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 13th (it will be out in January 2020), 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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Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Will Congress Manage to Scuttle the 2020 Census?

Politico has an article noting that the 2020 Census in the U.S. may already be in trouble because of a variety of technical glitches that the General Accounting Office has been pushing it to resolve. The tenor of the article is that things are falling apart at the Census Bureau. 
The 2010 census was remarkably low-tech. Americans couldn’t fill the form out online, despite the fact that high-speed internet had become ubiquitous throughout the country. Census Bureau employees followed up with non-responders by knocking on doors, but their use of basic information, like address lists and maps, was so poor that of the 48 million houses they visited, 14 million were vacant. 
The bureau believes it can save more than $5 billion in 2020 by updating such information, allowing Americans to fill out the survey online, and more efficiently managing labor-intensive follow-up work, such as by identifying vacant houses. In addition, the agency is also working to modernize and consolidate its survey data collection systems.
The article hints at, but doesn't really give proper weight to what most demographers think is the big problem at the Census Bureau--insufficient funding. Terri Ann Lowenthal blogged about this just a few days ago.
Earlier this year, the House of Representatives decided it believes in fairy godmothers. The Appropriations Committee capped Fiscal Year 2016 spending on 2020 Census planning at $400 million, less than two-thirds of the President’s $663 million request. Even that was too much for the full House, which cut another $117 million from the Periodic Censuses and Programs account, with a significant chunk presumably eating away further at 2020 Census funding.
This of course follows several years now of inadequate funding, thereby eroding staffing and resources at the Census Bureau. It was chilling to hear Senator Ted Cruz at last night's Republican debate tick off the federal departments he would close if he were elected President. The Commerce Department, which houses the Census Bureau, was on his top five list.

The idea that any country will be better off if we have less data, and lower quality data, is just beyond me, and I genuinely do not understand the members of Congress who continually seek to cut back the funding for the Census and related survey programs such as the American Community Survey.

1 comment:

  1. I have to tell you that when the Age of the Internet arrived I was optimistic that we would also enter an age of excellent data. Regrettably - that goal has not been fulfilled. It is true that the Internet has given birth to many individuals who devote much time to presenting excellent views and information. Your blog is one example. But it is also true that the Internet has given rise to a prolific expansion of myths, lies, and fear-driven commercialization. And many countries, including our own, seem to view the Internet as a useful tool for "information control" (Disinformation), rather than a genuine source of good data. The USA has been a fantastic country - and you would think that excellent data on economics, demographics and "society structure" would be a hallmark of our country ... but sadly we seem to be going downhill.

    Pete, Redondo Beach