July 2016 Update (Vol. 2)


Calls for public comment

  • 2020 Census residence rules — The Census Bureau extended the deadline to September 1, 2016 for submitting comments on the proposed 2020 Census Residence Criteria and Residence Situations (Federal Register). The proposed criteria governing where people are counted in the census were published for comment on June 30. Census Director John Thompson has said the Bureau plans to issue final residence rules by the end of the year. The New York Times published an editorial opposing the Census Bureau’s decision not to change the policy governing where incarcerated persons are counted in the census.
  • 2017 Puerto Rico Census Test — The Census Bureau will continue to test a range of census operations next Spring in Puerto Rico (April 1st “Census Day”), including In-Office and In-Field address canvassing, IT system integration, effective methods to promote self-response, and Nonresponse Follow-up (NRFU) procedures. The Bureau will evaluate new approaches to the Update Enumerate (U/E) operation, an alternative counting method used in areas with nontraditional addressing and other challenging data collection environments. (Generally, in U/E areas, census takers go door-to-door to verify and update the address list and collect census responses from each household at the same time. The 2017 Census Test, which will take place on tribal lands in Washington State and North and South Dakota, also will focus on refining U/E methods.) The Puerto Rico test will take place in three municipios within the San Juan metro area: Carolina, Loíza and Trujillo Alto.Comments are due by September 19, 2016. More information on the test is available on the Census Bureau’s website.

2018 census test sites announced — The Census Bureau announced three sites for the 2018 End-to-End Census Test (April 1, 2018 “Census Day”), which will serve as a dress rehearsal for the 2020 Census: Providence County, Rhode Island; Pierce County, Washington; and the Bluefield-Beckley-Oak Hill region of West Virginia. The test is designed to be a “mini-census,” validating the integration of IT systems, enumeration methods, field infrastructure, and communications strategies, as well as cost estimates and prototype data products, in a census-like environment. More information about the site selection and general test plans is available from the Census Bureau.

Leading tribal government group opposes tribal enrollment question in census, ACS – The National Congress of American Indians (NCAI), the nation’s largest organization of American Indian and Alaska Native (AIAN) tribal governments, is opposing the addition of a question on tribal enrollment in the 2020 Census and American Community Survey (ACS). In a resolution adopted at its annual conference in June, NCAI expressed concern about the reliability and consistency of data based on “self-identification,” a lack of federal support for improved tribal use of data on the AIAN population, and uncertainty about “how such Census Bureau counts of enrolled tribal members will be used by the various federal agencies.” The Bureau has been testing a question on tribal enrollment for possible inclusion on the 2020 Census form. Cognitive testing and stakeholder briefings have taken place over the past year, with field-testing planned during the 2017 Census Test. The Bureau has not made a final decision on whether to include the new question, which would be separate from the question(s) on race and ethnicity. By law, it must submit question topics for the 2020 Census to Congress by April 1, 2017.


Senate bill follows House proposal on LGBT data: Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), along with Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA), introduced the “LGBT Data Inclusion Act” (S. 3134), to require the collection of “voluntary, self-disclosed” data on sexual orientation and gender identity in federal surveys, including the decennial census and ACS. The bill is similar to legislation introduced by Rep. Raul Grijalva (D-AZ) (H.R. 5373) in May. The Senate bill was referred to the Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs.

FY2017 appropriations update — With Congress in recess until after Labor Day, hopes for passage of the Commerce, Justice, and Science (CJS) Appropriations bill before the start of Fiscal Year 2017 on October 1st are all but gone. Both the House and Senate Appropriations Committees approved their respective versions of the funding bills (H.R. 2578/S. 2837), and the Senate began consideration of the CJS bill, in the weeks before lawmakers adjourned for the party conventions, but progress on all annual appropriations measures stalled as Republicans and Democrats clashed over a range of policy issues. (The Senate did not take up any Census Bureau-related amendments before abandoning work on the CJS bill, which technically is still pending before the chamber.)

Congress is now likely to draft a temporary spending measure to keep federal agencies running past the end of Fiscal Year 2016 on September 30. A so-called Continuing Resolution (CR) generally funds federal programs at current (FY2016) levels, presenting a unique challenge for 2020 Census planning efforts, which require a steady ramp-up in funding as the census year approaches. Congress could propose a CR that runs until a post-election lame duck session or even into the start of 2017 and the second quarter of FY2017, when a new Administration takes office and a new Congress is seated.

Historically, temporary funding bills have included a handful of exceptions to flat-funding (called “anomalies”), in recognition of special circumstances and extraordinary funding needs of certain programs. With time running out to complete testing of major operational reforms for the 2020 Census, build-out the complex IT systems needed to conduct the census, update the address list and digital maps with new cost-effective procedures, and begin developing an extensive, flexible communications campaign that can boost participation in hard-to-count communities, The Census Project believes an anomaly for the Census Bureau is warranted and essential. Therefore, we will circulate a stakeholder sign-on letter to the Administration and congressional leaders in the coming weeks, urging adequate funding for the Census Bureau in the anticipated FY2017 Continuing Resolution.


Party platforms address census, ACS issues — As we reported in the July Census Project Update, Vol. 1, leading business and industry associations sent a letter(coordinated by the Marketing Research Association) to the chairs of the Republican and Democratic National Committees, urging the parties to confirm their support for the 2020 Census and American Community Survey in their respective presidential party platforms. (Other stakeholders reached out to the platform committees with similar messages, and we thank them for their efforts.) Both party platforms did address issues related to the census, in very different ways.

  • Republican Platform: Indirectly calls for adding questions on citizenship and immigration status to the decennial census, in order to “preserve the principle of ‘one person, one vote’” and “ensure that citizenship, rather than mere residency, be made the basis for the apportionment of representatives among the states.” The position echoes an amendment to the Census Bureau’s annual funding bill (Commerce, Justice, and Science Appropriations) that Sen. David Vitter (R-LA) has proposed several times. (The Census Project prepared talking points on the potential consequences of adding citizenship and immigration status questions to the 2020 Census, after Sen. Vitter filed his amendment when lawmakers began consideration of the FY2017 Commerce appropriations bill in June.)

    However, notably absent from the Republican platform is any language questioning the basis for mandatory response to the census and, by extension, the American Community Survey, which was included in the 2008 platform.

  • Democratic Party Platform: Recognizes “the value of data in allowing us to count and carefully consider the needs of different communities.” To that end, the platform says, “[W]e will preserve and enhance the integrity and accuracy of the census and the American Community Survey (ACS). We will equip the Census Bureau with the resources needed to prepare for and conduct a cost effective, complete and accurate census, as well as improve counting segments of the population that are historically and persistently undercounted, specifically communities of color, immigrants, LGBT people, young children, those with disabilities, and rural and low-income populations. We will also maintain the legal requirement for the public to participate and be counted.”

    The Democratic Platform also calls for the collection of detailed (“disaggregated”) subgroup data on race and ethnicity, to help ensure that government services are “culturally and linguistically appropriate.”