June 2017 Update

2020 Census Budget

Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross testified before the Senate Committee on Appropriations last week at the same time ex-FBI Director James Comey testified about the Russian investigation. Guess which hearing received the most media coverage?

Secretary Ross outlined the Trump administration’s 2020 Census budget request for FY 2018. Ranking Democrat Patrick Leahy (Vt.) said the Trump request “fails to sufficiently invest in the 2020 Census.”

To say the least, it’s woefully inadequate, as compared to similar requests in three previous decades of decennial census upticks over the last few years of each census cycle. The chart below was prepared by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities using data supplied by the Congressional Research Service.


The overall budget increase request of just $27 million (as opposed to the previously reported $51 million), combined with the FY 2017 appropriations for the 2020 Census just approved by Congress, has now forced the Census Bureau to altogether eliminate two of the three field tests of the 2018 End-To-End Test to make sure that the complex IT-focused decennial will work!

Only Providence, Rhode Island, remains as a test site. Tests in both West Virginia (a rural area) and in Washington State (a suburban area) have been dropped.

In addition, important elements of the remaining Rhode Island test have been ditched. This includes the advertising/communications and partnership programs to primarily reach hard-to-count populations.

Obviously, without huge increases in the traditional ramp-up costs associated with the 2020 Census, the chances of a botched decennial census increase substantially.

Counting the Effects of Census Data on State and Local Government

George Washington University’s Institute of Public Policy published a new report linking the amounts of federal aid to state and local government for the top 16 domestic federal spending programs – including health care, highways, Head Start, housing assistance and food stamps – to census data. The overall total for all 50 states is about $600 billion per year! Concurrently, the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights produced a talking points memo to use when talking to the public or policymakers about this data.

The report contains state-by-state data on how each state depends on census numbers to receive these federal funds.

Average federal funds distribution for the 16 largest census-guided programs.


In a letter to congressional leaders, the major state and local government organizations, including the National Governors Association, the National Association of Counties, the U.S. Conference of Majors and the National Conference of State Legislatures wrote that “state and local policymakers rely on both the Constitutionally-required decennial census and the annual [American Community Survey] to provide detailed, high-quality data. Insufficient funding would degrade this irreplaceable statistical information that state and local leaders need to make informed decisions for their citizens and communities.”

Urge Members of Congress to Co-Sign Letter Regarding New Census Director

U.S. Representatives Ruben Gallego, Hakeem Jeffries and Grace Meng are circulating a letter among their congressional colleagues urging President Trump to nominate a “well-qualified, experienced and nonpartisan leader” to guide the Census Bureau with the impending departure of current Census Director John Thompson.

Both the Census Project and the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights have already sent similar letters, co-signed by their own stakeholders, to President Trump.

We urge Census Project stakeholders to contact their congressional offices to sign onto the letter if they haven’t already.