Comparing the Net Census Undercount of Youngest Kids 2010-2020

A new report from Count All Kids compares the estimated net undercount of the youngest children in 2020 to the undercount of the youngest children in 2010 (ages 0 to 4).

As explained by statistician Deborah Griffin, “The 2010 Census edited birth dates of children born after April 1, 2010 (children that the census should have excluded) to birth dates in early 2010. These edits inflated the 2010 Census count of children born in January, February and March of 2010. The 2020 Census edits were revised and the final 2020 Census counts do not include children born after April 1, 2020. This brief adjusted the 2010 Census results to better approximate the enumeration errors of very young children in the 2010 Census. The adjusted 2010 Census net undercount estimates show that the youngest children (age 0) were the children with the greatest enumeration shortcomings in both the 2010 and the 2020 Census.

A More Meaningful Comparison of the 2010 and 2020 Census Estimates of Net Undercoverage of Young Children.” By Deborah H. Griffin. May 5, 2022

Rep. Lawrence Focuses on Census Undercount in House Appropriations Hearing

At a May 12, 2022 hearing of the House CJS Appropriations Subcommittee, Rep. Brenda Lawrence (D-NY-14) asked a question of Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo, one that Lawrence said was “really important” to her, about the census.

“The Census Bureau recently released a self-issued report card showing that Black, Latino and American Indian communities were… undercounted. And I want to know what your plan is to look at that report and… what’s going to be the outcome of that because it has a very negative impact on poor and minority communities?”

Raimondo replied that Census Director Rob Santos “is laser focused on this…. Undercounts are a problem.”

Lawrence continued that, “our goal is for the census to be complete and accurate. And you know, every decade there’s room for improvement. The 2020 Census was really hard given the COVID unprecedented challenges. So… we’ll continue to follow up with you on this but it is our top priority.”

COVID-19 Impact on the American Community Survey (ACS)

The coronavirus pandemic made a hash of data collection for the American Community Survey (ACS), according to a new report from the Population Reference Bureau (PRB). “In several months, no survey mailings went out, and the U.S. Census Bureau had to make dramatic changes to how they reached out to nonresponding households. As a result of these disruptions, 2020 saw fewer completed ACS interviews than other years.”

PRB’s analysis of counties across the country found the steepest percentage drop in final ACS interviews being completed in rural and predominantly-native counties and the biggest numeric declines in some of the nation’s largest counties.

“Given these changes, ACS data users should expect to see somewhat larger margins of error in the 2016-2020 ACS data than they have seen in prior years.”

CNSTAT Seeks Input for Workshop on the Demographic and Housing Characteristics Files

The Committee on National Statistics (CNSTAT) seeks input on their upcoming second Workshop on 2020 Census Data Products, focused on the Demographic and Housing Characteristics (DHC) Files. It will be June 21-23, 2022, both online and in-person.

CNSTAT asked about “the need for highly detailed census tabulations at fine levels of geographic and demographic detail and the potential impacts of the new disclosure avoidance methodology on the fitness-for-use of the data. Use cases of DHC data that are of interest include but are not limited to”:

  • “Applications that make use of DHC information on housing units as well as on persons”;
  • “Interaction with federal surveys, and the administration of federal, state, local, and tribal programs”;
  • “Transportation, education, and other regional and local planning activities”;
  • “Demographic analyses such as age (single year of age, age categories (e.g., 20-24), race and ethnicity”;
  • “Small populations, including the group quarters/non-household population”; and
  • “Traditionally hard-to-reach communities, such as rural populations and households with young children.”

CNSTAT has requested “brief responses, signals of interest — indications of whether you plan to scrutinize the Demonstration products and whether you have a case study or an application of DHC-type data that you think would be good to showcase at the workshop. Self-nominations are very welcome, as are suggestions of use cases that you think need to be heard.

Anyone interested in providing input should contact Katrina Stone by May 18, 2022 with name and affiliation, a brief description of their DHC data use case, “whether you provided direct feedback to the Census Bureau, and whether you anticipate that your analysis of the Demonstration data will be complete and presentable at or before the June 21–23 workshop.”

Senator Hagerty Raises Questions About 2020 Census Methods at Appropriations Hearing

A hearing of the Senate CJS Appropriations Subcommittee on May 11, 2022, featuring Secretary of Commerce Gina Raimondo, touched on census concerns, since the Census Bureau falls under the Commerce Department.

