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Dillingham Leaves Census Bureau After Whistleblower Complaints About Noncitizen Data Release

Census Bureau Director Steven Dillingham announced his departure, effective January 20, eleven months before the end of his term. The announcement comes after whistleblower complaints came to light that Dillingham and senior political appointees were pressuring Census Bureau employees to rush the publication of a potentially “statistically indefensible” data report on noncitizens. Dillingham’s public announcement of his resignation included a response to questions posed by the Department of Commerce Inspector General’s Office regarding the noncitizens report. Dillingham’s announcement also notes that he has respect for President-elect Biden and had prepared, after requests from the Biden transition team, to stay on after the Presidential transition, but “I must do now what I think is best.” Census Bureau Deputy Director Ron Jarmin will again serve as acting director of the Bureau, a position he held for over a year prior to Dillingham’s nomination.

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Posted in Issue 2 (January 19), Update, Volume 40

Supreme Court Ends Census Count Early; Congress Could Still Act to Protect Accuracy

On October 13, the Supreme Court issued a ruling allowing the Department of Commerce to end its 2020 Census field operations early (see COSSA’s previous coverage for the complete back-and-forth on the end date). However, while the enumeration efforts have ended, the Census Bureau now moves to critical data processing and quality-checking work to ensure that the final counts submitted for redistricting and reapportionment purposes are accurate. The timeline for this essential work is significantly compressed compared to both the Bureau’s original 2020 Census operating plan and the Administration’s COVID-19-adjusted plan. Congress can act to move statutory deadlines and instruct the Bureau to take adequate time to complete these activities. However, with Congress off on the campaign trail, we would not expect to see action on this until the lame duck session after the election. You can stay tuned to COSSA’s coverage of the 2020 Census here.

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Posted in Issue 21 (October 27), Update, Volume 39 (2020)

Fight for Accurate Census Continues Even as Counting Wraps Up

The 2020 Census has been sent to the Supreme Court yet again, this time over the Administration’s plans to end field enumeration and non-response follow-up efforts early and to rush the timeline for producing Constitutionally-mandated redistricting and reapportionment data. As previously reported, a federal judge required counting efforts for the 2020 Census to continue until the end of October. The Administration has appealed that ruling to the Supreme Court to allow it to end enumeration activities as soon as possible in order to shift the operation to producing data by the end-of-year statutory deadline.

Many Census experts—including the Census Bureau itself—have said that it is all but impossible to produce these data accurately within the statutorily-set timeframe and have urged the Bureau to take more time to produce complete counts for redistricting and reapportionment.

Meanwhile, Congress could resolve this uncertainty by passing legislation that extends the deadlines—as had been originally requested by the Trump Administration and proposed in COVID-19 relief and standalone legislation. However, with negotiations on COVID-19 packages stuttering and Congress leaving for the election, progress seems unlikely before the Court has the opportunity to weigh in. We will continue to follow this closely and report on new developments.

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Posted in Issue 20 (October 13), Update, Volume 39 (2020)

With Days Left, Census Deadline Still in Flux

A federal judge issued an order that would prohibit the Census Bureau with ending its field enumerations efforts on September 30, as it had announced (see COSSA’s previous coverage). The preliminary injunction, issued on September 24 as part of a lawsuit brought by a group of civil rights organizations, would require the 2020 Census to continue its counting operations into October as it had originally planned. The Department of Commerce filed an appeal to this injunction and separately announced a “target date” of October 5 for ending self-response and field enumeration activities. It is unclear how this new end date is in compliance with the injunction. Meanwhile, Congress has yet to act on adjusting the statutory deadlines for apportionment and redistricting counts. COSSA will continue to provide updates as the situation evolves.

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Posted in Issue 19 (September 29), Update, Volume 39 (2020)

COSSA Endorses Bipartisan Bill to Extend Census Deadline

COSSA joined over 200 organizations in endorsing a new bipartisan bill that would extend the statutory deadlines for the 2020 Census and require the Census Bureau to continue its enumeration operation through October 31. As previously reported, the Department of Commerce announced plans to end counting activities for the 2020 Census a month ahead of its originally planned schedule, leading to concern that the resulting data will be inaccurate. The 2020 Census Deadline Extensions Act, introduced by Sens. Brian Schatz (D-HI), Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), and Dan Sullivan (R-AK) would require the 2020 Census to stick to its originally planned schedule and gives the Bureau additional time to deliver apportionment and redistricting data. Follow COSSA’s coverage of the 2020 Census here.

