The Committee on National Statistics (CNSTAT) of the National Academy of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine (NASEM) is accepting nominations for its Panel to Evaluate the Quality of the 2020 Census. This panel will prepare a consensus study report that will serve as a thorough operational and procedural review of the 2020 Census, to both assess the trustworthiness of the 2020 Census data products and to provide solid ground for the testing and experimentation that will lead to the 2030 Census.
CNSTAT is seeking nominees with expertise in survey and census methodology, including management of large-scale survey field operations; statistical and data science experience in the federal statistical system and in state, local, tribal, and territorial agencies; geography and population demography, including address list building and maintenance, generation of legal/political/service district boundaries, and assessment of special populations; and systems engineering, operations research and evaluation, and methods for ensuring privacy and confidentiality. Nominations may be submitted by completing the nomination form by May 14, 2021.
On April 26, the Census Bureau released the first data from the 2020 Census, including each state’s apportionment population counts (used to allocate seats to the U.S. House of Representatives and electoral college votes), resident population accounts, and overseas population counts. The release of the Constitutionally-required information was delayed due to the operational challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic and the additional time needed to correct duplicate and incomplete responses. Overall, seven Congressional seats will shift as a result of the 2020 Census. California, Illinois, Michigan, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and West Virginia will each lose one Congressional seat, while Colorado, Florida, Oregon, Montana, and North Carolina will each gain one seat. Texas will gain two Congressional seats.
More detailed data on the populations of smaller geographic areas that states will use to redraw their individual Congressional districts is expected to be released in August. The next release will also include more detailed demographic information on race, ethnicity, age, and gender. As states await the publication of this information, several lawsuits are progressing through the courts attempting to force the Bureau to release the data earlier and to prevent it from adopting differential privacy techniques to keep individuals’ data anonymous. Stay tuned to all of COSSA’s 2020 Census coverage here.
President Biden has named Robert Santos, Vice President & Chief Methodologist at the Urban Institute, as his Administration’s choice to lead the Census Bureau. Santos, who is currently serving as the President of the American Statistical Association (ASA), a COSSA governing member, has had a distinguished career, holding positions at the University of Michigan’s Survey Research Center, NORC at the University of Chicago, and ISR Temple University. According to the White House press release, he has expertise in “survey sampling, survey design and more generally in social science/policy research.” Santos has also served on the advisory committees for the Census Bureau and the National Center for Health Statistics. If confirmed, Santos, who is Latinx, would be the first permanent director of color to lead the agency. He would take over from Acting Director Ron Jarmin, who has been leading the agency since the departure of Steven Dillingham (see previous coverage).
The Senate Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee (HSGAC) held an oversight hearing on March 23 to review activities related to the 2020 Census and the Census Bureau. The hearing featured the testimony of Ron Jarmin, Acting Director of the Census Bureau; J. Christopher Mihm, Managing Director for Strategic Issues at the Government Accountability Office (GAO), and Nick Marinos, Director of Information Technology & Cybersecurity at GAO. Panelists answered questions on the outcome of the 2020 Census operation, including its use of new technologies, efforts to reach diverse communities, and the status of the Post-Enumeration Survey. In addition, several Republican members of the Committee questioned Director Jarmin about the Census Bureau’s decision to wait to release apportionment and redistricting data, despite Congressional deadlines, in order to produce more accurate data (see previous coverage). The Senators noted that the Bureau’s current timeline for releasing the information conflicts with some states’ constitutional deadlines to conduct reapportionment, which has led some states to sue the Bureau to release the data sooner. Jarmin maintained that the Bureau was doing everything it can to release accurate data as quickly as possible. A recording of the hearing and the witnesses’ written testimony is available on the HSGAC website.
Among the executive orders President Biden signed on his first day in office was an affirmation that Census population counts would reflect the total number of residents in each state—regardless of their immigration or citizenship status. It has been the government’s longstanding practice for Census figures to be based on the “whole number of persons in each state” (as described in the 14th Amendment). However, former President Trump had attempted to change this policy via executive actions to use administrative records to produce citizenship data and to exclude undocumented immigrants from apportionment counts produced by the 2020 Census. President Biden’s executive order formally revokes these actions. As a result, the Census Bureau has announced that it indefinitely suspended its work to produce more detailed citizenship estimates and will not include information on citizenship or immigration status in its redistricting data. As previously reported, Census Bureau Director Steven Dillingham resigned immediately before President Biden took office amid reports that he had been pressuring staff to release citizenship estimates in spite of concerns over the data quality.
The Census Bureau also announced that it is not planning to release apportionment data (which is used to allocate states’ seats in the House of Representatives and Electoral College votes) until April 30. The Trump Administration had been pressuring the Census Bureau to release this information by the end of 2020, in spite of the operational delays caused by the pandemic and resulting concerns about irregularities in the data that could be exacerbated by rushed processing. Census stakeholders had been advocating since the conclusion of the enumeration operation that the Bureau be given additional time to perform essential quality control activities. The Census Bureau will also delay the release of redistricting data, which states use to redraw district boundaries based on population, by several months, although an estimate of when they will be published has not yet been made public.
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.
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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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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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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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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