From: Census2000 <Census2000(a)ccmc.org>
Census Bureau Unveils Revised Census Plan
In Wake of Supreme Court Ruling
Cost Estimate Not Finalized, But News Reports Suggest
Sharply Steeper Price Tag
Tomorrow: Reaction from Congress and Stakeholders
At a press conference today in Washington, D.C., Census Bureau Director
Kenneth Prewitt unveiled a revised plan for Census 2000 that "is
progressively more complete, more accurate." He called upon Congress to
help the Bureau move forward with "a consensus census," saying that the
Bureau "no longer [has] the luxury of debates about alternative designs,
or substitute procedures."
The plan would produce one set of state population totals based solely
on traditional direct counting methods that will be used to apportion
the 435 seats in Congress among the 50 states. The Bureau must report
those state numbers to the President by December 31, 2000. The U.S.
Supreme Court recently ruled in a case challenging the Bureau's original
plan that federal law prohibits the use of sampling to compile the
population numbers used for apportionment.
After counting "everyone it possibly can," Dr. Prewitt said, the Bureau
would then conduct a quality check survey - named the Accuracy and
Coverage Evaluation, or ACE - to measure the accuracy of the initial
count and provide the basis for correcting any undercounts and
overcounts. The survey would cover 300,000 households nationwide, down
from the 750,000 household post enumeration survey the Bureau proposed
in its original plan. The corrected set of numbers, which Dr. Prewitt
said will be more accurate than the direct count, will be available for
geographic areas as small as census blocks by April 1, 2001, the legal
deadline for the Bureau to transmit detailed counts to the state
legislatures for the redistricting process.
Director focuses on accuracy concerns: Despite an "operationally robust
plan," the Census Bureau believes that the numbers produced for
congressional apportionment "are not likely to be an improvement on the
1990 accuracy levels." Dr. Prewitt cited busy or transient lifestyles,
irregular housing, language barriers, fear of government officials by
immigrants, and decreased civic engagement as continuing and growing
factors that make it harder to count accurately. "The Census Bureau has
to work harder to stay in place," the director said.
The Bureau also released more results from its 1998 dress rehearsal,
showing higher undercount rates for racial minorities than for
non-Hispanic Whites. Dr. Prewitt said the overall net undercount in the
Columbia, S.C., area was 9.4 percent; for non-Hispanic Blacks, the rate
was 13.4 percent, compared to 6.3 percent for non-Hispanic Whites. The
Bureau used only traditional counting methods in the Columbia site, but
conducted a quality-check survey to measure the accuracy of the results.
In 2000, the redesigned quality-check survey (or ACE) will not estimate
undercounts and overcounts for each state based only on the sample
households within that state. Instead, information gleaned from the
survey for various demographic subgroups will be "pooled" with data from
other states in the same region. Dr. Prewitt said this design would
produce "more robust" measurements of accuracy for smaller geographic
areas, since data on less populous demographic subgroups in some states
could be combined with data on the same subgroups from sample households
in another state in the same region.
In response to questions from journalists, Dr. Prewitt said the revised
plan is "not a two-track design," but rather a census that relies on a
range of methods "to produce more complete data." He noted that the
Bureau has produced one set of numbers for apportionment and a second
set for other purposes, including redistricting, in the past. In 1990,
for example, military and federal civilian personnel, and their
dependents, stationed overseas during the census were included in the
state population totals used for congressional apportionment only,
shifting a seat in Congress from Massachusetts to Washington. Their
numbers were not included in any other census tabulations. Dr. Prewitt
also referred to statements made in the past by House census
subcommittee Chairman Dan Miller (R-FL) that suggested sampling could be
used to produce different numbers for the allocation of federal aid.
Dr. Prewitt said the Bureau is still working on a cost estimate for the
new plan, which he said will cost much more than the Bureau's original
plan. The cost increase, he noted, is attributable to the need to
contact all households that don't respond by mail, instead of a sample
of those households as originally planned. The Bureau estimates that 61
percent of the nation's 120 million households will respond voluntarily
by mail. It cost $25 million to follow-up with each one percent of
households that don't mail back their forms, Dr. Prewitt said. He also
said that the ACE survey will account for a relatively small portion of
census costs, disputing charges by some opponents of sampling that the
quality-check procedure will drain resources from the traditional count.
News articles today in The Washington Post and The New York Times quote
unnamed sources familiar with the plan as saying it will cost $2 - $3
billion more than the original $4 billion price tag.
Hearing on Commerce budget postponed: The House Appropriations
Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice, State, and The Judiciary has
postponed a hearing originally scheduled for tomorrow, February 25, to
review the Commerce Department's budget request for Fiscal Year 2000.
Secretary Daley is likely to appear before the panel next week. Next
week's planned appearance of Dr. Prewitt before the same subcommittee,
to discuss the details of the Census Bureau's funding request, will
likely be pushed back another week, as well.
Oversight hearing scheduled: The House Subcommittee on the Census will
hold a hearing on Tuesday, March 1, to review the status of census
planning and preparations with Dr. Prewitt. The hearing will begin at
2:00 p.m. in room 2203 Rayburn House Office Building.
Questions about the information contained in this News Alert may be
directed to TerriAnn Lowenthal at 202/484-2270 or, by e-mail at
<terriann2k(a)aol.com>om>. Please direct all requests to receive News
Alerts, and all changes in address/phone/fax/e-mail, to the Census 2000
Initiative at <Census2000(a)ccmc.org> or 202/326-8700. Please feel free
to circulate this information to colleagues and other interested