Happy New Year! 2021 began with many developments affecting the 2020 Census and leadership at the Census Bureau and its parent agency, the Department of Commerce.
Census Bureau Operations and Leadership
Census Bureau Director Retires
On January 18, Census Bureau Director Steven Dillingham announced his retirement effective January 20, 2021, a little more than 11 months before his current term expires.
NPR confirmed that Deputy Director Ron Jarmin would serve as the Acting Census Bureau Director—a position he held for almost two years prior to Director Dillingham’s confirmation.
In addition to Director Dillingham’s departure, all other Census Bureau political appointees, including Nathaniel Cogley, Deputy Director of Policy, and Benjamin Overholt, Deputy Director for Data, resigned their positions also effective January 20.
President Biden Nominates New Commerce Secretary
On January 8, President-Elect Biden nominated Rhode Island Governor Gina Raimondo to serve as the next Secretary of the Department of Commerce. The Census Bureau is a part of the Commerce Department. Raimondo’s position requires confirmation by the U.S. Senate.
On January 26, the Senate Commerce Committee held a hearing to consider Governor Gina Raimondo’s nomination. Because the U.S. Census Bureau is located within the Department of Commerce, Governor Raimondo received several questions regarding the 2020 Census and the Bureau’s operations.
During the hearing, Governor Raimondo said she intends to “depoliticize” the Census Bureau and “rely” on the advice of Census Bureau senior staff to manage issues facing the agency. Several senators, including Senator Jon Tester (D-MT), expressed concerns about the quality of the 2020 Census data, especially given potential undercounts of hard-to-count populations in certain regions of the country. Governor Raimondo did not offer specific recommendations for improving 2020 Census data accuracy, but rather reiterated her intention to rely on the expertise of Census Bureau staff when assessing the outcome of the decennial census and its data.
In response to another question from Senator Brian Schatz (D-HI), Governor Raimondo, once again, stated she would be consulting with Census Bureau experts before determining if more time is needed to review apportionment and redistricting data before their release.
The Senate Commerce Committee is expected to consider or “mark up” Governor Raimondo’s nomination on February 3, 2021 with the full Senate voting before the end of the month.
Washington Post columnist Catherine Rampell recently laid out four steps for Congress and Raimondo to take “right away so the 2020 Census results are both trustworthy and actually trusted.”
On January 25, the Department of Commerce announced a slew of new appointments, including Meghan Maury – Senior Advisor, U.S. Census Bureau.
Census Bureau Director Ends Compilation of Data on Undocumented Immigrants
On January 13, the Census Bureau announced that it had ceased all work related to the production of a state-by-state count of unauthorized immigrants. The announcement came only days after the media reported that the Department of Commerce Inspector General (IG) was investigating whistleblowers’ complaints regarding a “technical report” the Director had ordered Census Bureau employees to produce about the number of documented and undocumented immigrants in the United States. Career Census Bureau employees expressed concern about the pressure they were under to produce this report without being given sufficient time to conduct quality data checks and ensure the report’s accuracy.
In a blog accompanying his retirement announcement, Dillingham defended his actions stating that “the request for data was relevant and responsive to an officially announced and much publicized directive from the President pursuant to Executive Order 13880, issued on July 11, 2019.” More importantly, the Director’s blog also confirmed his decision to cease all work on the report shortly after receiving a formal request for information from the Commerce IG on January 12, 2021.
President Biden Signs Executive Orders Affecting Census
On January 20, President Biden signed an executive order overturning the Trump Administration’s efforts to exclude undocumented immigrants from the 2020 Census. In addition, the order also directs the Bureau to discontinue work on the citizen voting age population file—an effort undertaken by the previous Administration to collect and provide citizenship data at the census block-level using government records.
Census Bureau Announces Postponement of Apportionment Data
After missing the December 31 deadline for reporting state apportionment totals, the media reported several new potential dates throughout the month, including February 9 and March 6. On January 28, the Census Bureau announced April 30 as its target date for completing apportionment counts.
In a related development, on January 12, four former Census Bureau Directors issued a statement commenting on the history of producing and releasing apportionment data from the decennial census.
New House and Senate Committee Assignments
At press time, the 117th Congress was still in the process of organizing and confirming final committee assignments in the U.S. House of Representatives and U.S. Senate. In January, however, the House Appropriations Committee confirmed the appointment of several new members on the Commerce, Justice, Science (CJS) Appropriations Subcommittee, which funds the Census Bureau. The new members are Representative C.A. Dutch Ruppersberger (D-MD), Representative David Trone (D-MD), Representative Ben Cline (R-VA) and Representative Mike Garcia (R-CA). The new Chair of the House Appropriations Committee Rosa DeLauro (D-CT) also announced that Representative Matt Cartwright (D-PA) is the new chair of the CJS subcommittee given the retirement of the previous chair, Representative Jose Serrano (D-NY). Rep. Rob Aderholt (R-AL) will, once again, be the ranking Republican member. Full rosters of all the subcommittees are posted at: DeLauro Announces Appropriations Committee Roster | House Committee on Appropriations and Granger Announces Republican Subcommittee Assignments for 117th Congress | House Committee on Appropriations – Republicans.
Census Bureau News
On January 28, the Census Bureau announced its target date for releasing apportionment data.
The Census Bureau released a new version of its Census Business Builder interactive application on January 27.
On January 21, the Census Bureau announced that the “2020 Census data products including the P.L. 94-171 Redistricting Summary Data File will not include information on citizenship or immigration status.”
On January 18, Director Dillingham announced his plans to retire effective January 20, 2021.
In response to a stay issued in National Urban League vs. Ross, the Bureau outlined its compliance plans on January 16.
On January 13, the Bureau released answers that Director Dillingham provided in response to an inquiry from the Department of Commerce Inspector General regarding the agency’s recent activities surrounding the July 2019 Executive Order 13880, “Executive Order on Collecting Information about Citizenship Status in Connection with the Decennial Census.”
Census Bureau Data Releases
On January 28, the Census Bureau released new estimates on the characteristics of employer businesses from the Annual Business Survey.
Also, on January 28, the Bureau released estimates from its Annual Retail Trade Survey.
On January 26, the Bureau released the 2020 Census P.L. 94-171 geographic support products for California, Iowa, Indiana, Louisiana, Missouri, North Carolina, New York, Ohio and Oregon. 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. Similar products were released for the states of Arkansas, Colorado, Maryland, New Jersey, and Virginia on January 19. The Bureau provided additional details about these products in a January 14 release.
On January 21, the Bureau released data from the Annual Wholesale Trade Survey.
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/.