House and Senate Appropriations Committees Open to Public Witness Testimony

The Fiscal Year 2023 appropriations process is chugging right along. The President’s Budget requested $1.505 billion for the Census Bureau (as covered in our March Update), and The Census Project has recommended $2 billion.

If your organization is interested in submitting written testimony to the House and Senate Commerce, Justice, Science (CJS) Appropriations Subcommittees, the House has issued instructions and its deadline is May 13. The Senate has followed suit and their deadline is May 27.

Commerce Department Inspector General Investigating 2020 Census Paid Ad Campaign

The Office of the Inspector General of the Department of Commerce informed Census Director Robert Santos on March 31, 2022, that it is “initiating an audit of the U.S. Census Bureau’s (the Bureau’s) oversight of the integrated communications contract.” The IG aims to “determine whether the Bureau effectively managed selected task orders related to paid advertising for the 2020 Census integrated communications contract to ensure desired outcomes were achieved.”

ACS 2022 Content Test

As legally required, the Census Bureau has submitted an information collection request to the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) requesting approval to conduct the 2022 Content Test for the American Community Survey (ACS). It will be a field test of the wording, format, and placement of select revised questions and proposed new questions.

Existing topics that will be in the field test include: household roster; educational attainment; health insurance coverage; disability; labor force question series; income; and Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP).

The following three new proposed questions will be field tested:

  1. solar panels;
  2. electric vehicles; and
  3. sewage disposal.

OMB is currently accepting stakeholder comment on the proposed content test.

In our recent report, ACS: America’s Data at Risk, we concluded that the Bureau could consider enhancing “the utility of ACS data” by adding “new questions in two additional areas”: (1) “parental place of birth”; and (2) “sexual and gender minority (SGM) populations.” Using the “combined race/ethnicity question—with the addition of a MENA category— that were proposed and tested by the Census Bureau for the 2020 Census could also improve data quality.”

New Report on Undercount of Young Children in 2020 Census and Comparison to 2010

A new report on the undercount of young children in the 2020 Census also provides a comparison between 2010 and 2020 Census efforts in counting young children. It “provides an overview of the research and new activities related to the net undercount of young children that occurred as planning for the 2020 Census began,” including “a review of new activity within the Census Bureau, mobilization of researchers and advocates on this issue outside the Census Bureau, and how the Census Bureau and the child advocacy community worked together on this problem.”

The report focuses “on the net undercount of young children in recent U.S. Censuses,” but notes that the “issue is bigger than the 2010 U.S. Census. Over the past 70 years, the U.S. Census has seen a consistently high net undercount of young children and there is an under-reporting of young children in major Census Bureau surveys…. Young children have high net undercounts in many other countries around the world…. In other words, this problem exists in many different cultures with different census-taking traditions. Despite changes in the U.S. Census Bureau methods over the past 70 years, as well as fundamental changes in U.S. society, the undercount of young children has remained high.”

STANDARD DEVIATIONS: How Widening Gaps in Decennial Census and American Community Survey Response in Easy and Hard to Count Communities Lead to Inequitable Allocation of Social Program Funding

By Edward Kissam

Standard Deviations blog posts represent the views of the author/organization, but not necessarily those of the Census Project.

Here, I briefly review the evidence suggesting that a combination of long-term “structural” limitations in Census Bureau methodology and the distinctive pandemic-related circumstances that likely led to systematic differential undercount in hard-to-count neighborhoods and communities in 2020 may have seriously impaired data quality for the coming decade. 

My observations stem from analysis of ACS response and Census 2020 self-response in a virtual “case study” of a California area (Fresno County) with high concentrations of agricultural workers and other low-income households of Mexican immigrants. In light of this evidence, it is almost certainly the case that currently available decennial census and ACS data will not be “fit for use” for equitably allocating public sector funding in this area and others like it.

I argue, however, that if more detailed operational metrics were made available, it would be possible to assess the extent to which the characteristics associated with low self-response in hard-to-count Hispanic census tracts with concentrations of non-citizens also undermined effectiveness of nonresponse follow-up (NRFU) and led to differential undercount in this stratum of census tracts.