Sen. Bill Hagerty (R-TN), after noting that the census is “required by the Constitution,” raised concerns about the “statistical methods and the assumptions that are used to supplement the actual data that’s collected. There are methods like Group Quarters imputation, or differential privacy that are employed. I’m not sure if you’re familiar with these methodologies. … I understand the principles of them, but it seems to me that the employees at the Department of the Census are really the only ones that fully understand and appreciate the assumptions, the models, what goes into them. And they’re the ones that are actually charged with looking at the actual numbers, making adjustments, changing the numbers and coming up with a final report. I just feel the American public, certainly the Congress would be well served to have a little more oversight and more visibility into what those methods are and how they’re being deployed. And I wanted to bring this up to you, if you could be supportive of perhaps putting in place a bipartisan panel that would overlook the way the census is conducted, the methodologies. Again, this should be a nonpartisan issue, I think, for us in a bipartisan panel. It has been done, before strikes me, this may be a way to get some more transparency and oversight in place.

Sec. Raimondo replied that she has “set the tone at the top of the Commerce Department that the Census Bureau should be fact-based, data-based, science-based, statistical-based. And Rob Santos, who you – who is the new Census Head has a strong statistical background. And I believe that – I feel confident that that is the way he is running the Department. Having said that, you know, more transparency is always better.

Hagerty appreciated her response and urged the subcommittee to hold an oversight meeting “soon” about the census.

Senators in Support of FY23 Census Funding

Twenty-six Senators, led by Sen. Brian Schatz (D-HI), have written to Senate CJS Appropriations Subcommittee leadership in support of The Census Project’s Fiscal Year 2023 (FY 2023) funding recommendation for the Census Bureau.

The Senators requested “$2 billion in funding for the Census Bureau, which represents a $495 million increase over the president’s budget request ($1.505 billion) and $646 million over the agency’s FY 2022 enacted level ($1.354 million).” They noted that the “Bureau faces many challenges and opportunities during this upcoming fiscal year, and Congress has the opportunity to provide robust assistance in the agency’s efforts.”

Late last month, fourteen House members, led by Carolyn Maloney (D-NY), also lent their support to the Census Project’s FY 2023 funding recommendation, writing to House CJS Appropriations Subcommittee leadership, “We hope that the Subcommittee will carefully consider the challenges and opportunities facing the Census Bureau and provide $2 billion to ensure our national statistical system is comprehensive, efficient, and accurate, while setting the foundation for lawmakers to engage in data driven, evidence-based policymaking throughout the rest of the decade.”

Congress Seeks to Address Minority Undercount

Sen. Bob Menendez (D-NJ) and 21 other Senators sent a letter to Commerce Secretary Raimondo and Census Director Robert Santos on March 31, 2022, sharing “serious concerns about the 2020 Census and its undercounting of Hispanic or Latino, Black, and Native American individuals” and asking what steps the Census Bureau may be undertaking to address them and keep them from happening again in the future. Rep. Linda Sanchez (D-CA) and 44 other Representatives sent a similar letter on April 5, 2022.

The Senators noted that, “Earlier this month, the U.S. Census Bureau released its National Census Coverage Estimates for People in the United States by Demographic Characteristics, which is a 2020 Post-Enumeration Survey Estimation Report. This report revealed an undercount of Hispanic or Latino, Black or African American, American Indian or Alaska Native, and Some Other Race populations.1 The 2020 Census undercounted the Hispanic or Latino population by 4.99 percent, up from 1.54 percent in 2010 and more than three times the percentage of the previous census. Similarly, individuals who identify as “some other race” had an undercount three times that of the previous census. In the case of Black or African American individuals, the report revealed an undercount of 3.30 percent, nearly twice the undercount of the 2010 Census. Finally, American Indian or Alaska Natives in reservations had the greatest undercount of all at 5.64 percent.

