Fiscal Year 2024 President’s Budget Request and The Census Project Funding Recommendation

On March 3, media outlets confirmed that President Biden is expected to release the preliminary details of his Administration’s Fiscal Year (FY) 2024 budget request on March 9.  That day, the Administration will release its annual summary volume, which outlines the president’s main budget message, major priorities, brief details on each agency’s request, and summary tables. Other explanatory documents, including narratives that the agencies prepare, known as congressional justifications, will be released on March 13.

The Census Project will be providing a summary of the Census Bureau’s request and releasing its FY 2024 funding recommendation shortly after the full details of the President’s budget are made public. In sum, The Census Project will be recommending that the Census Bureau receive $2 billion in FY 2024 to support 2030 Census preparations, pursue necessary technical innovations, expand programs, such as Population Estimates, and enhance surveys, most notably, the American Community Survey.

Proposals to Radically Grow the House of Representatives

A Washington Post column on February 28, 2023 argued in favor of radically expanding the number of seats in the House of Representatives. A couple of recent Congressional bills agree.

Columnist Danielle Allen insisted that the House was originally “supposed to grow with every decennial census. James Madison even included in the Bill of Rights an amendment laying out a formula forcing the House to grow from 65 to 200 members, then allowing it to expand beyond that.” While Representatives currently “represent roughly 762,000 people each,” that number could “reach 1 million by mid-century,” she said. The 1929 Permanent Apportionment Act, Allen continued, effectively limited the size of the House to only 435 Members and “set the decennial reapportionment of the House on autopilot.”

Allen cited as her rationale: (1) “representatives are too removed from their constituents”; (2) “Congress has a much larger budget to track and manage, and many more agencies to review”; (3) smaller districts could mean cheaper election campaigns; and (4) enhancing “equal protection and inclusivity.”

Meanwhile, in the House itself, a pair of bills would follow Allen’s lead:

  1. The Equal Voices Act (H.R. 643), introduced by Rep. Sean Casten (D-IL-06), would “require that the average number the average number of constituents represented by a Member from any State” would be “equivalent to the number of constituents represented by the Member from the least populous State and to apportion Representatives among the States accordingly.”
  2. The Restoring Equal and Accountable Legislators in the House Act (REAL House Act) (H.R. 622), introduced by Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR-03), would expand the number of House seats for the post-2030 Census redistricting to 585, with increases at each census thereafter. Blumenauer has a 1-pager on the bill, and the bill’s impact was recently analyzed by the American Redistricting Project.

Next Meeting of Census Science Advisors on March 9-10

The Census Bureau announced the scheduling of the next meeting of the Census Scientific Advisory Committee (CSAC) for March 9-10, 2023.

The agenda includes: comments and feedback on the Bureau’s request for input on 2030 Census planning; the Census Barriers, Attitudes, and Motivators Study (CBAMS); revising OMB’s race and ethnicity standards; new privacy methods; mapping systems; and other issues.

CSAC addresses emerging census challenges, advising the Census Bureau “on the uses of scientific developments in statistical data collection, survey methodology, geospatial and statistical analysis, econometrics, cognitive psychology, business operations and computer science as they pertain to the full range of Census Bureau programs and activities, including census tests, policies and operations.”

Senate CJS Subcommittee Takes Shape for 118th Congress

Many Congressional committee and subcommittee assignments of impact on the decennial census and American Community Survey (ACS) are already sorted out, but we finally have clarity on the primary drivers of funding in the Senate.

The Senate Commerce Justice Science (CJS) Appropriations Subcommittee, which has jurisdiction over funding for the Census Bureau, will be chaired by Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), with Sen. Jerry Moran (R-KS) serving as ranking member.

Democrat Senators on the subcommittee include Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Jack Reed (D-RI), Chris Coons (D-DE), Brian Schatz (D-HI), Joe Manchin (D-WV), Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), Jeff Merkley (D-OR) and Gary Peters (D-MI).

Republican Senators on the subcommittee include Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), Susan Collins (R-ME), Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV), John Kennedy (R-LA), Bill Hagerty (R-TN), Katie Britt (R-AL), and Deb Fischer (R-NE).

OMB Requests Comments: Revisions to Federal Race and Ethnicity Data Collection Standards

On January 27, the White House Office of Management and Budget issued a request for comments in the Federal Register on initial proposals from the Interagency Technical Working Group on Race and Ethnicity Standards to improve the “quality and usefulness of Federal race and ethnicity data.” The announcement includes proposals to create a Middle Eastern or North African category and a combined race-ethnicity question. Further, the notice seeks comments on proposals to modernize the definitions of certain categories.

Comments can be submitted here and are due April 12.

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).