Date:Wed, 3 Oct 2001
Census Bureau Facing Second Decision on Whether to Recommend Use of
Plus: Census Monitoring Board Disbands; Census Funding Update;
Report on Counting Americans Living Abroad; and more.
The Census Bureau continued its evaluations of Census 2000 and the
Accuracy and Coverage Evaluation (A.C.E.) program as it moves closer
to a self-imposed mid-October deadline for recommending whether
adjusted census data should be used for purposes other than
redistricting, such as the allocation of federal grants and federal
survey controls. The A.C.E. program included a quality-check, 'post
enumeration' survey of 314,000 households, designed to assess the
number of people missed and double-counted in the census.
In a letter last month to Democratic congressional overseers, Acting
Census Bureau Director William Barron said that a decision to adjust
the census data must be "made on solid technical grounds" and meet
"pre-specified criteria" for gauging the relatively accuracy of the
raw and A.C.E.-adjusted numbers. The Census Bureau still hopes to
finish its evaluation of census accuracy by October 15. If it
cannot meet that deadline, it would then complete its analysis by
the fall of 2002, a schedule Mr. Barron said paralleled the
timetable for deciding whether to adjust the 1990 census for the
purpose of distributing federal funds and setting benchmarks for
federal surveys. The bureau does not plan to release adjusted
numbers publicly until that decision is made.
Last March, Secretary of Commerce Donald Evans agreed with a bureau
recommendation not to release statistically adjusted census numbers,
citing discrepancies between the A.C.E.'s measurement of the
population, the raw census counts, and an independent benchmark of
the national population derived from "demographic analysis." Bureau
experts said they did not have enough time to evaluate the
differences between the three measures. The Secretary was required
by law to transmit block-level population counts to the states for
redrawing political district boundaries, by March 31, 2001. The
bureau also raised questions about technical aspects of the
adjustment process. At the time, the agency said it would continue
to evaluate the results of the census and the A.C.E. program, to
determine if the adjusted numbers were more accurate for uses such
as doling out roughly $200 billion in federal funds annually to
states and localities. The bureau subsequently described its
research agenda in an August 7th memorandum.
In his September 21 letter, Mr. Barron also said he was "troubled"
that some legislators use the term "corrected data" to refer to
statistically adjusted numbers, a description he called "misleading
and inappropriate." The term might suggest, Mr. Barron wrote, "that
one data set is error free, rather than improved (the latter being
the best that the [adjustment methodology] could ever be used to
achieve)." The director acknowledged that the bureau itself had
used the term "corrected" in the past to describe the adjusted
Mr. Barron emphasized that the adjustment process was designed to
assess "net error" for different population subgroups, not "gross
error" in the census. "Net error" refers to the difference between
the number of people missed (undercount, or omissions) and the
number counted twice (overcount, or duplications). "Gross error"
combines various kinds of mistakes in the census, including people
missed or counted twice, people counted in the wrong place, and
fictitious people. The bureau looks at the net error for population
subgroups in deciding whether a statistical adjustment would improve
the accuracy of the census, the director said. Nationally, the
bureau reported a net undercount of 3.3 million people based on the
A.C.E. survey. The quality-check survey also revealed that 3.1
million people were counted twice or made up ("gross erroneous
enumerations"), a measure that allowed the bureau to estimate the
number of people missed in the census at 6.4 million people ("gross
omissions"), for a minimum of 9.5 million miscounts.
Legal update: Several lawsuits challenging the Commerce Secretary's
decision not to release statistically adjusted census data to the
states for redistricting purposes continue to wind their way through
the federal courts. In Oregon, the U.S. District Court will hear
arguments on October 18 in a case filed by two state legislators
last June, seeking release of the adjusted population numbers under
the Freedom of Information Act.
Los Angeles and other counties and cities are pursuing their appeal
of a district court judge's dismissal of their lawsuit challenging
the legality of Secretary Evans' decision to release only unadjusted
census data. In April, U.S. District Court Judge Gary Feess ruled
that the Secretary based his decision on sufficient evidence that
the raw census numbers were the most accurate available, thereby
meeting the objectives of the Census Act (title 13, United States
Code). Los Angeles asked the U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals to
review the dismissal of its claim, and filed its opening brief last
month. The Commerce Department (represented by the U.S. Department
of Justice) has until October 10 to submit its response. A hearing
date has not been set.
