February 2021 Census Project Update

New Commerce Secretary, expert quality assessments for decennial count, and timetables for Apportionment and Redistricting data signal a busy spring and summer for census concerns.

Census Bureau Operations and Leadership

Commerce Secretary

The Senate Commerce Committee approved Rhode Island Governor Gina Raimondo’s nomination to be Secretary of Commerce by a 21-3 vote on February 3, sending her nomination to the Senate floor. Her hearing in January covered several census issues because the Census Bureau falls under the Department of Commerce.

The codirectors of the Census Project wrote to Senate leadership in support of Raimondo’s confirmation on February 8.

Raimondo was confirmed by the full Senate by an 84-15 vote on March 2.

2020 Census data quality assessment

A February 23rd report from JASON, an independent scientific advisory group, assessed the Census Bureau’s 2020 Census data quality processes. The report provided additional recommendations and insights on how to ensure and provide quality data metrics, identified strengths, weaknesses and opportunities for data quality assessments and metrics, and offered recommendations on how to communicate important aspects of data quality metrics that accompany the release of 2020 Census data products. According to JASON, the report’s focus “is the data quality of this census, compared with what would have been achieved in better circumstances, with a specific focus on the fitness of the data for the constitutional and statutory uses of the census.”

The American Statistical Association also shared the first updates to their 2020 Census Quality Indicators report, the result of a task force to continue evaluation of the results of the decennial census after a tumultuous and controversial 2020 Census.

A February 27th Census Bureau blog post went over these efforts and also pointed out that the Bureau plans to involve the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) Committee on National Statistics (CNSTAT) in their data quality assessments.

Policy Update

Ohio sues Commerce Department to release census results ASAP

Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost sued the Department of Commerce on February 25, complaining that the Department of Commerce plans to shirk its “obligation to share” census results “with the States by the March 31 deadline” in violation of 13 U.S.C. § 141(c) and the Administrative Procedure Act.” Yost’s suit asks the court to: “(1) set aside the Census Bureau’s unlawful decision; and (2) issue an injunction either prohibiting the defendants from delaying the release of Ohio’s redistricting data beyond March 31, 2021, or else requiring the defendants to provide the State with Ohio’s population data at the earliest date this Court deems equitable. Alternatively, the State of Ohio seeks a writ of mandamus requiring the Secretary to meet the statutory March 31 deadline. This relief will allow the State to finalize legislative maps consistent with the strictures of the Ohio Constitution.”

In his announcement of the litigation, AG Yost lamented that, since Ohioans “have found ways to meet their responsibilities throughout the COVID-19 pandemic – adapting how we run businesses, caring for loved ones, home schooling children – why should the government create a double standard?”

A court hearing is tentatively scheduled for March 19.

Cleveland.com and the Columbus Dispatch covered the story.

Ohio’s litigation further emphasizes the need, articulated by many census stakeholders, to extend the Bureau’s legal reporting deadlines for 2020 Census apportionment and redistricting data in some form of legislation.

Congressional Committees Announce Leadership and Roster Changes

On February 12, the Senate Appropriations Committee announced subcommittee rosters and leadership for the 117th Congress. The Commerce, Justice, Science (CJS) Subcommittee, which funds the Census Bureau, will now be chaired by Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) with the former chair, Senator Jerry Moran (R-KS), serving as the Ranking Member.

In February, key census oversight committees also announced changes in their leadership. House Oversight and Reform Committee Chair Carolyn Maloney announced the reappointment of Congressman Jamie Raskin (D-MD) as Chair of the Subcommittee on Civil Rights and Civil Liberties, which has oversight authority of the Census Bureau. In the Senate, Senator Gary Peters (D-MI) and Senator Rob Portman (R-OH) assumed new roles as the Chair and Ranking Member of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee (HSGAC), respectively. HSGAC has oversight authority of the Census Bureau at the full committee level.

Other census policy developments

Dr. William P. O’Hare explored the implications of the Census Bureau producing a “blended base” for the post-2020 Census population estimates in a technical paper.

