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CNSTAT Issues Report on Federal Statistics, Multiple Data Sources, and Privacy Protection

The Committee on National Statistics (CNSTAT) of the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine recently issued a consensus report entitled Federal Statistics, Multiple Data Sources, and Privacy Protection: Next Steps. The report was produced by the Panel on Improving Federal Statistics for Policy and Social Science Research Using Multiple Data Sources and State-of-the-Art Estimation Methods, chaired by Robert Groves of Georgetown University. The Panel’s first report, Innovations in Federal Statistics: Combining Data Sources While Protecting Privacy, was published in January 2017, and described some of the challenges currently facing the federal statistical system’s current paradigm of heavy reliance on sample surveys and recommended a new approach of combining different kinds of federal and private data, as well as the creation of an entity to facilitate that. Federal Statistics, Multiple Data Sources, and Privacy Protection builds on the first report and examines statistical methods for combining diverse types of data, the implications relying on multiple data sources may have for IT systems, different statistical and computer science approaches to enhancing privacy protections, how to ensure the quality and utility of statistics produced using multiple data sources, and ways to implement the “new entity” that would facilitate combining data sources. The pre-publication version of the report is available on the National Academies’ website.

There is quite a bit of overlap in the areas addressed by the CNSTAT panel and those addressed by the Commission on Evidence-Based Policymaking, which released its report in September (see COSSA’s coverage the Commission)—in fact, Panel Chair Robert Groves served on the Commission as well. However, while the resulting reports from the two groups are hopefully complementary, their work was conducted independent of one another.

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Posted in Issue 21 (October 31), Update, Volume 36 (2017)

Former Census Director to Lead Statistics Group

John Thompson, who resigned as Director of the Census Bureau last month, has been appointed Executive Director of the Council of Professional Associations on Federal Statistics (COPAFS), effective July 24. Before being appointed to lead Census in 2013, Thompson was the President and CEO of NORC at the University of Chicago. He succeeds Katherine Smith Evans, who served as Executive Director since October 2012 and has been named the Washington Area Representative for the American Economic Association. COSSA looks forward to continuing to work closely with COPAFS on issues affecting federal statistical agencies and welcomes Thompson in his new role.

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Posted in Issue 15 (July 25), Update, Volume 36 (2017)

National Academies Releases Sixth Edition of Principles and Practices for a Federal Statistical Agency

The Committee on National Statistics (CNSTAT) of the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine recently published the sixth edition of its report, Principles and Practices for a Federal Statistical Agency, which is released every four years to coincide with presidential terms. The consensus study report provides an explanation of the federal statistical system and offers guiding principles and best practices for federal statistical agencies. According to the report, in order to disseminate relevant, timely, accurate and credible information to the public and policymakers, federal statistical agencies follow four guiding principles: (1) produce objective and relevant information, (2) maintain a credible reputation among data users, (3) build trust among data providers, and (4) remain independent and objective.

This article was contributed by COSSA’s summer intern, Shannon Emmett of the University of Massachusetts, Amherst.

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Posted in Issue 15 (July 25), Update, Volume 36 (2017)

IRS Statistical Agency Accepting Research Proposals

The Statistics of Income program (SOI) within the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) is accepting proposals for its Joint Statistical Research Program. The program, which is generally offered every two years, matches researchers outside the federal government with IRS researchers to work on projects that will deepen our understanding of taxpayer behavior and of how tax policies affect individuals, businesses, and the economy. The IRS hopes that such projects will also lead to the development of new datasets to enhance future tax research.

SOI is particularly interested in proposals addressing the following topics: “Tax administration in a global economy; taxpayer needs and behavior, particularly the roles of information, complexity, salience, engagement, and compliance costs; filing, payment, and reporting compliance measures, behaviors, and drivers; benefit participation measures, behaviors, and drivers, particularly related to the Affordable Care Act; taxpayer response to policy changes, particularly taxpayer responses to changes in incentives; the role of complex business structures in tax planning; and application of new research methods for tax administration, particularly data science, behavioral insights, or other interdisciplinary approaches.”

The 2016 call for proposals is available here. Proposals will be accepted through December 31, 2016.

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Posted in Issue 22 (November 15), Update, Volume 35 (2016)

Committee on National Statistics Releases Report on Reducing Burden in the American Community Survey

The Committee on National Statistics of the Division of Behavioral and Social Science and Education (DBASSE) at the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine has published a report on their March workshop dedicated to improving the American Community Survey (ACS). The workshop examined different approaches to reducing the burden on respondents, including reducing the number of questions asked to individual respondents though matrix sampling, eliminating the need for some questions by using administrative records, increasing cooperation with the survey, reducing the length of the survey. The full report is available here.

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Posted in Issue 20 (October 18), Update, Volume 35 (2016)

BEA Releases State-Level Consumer Spending Data

For the first time, the Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA) will begin regularly releasing official statistics detailing consumer spending by state. The data will include total consumer spending in each state, breakouts of consumer spending in specific categories and sectors, and per-capita consumer spending from 1997 through 2014. BEA began releasing prototype estimates in 2014; previously, only national consumer-spending data was available.

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Posted in Issue 22 (December 1), Update, Volume 34 (2015)

Census Bureau Marks World Statistics Day

The United Nations has designated October 20 World Statistics Day. To commemorate the day, the Census Bureau has released a new infographic to highlight the many ways Census data helps fulfill the 2015 Statistics Day theme, “Better Data. Better Lives.”

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Posted in Issue 19 (October 20), Update, Volume 34 (2015)

OMB Finalizes New Statistical Policy Directive

On December 2, the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) issued Statistical Policy Directive No. 1, “Fundamental Responsibilities of Federal Statistical Agencies and Recognized Statistical Units.” The Directive provides “a unified articulation of Federal statistical agency responsibilities.” In order to implement the Directive, federal statistical agencies will report to OMB on their progress toward fulfilling four key responsibilities: (1) Produce and disseminate relevant and timely information, (2) Conduct credible and accurate statistical activities, (3) Conduct objective statistical activities, and (4) Protect the trust of information providers by ensuring the confidentiality and exclusive statistical use of their responses. A draft version of the Directive was released for public comment in May (more information here).

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Posted in Issue 22 (December 5), Update, Volume 33 (2014)

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