CUNY mapping application.

The PRB analysis found a higher net undercount of young children in the largest counties (those with 250,000 people or more in 2010) is most closely associated with the following variables;

  • Percent of adults ages 18 to 34 with less than a high school diploma, GED, or alternative
  • Percent of children under age 18 living in a female-headed household with no spouse present
  • Percent of children under age 6 living with a grandparent as householder
  • Percent of households that are linguistically isolated (No one ages 14+ speaks English “very well”
  • Percent of children under age 18 who are in immigrant families (child is foreign-born or at least one parent is foreign-born)
  • Percent of persons living in renter-occupied households.

They found more than 4 million young children live in census tracts where there is a very high risk of young children being undercounted. Black and Hispanic children are over-represented in those census tracts.

House Appropriations Hearing on March 10th with Commerce Secretary Ross

The House Appropriations Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies will convene a hearing to discuss the Commerce Department’s Fiscal Year 2021 budget request on Tuesday, March 10, 2020, featuring testimony and Q&A with Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross.

The Senate CJS Subcommittee held a similar hearing on March 5.

Members of Congress might find this a good chance to have Secretary Ross flesh out details of current 2020 Census spending and update House members on current program and budget estimates as the full headcount is getting underway. The Census Project highlighted a “lack of transparency and specificity in the White House’s budget request in how Census Bureau funds are being spent to complete the 2020 Census” in our Fiscal Year 2021 appropriations request. This would also provide an opportunity to explore the reasons why the Commerce Department proposed to cut funding for the Survey of Income and Program Participation (SIPP), even though the budget request emphasized how important the Department believes the survey to be, and to uncover more details on the Census Bureau’s planned transition of data systems and what it may mean for data quality down the road.

Senate Appropriations Hearing on March 5th – A Chance for More Transparency on 2020 Census

The Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies will hold a hearing on the Commerce Department’s Fiscal Year 2021 budget request on March 5, 2020. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross will testify.

This may be a useful opportunity to probe for further details on 2020 Census spending in the current fiscal year, since the Census Project identified a “lack of transparency and specificity in the White House’s budget request in how Census Bureau funds are being spent to complete the 2020 Census” in our Fiscal Year 2021 appropriations request. Senators could also try to find out why the Department proposed to cut funding for the Survey of Income and Program Participation (SIPP), even though the budget request emphasized how important the Department believes the survey to be, and for more details on the Census Bureau’s planned transition of data systems and what it may mean for data quality.

The Census Project’s Fiscal Year 2021 Appropriations Request

The Census Project recommends that the Census Bureau receive no less than $1.681 billion in Fiscal Year (FY) 2021.

Although Fiscal Year (FY) 2021 wraps up the 2020 Census, it is also the first year in the 2030 Census planning cycle, so a dramatic decrease in Census Bureau spending as compared to FY 2020 is normal and expected. However, The Census Project reminds stakeholders that robust FY 2021 spending remains necessary to support the Census Bureau’s overall operations, especially the ongoing American Community Survey (ACS), as well as to ensure a successful conclusion of the 2020 Census.

 FY 2020 ActualFY 2021 Administration RequestFY 2021 Census Project RequestCP Differential from White House
Periodic Censuses and Programs[1]$7,284,319,000$1,392,709,000$1,392,709,000 
Current Surveys and Programs[2]$274,000,000$279,268,000$288,403,000+ $9,135,000
Total Census Bureau Budget$7,574,800,000$1,671,977,000$1,681,112,000+ $9,135,000

The White House’s overall budget request for the Census Bureau aligns with expectations based on prior decennial cycles and mostly reflects the revised lifecycle cost estimate for 2020 Census spending in FY 2021.[3] This upcoming fiscal year will prove essential for Census Bureau activities, such as:

  • Constitutional data output: Processing 2020 Census data and sending it to the President (for apportionment) by December 31, 2020 and to the states for redistricting by April 1, 2021 (and to the public beginning in December 2021);
  • 2020 Census Evaluation: Conducting coverage and quality operations, including the post-enumeration survey;
  • Closing 2020 Census-specific ops: Closing Census 2020 field operations and decommissioning related equipment and devices;
  • Data integration: Launching the Frames initiative, which will integrate data on persons, places, and the economy for use in all Census Bureau surveys, censuses, and official products;
  • SIPP improvements: Conducting research on financially sustainable collection methods or alternative sources of comparable data on the economic well-being of Americans and program participation;
  • Cross-government data collection system: Establishing an enterprise-wide capability to expand the use of administrative records to improve sample survey operations, data quality, and data products and continuing support for the Administrative Records Clearinghouse;
  • The Economic Census and the Census of Governments: Finalizing data releases from the 2017 Economic Census, and beginning work on the 2022 Economic Census and Census of Governments; and
  • Data confidentiality: Developing and implementing tools and software as part of the agency’s avoidance disclosure activities.