Former U.S. Chief Statistician Kathy Wallman told the Federal News Network that citizenship data is important to policymakers and the public, but that “the Census Bureau is probably not the proper agency to be doing that kind of activity” because it “crosses the line between what is statistical in nature and what uses might be made of the data down the line.” She also worried that it could have “a very chilling effect on the population you’re trying to get to respond,” which could “actually depresses the response from the public and makes the Census Bureau’s job far more difficult.”

Census Bureau News

Acting Census Director Ron Jarmin provided an update on the processing of 2020 Census data in a February 2 blog post.

The U.S. Census Bureau announced on February 12 that it will deliver the Public Law 94-171 redistricting data to all states by Sept. 30, 2021. COVID-19-related delays and prioritizing the delivery of the apportionment results delayed the Census Bureau’s original plan to deliver the redistricting data to the states by March 31, 2021.

The U.S. Census Bureau released a report authored by JASON titled, “Assessment of 2020 Census Data Quality Processes.”

The Bureau was presented the 2021 Making a Difference Award at the Esri Federal GIS Conference.

The Census Bureau received a letter from DOJ stating that the CVAP data from the ACS, on which it has traditionally relied, are adequate for its enforcement of Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act. DOJ did not request compilation or release of additional citizenship or CVAP data beyond this ACS data. As of Jan. 12, the Census Bureau had stopped all work on producing block level CVAP data for the 2020 Census.

The Bureau is currently hiring temporary workers to conduct the “person follow-up” phase of the Post-Enumeration Survey (PES) beginning in June. The PES is an independent survey that helps measure the accuracy of the decennial census by estimating how many people and housing units were missed or erroneously counted in the census, including those counted more than once. During person follow-up, census takers will return to select housing units previously interviewed to confirm records.

Census Bureau Data Releases

The U.S. Census Bureau released the 2020 Census P.L. 94-171 geographic support products for the District of Columbia, Georgia, Kentucky, Michigan, Rhode Island, Vermont, Wyoming and Puerto Rico, as well as products for Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Connecticut, Florida, Idaho, Illinois, Kansas, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Montana, North Dakota, New Hampshire, New Mexico, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Utah and West Virginia, and products for Delaware, Hawaii, Maine, Mississippi, Nebraska, Nevada, Pennsylvania, South Dakota, Washington and Wisconsin. These geographic products are provided to support redistricting efforts by state and local governments and contain newly created 2020 Census blocks and updated block groups, census tracts, voting districts, and current boundaries for legal governments and school districts referenced to Jan. 1, 2020. The release of the new states completes the redistricting geographic support files for the nation. The products were released on a flow basis beginning Jan. 19.

The U.S. Census Bureau released a new report examining characteristics and geographic distribution of the nation’s estimated 980,000 same-sex couple households based on ACS 1-year estimates: “Same-Sex Couple Households: 2019.”

A new Census Bureau report examines characteristics of the U.S. population with bachelor’s degrees, “Bachelor’s Degree Attainment in the United States: 2005 to 2019,” based on statistics from the American Community Survey (ACS).

The Bureau released the 2019 County Business Patterns (CBP) First Look data table. This preliminary tabulation includes the number of establishments, employment for the week of March 12, first quarter payroll, and annual payroll at the NAICS sector level (i.e., 2-digit NAICS) for the nation.

The U.S. Census Bureau’s annual update to the HIV/AIDS Surveillance Database adds new data to this interactive global resource on the prevalence of HIV infection and AIDS cases and deaths in over 200 countries and areas around the world.

The U.S. Census Bureau released data from the 2019 Annual Survey of Manufactures.

Census Bureau temporary workers were paid on Jan. 17 – Jan. 23, 2021, Jan. 24 – Jan. 30, 2021, Jan. 31 – Feb. 6, 2021, and Feb. 7 – Feb. 13, 2021.

The U.S. Census Bureau released an infographic on the Census of Governments (CoG). This census, which comprises over 90,000 government organizations, is conducted every 5 years. CoG is the most comprehensive, comparable and precise measure of public sector activity within the U.S. economy. The infographic provides an at-a-glance look at the planning and dissemination for the upcoming 2022 CoG.

