January 2021 Census Project Update

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.

Policy Update

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.

Census Bureau temporary workers were paid on January 26, January 19, January 12, and January 5.

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.

Data from the Household Pulse Survey was released on January 27 and January 6.

Data from the third phase of the Small Business Pulse Survey was released on January 14 and January 7.

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/.

Census delay sends redistricting ripples nationwide
Roll Call
January 29, 2021

Census Bureau aims to deliver state population totals by April 30
The Washington Post
January 28, 2021

Census delays likely to blow up the state’s redistricting timeline
Richmond Times-Dispatch
January 28, 2021

Census delays will force Texas lawmakers into a special session to redraw political maps
The Texas Tribune
January 27, 2021

Census Numbers For Dividing Up House Seats Delayed Until April 30, Bureau Says
January 27, 2021

Census Flags Big Delays In Data Release That Could Squeeze States’ Electoral Calendars
Talking Points Memo
January 27, 2021

Commerce Secretary nominee Gina Raimondo vows to “take politics out” of census
CBS News
January 26, 2021

Citizenship information will not be included in US census data
January 25, 2021

How the government can keep ‘alternative facts’ out of the census
The Washington Post
January 25, 2021

Citizenship Data Is Latest Rollback of Trump Census Efforts
Associated Press
January 23, 2021

Statisticians hail early departure of U.S. Census director
January 19, 2021

Trump’s Census Chief Quits After Controversy on Immigrant Count

January 18, 2021

Census war rages ahead of critical data release
January 15, 2021

Census Bureau to Trump Admin: Drop Dead
National Review
January 13, 2021

Trump’s Census Director Is Trying To Rush Out Data On Noncitizens, Watchdog Says
January 12, 2021

What the 2020 census will reveal about America: Stagnating growth, an aging population, and youthful diversity
Brookings Institution
January 11, 2021

Why the politicisation of the US census really counts
Financial Times
January 7, 2021

New delay in census process probably ends Trump’s plan to exclude undocumented immigrants from apportionment
The Washington Post
January 6, 2021

San Diego Conversations Podcast: Despite A Pandemic, Initial Census Results May Be Better Than Expected
January 6, 2021

US Census Director blog – 2020: A Year in Review
GIS User
January 4, 2021

Winners and losers from pandemic compromised Census
The Day
January 3, 2021