The House members asked about:

  • “Plans for assessing the impact of the undercount on the full range of activities for which Census data are used, including federal funding formulas, civil rights enforcement, and other public and private sector use of Census data”;
  • “Efforts to examine and implement approaches to mitigate the impact of the undercount of Latino, Black, and AI/AN populations on the programs and activities for which Census data are used”;
  • “Plans to release state- and county-level information on undercounts of Latino, Black, Asian, and AI/AN populations, as well as national origin data for Asian Americans at all levels”;
  • “Any outreach to states and localities about the availability of existing and planned programs which permit states and localities to request a review that may result in the correction of Census 2020 counts”;
  • “Details of any further research, evaluation, and assessments to understand the specific factors which contributed to the undercount”; and
  • “Information about any Bureau plans to evaluate approaches to modernizing the census, and how it will ensure that it assesses the impact of such plans on achieving a fair and accurate count of historically undercounted communities.”

STANDARD DEVIATIONS: Better Data for Our Nation

By Dr. Sallie Ann Keller

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

On the heels of the 2020 decennial count, census stakeholders should be excited to learn about what’s ahead for the Census Bureau, especially some comprehensive work at the University of Virginia.  Our team has set its sights on enabling new and better measures of America’s people, places, and the economy through a comprehensive innovation they call a Curated Data Enterprise (CDE).

We released a report this week titled, “A 21st Century Census Curated Data Enterprise,” which outlines various facets of this transformation that supports a bold new approach for data collection and dissemination, as well as changes currently happening within the Census Bureau.  The research is being done in collaboration with the Bureau and has received additional support from the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation.  

The Curated Data Enterprise is a bold, new vison to exploit multiple data sources across many sample surveys, censuses, tribal, federal, state, and local administrative data, as well as private-sector data, to produce more robust, granular, timelier, and comprehensive measures of demographic changes, social trends, and economic activity.

Federal agencies use census-derived data to allocate more than $1.5 trillion to local, state, and tribal governments each year as they fund neighborhood improvements, public health, education, transportation and much more. The criticality to have comprehensive, current, equitable and accurate data to support these purposes and uses drives the commitment to finding better ways to collect and disseminate data.

The CDE concept was socialized with researchers and data users through a set of 12 listening sessions that included 110 participants from across the United States. The report shares their input and reactions. I encourage you to read the full report but highlight some key elements here.

Redefining Purpose and Use: The (CDE) opens new opportunities for measurement associated with changing economic and social conditions that simply have not been achieved historically. For example, pandemics, wildfires, hurricanes, and changes in work require real-time and geographically detailed data to address questions asked by policymakers, media, analysts, researchers, planners, advocates, and the public.

Adopting a Curated Data Enterprise Framework: For the CDE vision to have its full impact, the Census Bureau will need to develop processes of curation in the context of specific purposes that evaluate, document, and preserve data and data products for use and future reuse. In addition, the CDE must support the dissemination of curated products on interactive platforms that promote their optimal use by stakeholders at all levels of data acumen.

Dr. Sallie Ann Keller is an endowed Distinguished Professor in Biocomplexity, Director of the Social and Decision Analytics Division within the Biocomplexity Institute and Initiative at University of Virginia and Professor of Public Health Sciences. Her areas of expertise are social and decision informatics, statistical underpinnings of data science, and data access and confidentiality. Dr. Keller’s is a leading voice in creating the science of all data and advancing this research across disciplines to benefit society.

Interim Report from the National Academies on 2020 Census Quality

The National Academies’ Committee on National Statistics released an interim report from its panel evaluating the quality of the 2020 Census.

Understanding the Quality of the 2020 Census Interim Report” goes into “concepts of error and quality in the decennial census as prelude to the panel’s forthcoming fuller assessment of 2020 Census data, process measures, and quality metrics.” Recommendations will be further refined in the panel’s final report.

Rutgers Workshop on the Analysis of Census Noisy Measurement Files and Differential Privacy

A Rutgers University workshop on April 28-29, 2022 (online and in New Jersey) aims to bring together research experts from many domains of social sciences, demography, public policy, statistics, and computer science to address key challenges in the use of the differentially private Census noisy measurement files to support social research and policy decisions.

“With the implementation of differential privacy, Census data consumers need implementable tools to carry out analyses in the presence of noise introduced to protect privacy. Additionally, privacy researchers in statistics, computer science, and the quantitative social sciences need to understand the practical hurdles faced by data users.”

Details and registration (by noon on April 25):

The event is sponsored by the Rutgers University Statistics Department and Center for Discrete Mathematics and Theoretical Computer Science (DIMACS).