The Census Bureau released school enrollment data tables for October 2019 that examine the characteristics of people enrolled in school at all levels using statistics from the Current Population Survey. These data were gathered before the COVID-19 pandemic and serve as a pre-crisis benchmark for future research and planning.

Data from the Household Pulse Survey was released on February 10 and February 24.

Data from the new fourth phase of the Small Business Pulse Survey was released on February 25.

News You Can Use

Below are several articles posted on The Census Project home page in January 2021. For a complete listing, go to: https://thecensusproject.org/recent-media/.

Delayed Census data is causing problem for Michigan redistricting commission
Detroit Free Press
February 28, 2021
https://www.freep.com/story/news/local/michigan/detroit/2021/02/28/michigan-redistricting-commission-open-meeting-census-delay/6842064002/

Ohio Is 1st State to Sue Census Bureau over Delay in Data
Associated Press
February 25, 2021
https://apnews.com/article/dayton-lawsuits-coronavirus-pandemic-census-2020-courts-f0a9f57a2d11b0fb0b580c1d4f8cd2fe

Census Delays Affect NC Redistricting Plans, Congressional Appointments
Chapelboro.com
February 25, 2021
https://chapelboro.com/news/2020-census/census-delays-affect-nc-redistricting-plans-congressional-appointments

Pa. Legislature looks for path forward on redistricting, reapportionment, following census data delays Pennsylvania Capital-Star
February 24, 2021
https://www.penncapital-star.com/government-politics/pa-legislature-looks-for-path-forward-on-redistricting-reapportionment-following-census-data-delays/

Census Delay Could Mean Later Candidate Filing And Elections For Missouri
KCUR
February 23, 2021
https://www.kcur.org/politics-elections-and-government/2021-02-23/census-delay-could-mean-later-candidate-filing-and-elections-for-missouri

State Staffer: ‘Entirely Unknown’ How Iowa’s Legislative Redistricting Process Will Proceed Due To Census Data Delays
Iowa Public Radio
February 22, 2021
https://www.iowapublicradio.org/ipr-news/2021-02-22/state-staffer-entirely-unknown-how-iowas-legislative-redistricting-process-will-proceed-due-to-census-data-delays

Census data delay could freeze Virginia House districts, raises prospect of elections for three straight years
The Washington Post
February 16, 2021
https://www.washingtonpost.com/local/virginia-politics/census-delays-virginia-elections/2021/02/16/0f4488ac-706f-11eb-b8a9-b9467510f0fe_story.html

Drawing Arkansas congressional districts will require special session because of census delay, lawmaker says
Arkansas Democrat Gazette
February 14, 2021
https://www.arkansasonline.com/news/2021/feb/14/drawing-arkansas-congressional-districts-will/?news-arkansas-nwa

Delayed Census Data Puts Idaho In A Time Crunch For Redistricting
Boise State Public Radio
February 10, 2021
https://www.boisestatepublicradio.org/post/delayed-census-data-puts-idaho-time-crunch-redistricting#stream/0

As Colorado Prepares To Draw Political Districts And Allocate Tax Dollars, The Census Throws A Wrench Into the Process
KUNC
February 8, 2021
https://www.kunc.org/news/2021-02-08/as-colorado-prepares-to-draw-political-districts-and-allocate-tax-dollars-the-census-throws-a-wrench-into-the-process

Calendar timing means virus deaths won’t be seen in census
Associated Press
February 6, 2021
https://www.nbcnews.com/politics/congress/calendar-timing-means-virus-deaths-won-t-be-seen-census-n1256945

‘Majority Minority’ America? Don’t Bet on It: How a Census Bureau error led Democrats to assume they were on the right side of inexorable demographic trends
Wall Street Journal
February 5, 2021
https://www.wsj.com/articles/majority-minority-america-dont-bet-on-it-11612549609?mod=MorningEditorialReport&mod=djemMER_h

How Trump’s Four-Year Crusade To Rig The Census Fell Apart Talking Points Memo
February 1, 2021
https://talkingpointsmemo.com/news/trump-census-falls-apart-apportionment

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