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COSSA Asks OMB to Remove Census Citizenship Question

In response to a Federal Register request, COSSA submitted a comment to the White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB) requesting that, should a Census citizenship question be reinstated by the Supreme Court, as has been proposed by the Trump Administration, OMB remove it from the 2020 Census on the grounds that it violates the Paperwork Reduction Act. COSSA argues that including the question “is of minimal practical utility or public benefit, will increase the burden on respondents, and will harm the integrity and accuracy of information collected for statistical purposes.” The full comment is available on the COSSA website.

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Posted in Issue 6 (March 19), Update, Volume 38 (2019)

COSSA Endorses Census Idea Act

On February 8, COSSA endorsed the Census Improving Data and Enhanced Accuracy (IDEA) Act (S. 358) as introduced by Senator Brian Schatz (D-HI). The bill would prohibit the Department of Commerce from making any major change to the operational design of the decennial census that has not been “researched, studied, and tested” for at least three years. The Census Bureau routinely spends the years leading up to a decennial census carefully researching all proposed changes to its design and wording to ensure that they do not affect the quality of the responses received. This bill would formalize that longstanding practice and ensure that Census Bureau experts have the opportunity to fully evaluate the potential impacts of any major changes. The bill was crafted in response to the Trump Administration’s plan to add a citizenship question to the 2020 Census. COSSA released a statement in 2018 criticizing the inclusion of an untested citizenship question on the 2020 Census, outlining the potential impacts on the quality of Census data.

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Posted in Issue 4 (February 19), Update, Volume 38 (2019)

Supreme Court to Decide Fate of Census Citizenship Question

The Supreme Court has announced that it will consider whether the Secretary of Commerce was within his rights to add a question on citizenship to the 2020 Census, after a judge in a lower court struck down the question in January. The Court agreed to hear arguments in the case in April and render a decision by the end of June to give the Administration enough time to make final preparations for the Census to be conducted next year. As COSSA has reported, the decision to add the citizenship question without conducting research to ensure the quality of Census data would be maintained has been a major concern for the science and research community.

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Posted in Issue 4 (February 19), Update, Volume 38 (2019)

Department of Commerce Seeks Input on 2020 Census Data Collection

The Department of Commerce has released a request for information on whether the data collection planned for the 2020 Census meets the requirements of the Paperwork Reduction Act. Given the ongoing battle over the legality of the citizenship question (see previous article), the White House Office of Management and Budget, which is charged with ensuring the Bureau complies with administrative procedures, will evaluate the proposed data collection on two tracks: one containing the citizenship question and one without. According to the Federal Register notice: “Should the government prevail in pending litigation regarding the reinstatement of the citizenship question, the Census Bureau will include the citizenship question on the 2020 Census questionnaire.” The notice was originally released during the government shutdown but has been re-released to allow more time for stakeholders to submit comments. More information is available in the Federal Register notice. Comments must be submitted by March 15, 2019.

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Posted in Issue 4 (February 19), Update, Volume 38 (2019)

Droegemeier and Dillingham Confirmed in Final Hours of 115th Congress

In the final hours of the 115th Congress on January 2, the Senate confirmed nearly 80 presidential nominations, including Kelvin Droegemeier to lead the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy and Steven Dillingham to lead the U.S. Census Bureau. Dr. Droegemeier holds a Ph.D. in atmospheric science, has served on the faculty of the University of Oklahoma, as the university’s vice president for research, and as Vice Chair of the National Science Board. Dr. Dillingham holds a Ph.D. in political science and has served as the Director for the Office of Strategic Information, Research, and Planning for the Peace Corps; the Director of the Bureau of Transportation Statistics; and the Director of the Bureau of Justice Statistics. Both nominations were welcomed by the scientific and statistical communities as non-controversial choices for these two important roles.

William Beach, who was nominated to lead the Bureau of Labor Statistics, and William Bryan, who was nominated to direct Science and Technology efforts at the Department of Homeland Security were not confirmed and now must have their nominations resubmitted by the President.

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Posted in Issue 1 (January 8), Update, Volume 38 (2019)

Census Reissues Request for Input on 2020 Data Products

The Census Bureau has reopened a request for comments published over the summer to encourage additional feedback on how data products from prior decennial censuses (including summary and detailed tables, national and state demographic profiles, and topical briefs) have been used. As part of the Bureau’s ongoing efforts to safeguard privacy, some data products released after previous decennial censuses may be eliminated. Stakeholder input is necessary to help the Bureau prioritize which data products are most important to maintain. More information, including specific questions of interest to the Bureau and a spreadsheet containing a complete list of data products and tables, is available in the original Federal Register notice published in July. Note: this request does not have any bearing on the inclusion of a citizenship question in the 2020 Census. Comments must be submitted by November 8, 2018.