The Census Project has identified several issues for Congress to consider during the FY 2021 appropriations process. These include:

  • Need to restore $9 million+ in the Survey of Income and Program Participation (SIPP): Census Project stakeholders recommend restoring $9,135,000 in funding that the White House budget proposed to cut from a survey that even the White House considers “crucial to the measurement of the effectiveness of existing Federal, state, and local programs” and “the major source of information on the economic wellbeing of Americans over time.”[4] According to the White House budget request: “The data are used to estimate future costs and coverage for government programs, such as food stamps, and to provide improved statistics on the distribution of income in the country. In FY 2021, this survey will provide a broader context for analysis by adding questions on a variety of topics not covered in the core section, such as childcare, wealth, program eligibility, child support, utilization and cost of health care, disability, school enrollment, taxes, and annual income.
  • Lack of clarity on 2020 Census spending levels in FY 2020: Census Project stakeholders are concerned by the lack of transparency and specificity in the White House’s budget request in how Census Bureau funds are being spent to complete the 2020 Census. The Census Bureau’s Congressional Budget Justification for FY 2021 includes important indicators of actual FY 2019 and FY 2020 spending that suggest the Census Bureau may be shortchanging the decennial headcount in order to maintain public commitments to control overall census spending and to carry over more than $1 billion into FY 2021. The figures indicate that actual spending on the 2020 Census fell short of the revised life-cycle cost estimates from the Census Bureau for FY2019 and FY 2020. At the same time, recent testimony in the “NAACP v. Bureau of the Census” litigation from the Census Bureau’s Decennial Budget Office Chief, Benjamin K. Taylor, suggested that the revised lifecycle cost estimates may have been inflated and the Congressional Budget Justification suggests that various programs within the 2020 Census are being completed ahead of schedule and below budget. Absent greater clarity and transparency from the Census Bureau on current spending, Census Project stakeholders cannot fully evaluate progress on the 2020 Census in FY 2020 (and suppositions about 2020 Census spending in FY 2021 might also be subject to change). The Census Project urges Congress to ask the Census Bureau for clarification during the FY 2021 appropriations hearings.
  • Impact of data system transitions: The White House proposed to decrease funding and staff for data collection, processing, analysis, and storage, as part of the transition from the Census Enterprise Data Collection and Processing (CEDCaP) system to the Data Ingest and Collection for the Enterprise (DICE) program and the launch of the Enterprise Data Lake management system. Stakeholders need more information in order to evaluate the impact of this proposed cut of $75.4 million (and 58 full-time employees) in the transition, and the added $22.3 million for the Enterprise Data Lake (and 30 full-time employees), whether these changes may lead to shortcuts in high quality data collection methods down the road and whether the funding shifts will still meet the needs of core Census Bureau data activities.

[1] Department of Commerce FY 2021 Budget. Page 193.

[2] Department of Commerce FY 2021 Budget. Page 192.

[3] $1.025 billion, according to the table on page 20 of the 2020 Census Life-cycle Cost Estimates Executive Summary, Version 2.0.

[4] Page CEN-36. Census Bureau FY 2021 Congressional Budget Justification.

Research on How to Reduce the Undercount of Young Kids in the 2020 Census

“At least 4 million U.S. children under age 5 live in neighborhoods with a very high risk of undercounting young children in the 2020 Census.” That’s the warning from a recent Population Reference Bureau (PRB) study with researcher Bill O’Hare, which identified predictive factors for where they’re “most likely to be missed” and new risk measurement.

The study suggested that the current primary measures “to identify areas where young children are more likely to be missed—the 2010 Census mail return rate and the Low Response Score (also based on mail return rates)—are not very good predictors of net undercount rates for young children in large counties. Using updated census data for the 689 counties, the new study points to data on family structure and living arrangements, recent immigration, and socioeconomic status as better predictors of the risk for child undercount.”

PRB hopes to “improve targeting of communities with the highest risk of undercounting young children.”