–              Ed Kissam is a researcher who has focused on farmworkers and immigrant settlement in the U.S. for three decades. Since the beginning of the pandemic, he has worked on strategic response to COVID-19 in farmworker communities as part of several collaborative networks of grassroots organizations, healthcare providers, and university researchers. He is co-trustee of the WKF Fund which provides support to a range of social justice initiatives.

How Administrative Data Played into the 2020 Census

As administrative data – datasets collected by government agencies and commercial entities typically as a byproduct of nonstatistical activities, such as delivering mail – rises in importance in Census Bureau survey measurement, the Georgetown Center on Poverty and Inequality has released a new report on its use in the 2020 Census.

The Bureau has long used such data to provide “information about individuals, housing units, or businesses, including to aid in data quality analysis, build and update address lists, and produce population estimates.” The 2020 Census relied more on administrative data than ever before to “supplement key components of data collection, data processing, and quality control efforts.” The Center believes that administrative data “will likely play an increasing role in the federal statistical system, in part due to the growing cost of surveys and declining survey response rates,” but that its use “must be rigorously evaluated and potential impacts on data equity carefully considered as a civil rights issue.”

Quick Summary of President’s FY 2023 Census Bureau Budget Request

On March 28, President Biden released his Fiscal Year 2023 budget proposal. It includes $1.505 billion for the Census Bureau. The President’s request is a $151 million increase over the recently-enacted FY 2022 funding level for the Bureau ($1.354 billion). 
According to the White House release, this request includes $408 million “to finalize and evaluate the Decennial Census and lay the groundwork for a successful 2030 Census.”
The Census Bureau’s FY 2023 Congressional Justification provides more detail. Below are some highlights:

  • $153.4 million ($34 million over FY 2022) to support data collection related to the Economic Census and Census of Governments.
  • $235.6 million ($10 million over FY 2022) to support the American Community Survey (ACS), including an initiative to improve the measurement of sexual orientation and gender identity (SOGI) population in the ACS. 
  • $14.7 million increase in FY 2023 to support the High Frequency Data Program—an initiative that has emerged from the Bureau’s experimental Pulse Surveys. The request enables the Census Bureau to expand the program’s capabilities to provide “data and products quickly and more frequently in response to changing conditions in the economy and society.”
  • $9.4 million increase for Enterprise Data Dissemination, which includes funding for an initiative “to build evidence, evaluations, and improve underlying racial and ethnicity data.”
  • $68 million ($2.5 million increase over FY 2022) for all Household Surveys account, which funds the Current Population Survey and Survey of Income and Program Participation. Within this account, SIPP would receive a $1 million decrease over its FY 2022 level, while CPS would see an increase of approximately $4.5 million to develop and test a self-response web-based instrument.
  • $3.7 million increase in FY 2023 to support the Community Resilience Estimates (CRE) program that began during the pandemic to provide more granular population data. The Census Bureau plans to transition the program from focusing exclusively on the pandemic to address other disasters and “add data for steady state programs.”

How can your state/community better organize around the American Community Survey (ACS)?

“In 2020, Minnesota was able to retain a Congressional seat by the narrowest of margins (by only 26 people!). This victory was built on six years of stakeholder engagement and strategic organizing,” explains Joan Naymark, leader of Minnesotans for the ACS and 2030 Census (MACS) and a member of The Census Project Advisory Committee.

With the recent release of “ACS: America’s Data at Risk,” more communities are looking for ways to get involved and organized to support the ACS – an essential way to help support their own communities.

University of California, Riverside is hosting a webinar on March 30 at 1pm Eastern to explore that Minnesota case, as well as “early and promising efforts to organize the business community in Florida, the Asian American community in Nevada, and Native American and AAPI communities across the country.”

Register for the webinar.

Latest National Advisory Committee Recommendations on Differential Privacy

The National Advisory Committee on Racial, Ethnic, and Other Populations (NAC) met on March 7, 2022 to consider issues around differential privacy, among other topics.

The NAC approved recommendations on how the Bureau messages the issue, such as highlighting the legal requirements for the Bureau to use disclosure avoidance methods, better messaging approaches to distinct population groups, the readability of messages for public consumption, how to handle the content of messages, and the media choices for messaging.

The NAC also considered messaging on differential privacy for data users and made recommendations on the consequences of data suppression. See the meeting agenda and presentations, and read the full NAC recommendations.