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Posted in Issue 21 (October 30), Update, Volume 37 (2018)

Senate Panel Considers Dillingham Nomination for Census Director

On October 3, the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs held a confirmation hearing to consider the Trump Administration’s nomination of Steven Dillingham for Director of the Census Bureau (see COSSA’s previous coverage). The Bureau has been without a permanent director since June 2017 and is in the middle of a significant ramp-up as it prepares to conduct the 2020 Census. Dillingham’s nomination is relatively uncontroversial, particularly when compared to the more overtly political candidates the Administration is reported to have considered. In his opening statement, Committee Chair Ron Johnson (R-WI) called Dillingham “well-qualified,” and Ranking Member Claire McCaskill indicated after the hearing that she would support his nomination.

During the hearing, Dillingham avoided taking a stance on whether the 2020 Census should include a citizenship question in response to questions from both Republicans and Democrats. He also answered questions about keeping down the costs of the decennial census and strategies for reaching hard-to-count populations. The next step for Dillingham’s nomination is a vote by the full committee, which has not yet been scheduled. Following committee approval, the nomination must be approval by the full U.S. Senate. However, further action will not occur until after the November midterm elections since the Senate is in recess until then.

A recording of the hearing is available on the committee’s website.

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Posted in Issue 20 (October 16), Update, Volume 37 (2018)

COSSA and 25 Science Organizations Call for Removal of Census Citizenship Question

In a joint comment to the Department of Commerce, COSSA and 25 other science and research organizations urged the Department to remove the citizenship question from the 2020 Census. The letter, which was submitted in response to a federal request for input on data collection activities related to the 2020 Census, focuses on the science and research implications of the citizenship question, arguing that “the inclusion of a question on citizenship in the 2020 Census will increase the burden on respondents, add unnecessary costs to the operation, and negatively impact the accuracy and integrity of one of the most valuable data resources the government produces.” COSSA previously released a statement opposing the question after it was announced. While formal approval of 2020 Census questionnaire by the White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB) is all but certain, several law suits to remove the question are currently pending.

In response to the same request for comments, the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine (NASEM) Council on National Statistics (CNSTAT) Task Force on the 2020 Census submitted a letter concluding that “the decision to add a question on citizenship status to the 2020 census is inconsistent with the ‘proper performance of the functions’ of the Census Bureau.” The CNSTAT letter is available on the National Academies’ website.

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Posted in Issue 16 (August 7), Update, Volume 37 (2018)

Census Bureau Seeks Input on 2020 Data Products

In order to inform its plans for 2020 Census data products, the Census Bureau is soliciting feedback on how data products from prior decennial censuses (including summary and detailed tables, national and state demographic profiles, and topical briefs) have been used. According to the Federal Register notice, privacy concerns may lead the Bureau to reduce the amount of detailed data released to the public, so input on how to prioritize products for the 2020 Census is being sought. More information, including specific questions of interest to the Bureau and a spreadsheet containing a complete list of data products and tables, is available in the Federal Register. Comments must be submitted by September 17, 2018.

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Posted in Issue 16 (August 7), Update, Volume 37 (2018)

Steven Dillingham Nominated to Lead Census Bureau

Dr. Steven Dillingham was nominated on July 18 by President Trump to serve as the Director of the Census Bureau within the Department of Commerce. Dillingham currently directs the Office of Strategic Information, Research, and Planning for the Peace Corps and previously led the Bureau of Justice Statistics and the Bureau of Transportation Statistics. He holds a Ph.D. in political science, as well as a law degree, an MBA, and a master’s degree in public administration. Given his record of leadership within the federal statistical system, Dillingham’s nomination is a welcome departure from the type of controversial, politically-motivated candidates the Administration was previously reported to have considered.

The job of the director of the Census Bureau has been empty for more than a year and, if confirmed by the Senate, Dillingham will direct the Bureau through a difficult time, as the 2020 Census quickly approaches and the Bureau is under heightened scrutiny for the controversial decision to add a question on citizenship to the 2020 questionnaire. Upon his confirmation, Dillingham would serve out the remainder of the current five-year term, ending in December 31, 2021.

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Posted in Issue 15 (July 24), Update, Volume 37 (2018)

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