Census Monitoring Board sunsets: The U.S. Census Monitoring Board,
created by Congress in late 1997 to oversee planning for and
implementation of Census 2000, closed its doors on September 30,
when its statutory authority expired. The bipartisan board was
comprised of four members appointed by President Bill Clinton with
advice from Democratic leaders in Congress (called the Presidential
members), and four members appointed by Republican congressional
leaders (called the Congressional members). The panel had co-chairs
(one Republican and one Democrat) and two executive directors,
maintained separate offices at Census Bureau headquarters, and
sometimes issued separate reports to Congress. The Presidential and
Congressional members issued separate final reports that include
recommendations for future census methods and operations.
The Presidential members offered 18 recommendations that "will serve
as a useful roadmap for 2010," co-chair Gilbert Casellas said in a
written statement. Suggestions include: set a fixed term of office
for the Census Bureau director, who currently serves at the pleasure
of the President; retain a national advertising campaign, local and
community-based partnerships, and a quality-check, 'post enumeration
survey' in the 2010 census; reach a consensus on methods earlier in
the decade; examine the effect of the Local Update of Census
Addresses (LUCA) program on accuracy; and use 'gross' rather than
'net' error as the primary yardstick of census accuracy. Mr.
Casellas noted that despite operational successes in Census 2000,
"the differential undercount, while reduced, remains," referring to
the historically disproportionate undercount of racial minorities.
"The undercount not only hampers Congress in its ability to direct
federal funds to place where they are needed, but it also denies to
taxpayers the right to have their money come back to their
communities in the form of Federal program funds. ...[T]he use of
statistically adjusted numbers would have made a difference in
people's lives," the co-chairman said. In the their report, the
Presidential members also summarized the briefings, hearings, and
studies they conducted during the Board's tenure.
The Congressional members issued a Summary Report to Congress on
September 1, and also prepared a separate analysis of the Census
2000 Accuracy and Coverage Evaluation process (not yet printed).
The summary identifies several elements of Census 2000 that the
Congressional appointees said contributed to a successful census,
including the partnership and advertising programs; using
competitive and variable pay rates to attract and retain qualified
workers; pre-census local government review of address lists (the
LUCA program); and allowing regional directors to adapt census
procedures to local conditions. The report also concludes that
census "can be more accurate and more inclusive," statistical
adjustment would not "completely eliminate" the differential and net
undercounts. The bureau instead should "focus on methods that will
work to reduce the actual undercount in the census and to actually
help empower the hardest-to-count neighborhoods." The Congressional
members offered six recommendations for improving future censuses,
including mailing Spanish-language questionnaires to selected
neighborhoods, eliminating the long form, and reinstating a "Post
Census Local Review" similar to a 1990 operation that allowed local
officials to examine their preliminary housing unit counts before
the numbers were finalized.
Describing their analysis of the A.C.E. process, Congressional
Member Co-Chair A. Mark Neuman said, "[C]ontrary to popular belief,
people missed in the Census don't get put back in the neighborhoods
where they really live. Severely undercounted neighborhoods ...will
remain severely undercounted. Statistical adjustment doesn't fix
The final report of the Presidential members is available through
their Web site at www.cmbp.gov
Congressional members' final reports are posted on their Web site at
<http://www.cmbc.gov>. [Note: Both Internet sites will
be accessible for some period of time.]
Appropriations (funding) update: The U.S. Senate approved its
version of the Commerce Department's fiscal year 2002 spending bill
(S. 1215), which includes funds for the Census Bureau, on September
13, sending the bill to a conference committee that will iron out
differences with the House-passed version (H.R. 2500). The Senate
Commerce, Justice, and State, The Judiciary and Related Agencies
Appropriations bill allocates $517.1 million for Census Bureau
activities. While the total amount is $26.3 million below the Bush
Administration's budget request, appropriators assumed that a $27
million carry-over in the bureau's accounts from prior years would
cover the difference.
The Senate-passed bill includes $26.2 million - roughly $1 million
below the request -- for continued development and testing of the
American Community Survey (ACS) at 31 sites around the country.
Funding for the Periodic Censuses and Programs account (one of two
broad Census Bureau accounts) also covers continued dissemination of
Census 2000 data products and Census 2000 evaluations, as well as
2010 census planning activities. The Census 2000 Supplementary
Survey (C2SS), a demonstration of the ACS on a national scale, is
part of the bureau's 2010 census strategic planning effort.
The following senators, all members of the Appropriations Committee,
were appointed to the conference committee: Sens. Ernest Hollings
(D-SC), Daniel Inouye (D-HI), Barbara Mikulski (D-MD), Patrick Leahy
(D-VT), Herbert Kohl (D-WI), Patty Murray (D-WA), Jack Reed (D-RI),
Robert Byrd (D-WV), Judd Gregg (R-NH), Ted Stevens (R-AK), Pete
Domenici (R-NM), Mitch McConnell (R-KY), Kay Bailey Hutchison
(R-TX), Ben Nighthorse Campbell (R-CO), and Thad Cochran (R-MS).