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Posted in Issue 18 (September 15), Update, Volume 39 (2020)

Stakeholders Rally to Salvage 2020 Census

With less than a month remaining before the Census Bureau plans to end all of its counting efforts for the 2020 Census, advocates are actively working to force the Bureau to take more time to ensure an accurate count. As previously reported, the Census Bureau announced in August that it would shorten its counting efforts by a full month, moving up its deadline from October 31 to September 30. According to the Bureau, the shortened timeframe is needed to in order to produce statutorily mandated apportionment counts by the end of the year. The House’s most recent coronavirus relief bill would extend that deadline, but the Senate has yet to act to do so. COSSA joined over 900 Census Project organizations in a letter to Senate leaders urging them to extend the statutory deadlines for reporting apportionment data in its next COVID relief package. In addition, Senators Brian Schatz (D-HI) and Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) led a bipartisan group of 48 senators calling on Congressional leaders to extend the deadline.

The Census Project has released a toolkit for individuals who want to take action in support of a fair and accurate 2020 Census. They encourage advocates to post to social media using the hashtags #SavetheCensus and #DontRushtheCensus. In addition, stakeholders can write to their members of Congress in support of the Census here.

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Posted in Issue 17 (September 1), Update, Volume 39 (2020)

Census Announces Early End to 2020 Operations, Jeopardizing Accuracy of the Count

Census Bureau Director Stephen Dillingham announced that the Census Bureau will cut short its counting operations for the 2020 Census by a full month in order to produce apportionment counts by its legally mandated deadline of December 31, 2020. According to the announcement, the Census Bureau will end field data and self-response collection on September 30, rather than October 31 as previously planned. This change comes months after the Census Bureau itself asked Congress to delay the deadline for producing apportionment counts in order to allow more time to recover from the delays caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. While the House’s most recent COVID-19 relief package would delay this deadline to give the Bureau more time, the Senate’s does not (see related article).

Although the change appears to be prompted by Congress’s failure to adjust the apportionment deadline, many Census stakeholders see it as part of a broader attempt by the Trump Administration to sabotage efforts to produce a full and accurate count, particularly of minority communities. They point to the protracted battle over the failed attempt to add a citizenship question to the questionnaire as well as President Trump’s recent (likely unconstitutional) order to exclude unauthorized immigrants from apportionment counts. As minority and immigrant communities are among the hardest-to-count populations, a truncated enumeration period would likely result in an undercount of these groups.

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Posted in Issue 16 (August 4), Update, Volume 39 (2020)

Census Releases Updated Demonstration Data Products

The Census Bureau has released a new set of demonstration data products that show how its new disclosure avoidance strategy (DAS) will impact the quality of its 2020 Census data products (see previous coverage). The Census Bureau is releasing a set of benchmark metrics to track the impact of the ongoing development and improvements to its privacy-protecting algorithm on data accuracy. These metrics will be updated every six weeks so data users can track the ongoing improvements Bureau staff are making to the algorithm. In addition, the Census Bureau has released a set of privacy-protected microdata files (PPMF) to allow users to assess the impact of the disclosure avoidance strategy for their own specific use cases. The Bureau notes that “while the data in the PPMFs look like individual records, all of the data are privacy-protected. The microdata records generated by the DAS ensure respondent privacy through the application of differentially private statistical noise. The microdata included in the PPMF do not include any actual census responses.”

Data users can submit feedback or questions to the Census Bureau by emailing 2020DAS@census.gov. More information about the new data products is available on the Census Bureau website.

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Posted in Issue 14 (July 7), Update, Volume 39 (2020)

Census Releases First COVID-19 Household Data

The Census Bureau has released the first data from its new COVID-19 Household Pulse Survey, which asks over 50,000 Americans about their employment status, spending patterns, food security, housing, physical and mental health, access to health care, and educational disruption during the coronavirus pandemic (see previous coverage). The data, which covers April 23-May 5, was released as tables and through an interactive dashboard. More information about the survey is available on the Census Bureau website. Data will continue to be released on a weekly basis throughout the survey’s 90-day duration. In addition, the Census Bureau has released data on the pandemic’s impact on small businesses collected by its Small Business Pulse Survey.

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Posted in Issue 11 (May 26), Update, Volume 39 (2020)

Census Launches COVID-19 Household Survey

The Census Bureau has applied for and received emergency authorization from the White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB) to conduct a new household survey to collect information about the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on American families. The COVID-19 Household Pulse Survey will ask individuals about their employment status, spending patterns, food security, housing, physical and mental health, access to health care, and educational disruption during the coronavirus pandemic. The survey was developed with input from agencies across the federal statistical system, including the USDA Economic Research Service (ERS), the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS), the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), and the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).

Data collection began on April 23 and will continue for 90 days. The Census Bureau plans to begin releasing data weekly (after an initial two-week processing period) in order to provide the most value to policymakers as they develop and implement response and recovery strategies. More information on the survey is available on the Census Bureau website.

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Posted in Issue 9 (April 22), Update, Volume 39 (2020)

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