This blog is intended to go along with Population: An Introduction to Concepts and Issues, by John R. Weeks, published by Cengage Learning. The latest edition is the 12th (it came out in 2015), but this blog is meant to complement any edition of the book by showing the way in which demographic issues are regularly in the news.

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Monday, January 30, 2017

Will the Trump Administration Threaten the Collection of Demographic Data?

Among the many concerns that have arisen in the short span of time that Donald Trump has been President, one of considerable worry to demographers is the potential threat to the collection and management of data, including the decennial census, American Community Survey, and other data upon which a wide range of people in government and business rely. The Census Project released a blog post a couple days sounding the alarm:
If the next decennial census doesn’t receive proper funding between now and Census Day 2020, the prospects for a huge undercount of the population dramatically increases. 
Washington Post article declares that underfunding means “the robustness of the 2020 Census is especially vulnerable.” 
Meanwhile, a Science Magazine article is headlined “Scientists fear attack on federal statistics collection.”
The Science Magazine article is especially noteworthy and troubling:
For starters, the Census Bureau needs a hefty budget increase this year to continue preparations for its constitutionally mandated job of conducting a decennial census in 2020. But that request goes against the Republican mantra of curbing government spending. The decennial census and other surveys also generate reams of statistics that may clash with Trump’s penchant for disregarding data or making up his own. Then there’s the questions themselves, which some people regard as intrusive or unnecessary.
That’s not all. Congressional foes of the American Community Survey (ACS), a 70-question successor to the long form of the census sent to 3.5 million homes each year, are expected to revive previous attempts to eliminate the survey or make it voluntary. This time they will have a powerful ally in the White House in the form of Representative Mick Mulvaney (R–SC), who Trump has chosen to lead the Office of Management and Budget (OMB). Mulvaney voted in 2012 for an amendment before the House of Representatives that would have defunded the ACS, and last summer he urged Census Director John Thompson to exempt those who don’t want to fill it out.
To get a feel for how important the ACS is, just put "American Community Survey" into the search box in my blog here, and see all the items that pop up. We'd be lost without it. And that is a concern raised in a related story in today's Guardian:
US statisticians are concerned that Donald Trump’s administration might suppress or manipulate public statistics that don’t fit his narrative of the truththe Guardian has learned. In a series of interviews, individuals who have recently left high-level positions at federal statistical agencies expressed worry that the administration may stop collecting and publishing data on subjects such as abortion, racial inequality and poverty.
We need to continue to fight back against this by all of us emphasizing how important these data are to the economic success of the country. 

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