The House of Representatives, which approved its Commerce
appropriations bill in July, appointed the following appropriations
committee members as conferees: Reps. Frank Wolf (R-VA), Harold
Rogers (R-KY), Jim Kolbe (R-AZ), Charles Taylor (R-NC), Ralph Regula
(R-OH), Tom Latham (R-IA), Dan Miller (R-FL), David Vitter (R-LA),
C.W. Young (R-FL), Jose Serrano (D-NY), Alan Mollohan (D-WV),
Lucille Roybal-Allard (D-CA), Robert Cramer Jr. (D-AL), Patrick
Kennedy (D-RI), and David Obey (D-WI).
Fiscal year 2002 started on October 1st. Last week, Congress passed
and the President signed a so-called Continuing Resolution, which
continues funding for all federal agencies and programs at fiscal
year 2001 levels through October 16, giving lawmakers more time to
enact new spending bills.
Counting Americans abroad in the census: As directed last year by
congressional appropriators, the Census Bureau has submitted a
report to Congress on the feasibility of counting private American
citizens living abroad in the decennial census. In Census 2000,
members of the armed forces and civilian government personnel
stationed outside of the U.S. during the census were included in the
state population totals used to apportion seats in the House of
Representatives among the 50 states. Private citizens living in
foreign countries have never been counted in the census.
In its report, the Census Bureau examined policy, conceptual, and
methodological issues associated with such a count. It said "prompt
resolution" of key policy issues, such as whether a count of
Americans abroad would be used for informational purposes only or
for congressional apportionment and redistricting and the allocation
of federal funds, was a "precondition" for undertaking research into
the methods for an overseas enumeration. Collecting data for
political and funding purposes, the bureau said, would "present very
formidable challenges." Other key policy questions cited in the
report include the implications of voluntary response from Americans
abroad, which the bureau said is inevitable, in light of the census'
mandatory nature, and determining a "usual residence" for people not
living in the U.S., the standard used in counting stateside
The report also raises questions about who would be included in an
overseas count (i.e. people born in the U.S.; citizens who intend to
return to the U.S.; those with proof of citizenship); how to assign
Americans abroad to a 'home state' and possibly a specific address;
and whether to conduct the count using "self-enumeration,"
administrative records, or both.
To address overarching policy, as well as technical, concerns, the
bureau said it would hold a conference in November 2001 to hear the
views of Congress and other external stakeholders. If it decides to
include private American citizens living abroad in the 2010 census,
the bureau would assess proposed methods as part of scheduled census
tests in 2004 and 2006 and the2008 dress rehearsal.
Congressional update: The House Subcommittee on the Census,
established in 1998 as part of the Committee on Government Reform to
authorize and oversee Census Bureau activities, will be eliminated
at the end of 2001. House Republican leaders announced the move
earlier this year as a cost-saving measure.
Subcommittee Staff Director Chip Walker told participants at the
September quarterly meeting of the Council of Professional
Associations in Federal Statistics (COPAFS) that the panel's
responsibilities would be transferred to the Subcommittee on Civil
Service and Agency Organization. That subcommittee's current
chairman, Rep. Joe Scarborough (R-FL), is giving up his
congressional seat this month to spend more time with his family.
Government Reform Committee member Rep. Dave Weldon (R-FL) is
expected to take over as chairman of the Civil Service panel, Mr.
Walker reported. Prior to a major House committee reorganization in
1995, the former Subcommittee on Census and Population was part of
the Committee on Post Office and Civil Service. The current census
subcommittee chairman, Rep. Dan Miller (R-FL), announced that he
would retire at the end of the 107th Congress in 2002.
Condolences: It is with great sadness that the Census 2000
Initiative shares with census stakeholders the following information
from Acting Census Bureau Director Barron, concerning the loss of
two Census Bureau employees from the New York Regional Office during
the September 11 terrorist attacks. Marion Britton, Assistant
Regional Director, and Waleska Martinez, Automation Specialist, were
both on United Flight 93 that crashed near Pittsburgh, traveling on
official business. We extend our deepest sympathy to their families
and to their Census Bureau colleagues.
Questions about the information contained in this News Alert may be
directed to Terri Ann Lowenthal at 202/484-2270 or, by e-mail at
<mailto:email@example.com>. For copies of previous News Alerts and
other information, use our web site www.census2000.org
<http://www.census2000.org>. Please direct all requests to receive
News Alerts, and all changes in address/phone/fax/e-mail, to the
Census 2000 Initiative at <mailto:Census2000@ccmc.org> or
202/326-8700. Please feel free to circulate this information to
colleagues and other interested individuals.