Budget Would Deal 2020 Count a Critical Blow, Say Census Experts

For Release
Tuesday, May 23, 2017*

WASHINGTON–Representatives of a coalition of census stakeholders today expressed concern the Trump administration’s proposed Fiscal Year 2018 budget for the Census Bureau “woefully underfunds preparations for the national census at a critical phase in the planning.” Stakeholders of the Census Project include state and local governments, business and industry, civil rights and labor groups, housing and child advocates and research and professional organizations that support a complete, fair and accurate census.

“With the delays in recruiting qualified talent to oversee the census planning at both the Census Bureau and the Department of Commerce, we hope Congress will not compound the problem by failing to provide sufficient FY 2018 funding for critical data collection and testing for 2020,” said Phil Sparks of the Census Project. The administration budget proposes funding the Census Bureau at $1.5 billion for FY 2018, only a $27 million increase over 2017, lagging far behind comparable increases at this stage in advance of previous decennial head counts.

Census observers have been concerned the Trump administration and Congress have minimized the significant challenges the bureau faces at this point in the decennial planning cycle and why Census needs an increase in funds now. “This is a recipe for disaster if we are to achieve a fair and inclusive national count mandated by our Constitution,” said Sparks.

The Census Bureau is facing a daunting array of workload challenges between now and the end of the decade, including the 2017 Economic Census, the annual American Community Survey of about 4 million households per year, and end-to-end testing of new designs for the 2020 decennial census, which will feature the first ever online response option.

Congress must approve the FY 2018 appropriations by October 1 this year, on the eve of several key census field tests targeting 700,000 households in Rhode Island, Washington state and West Virginia to finalize operational designs for the 2020 count. Sparks said his group would strongly advocate Congress override the president’s request and significantly increase the bureau’s funding. “We may be facing an historic disaster unless Congress acts to save the census,” Sparks added.


*This press release was updated on May 23 to correctly state the difference between FY 2017 and proposed FY 2018 Census Bureau funding. It was updated again on May 30 to reflect administration testimony on funding changes.