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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Tuesday, May 9, 2017

U.S. Census Director Resigns

Flying under the radar of today's bigger news story (the abrupt and unexpected firing of FBI Director James Comey) was the abrupt and unexpected announcement from U.S. Census Director John Thompson that he is retiring as of June 30th. T Thompson stepped into the leadership role less than four years when Dr. Robert Groves left the Bureau to become provost of Georgetown University. There was the expectation at the time that his experience with the Bureau and with NORC at the University of Chicago would put him in a good position to lead the Bureau through the 2020 census. Now we'll never know, and it's hard to tell from this distance whether this is a good or a bad thing. Huffington Post suggests that his testimony before Congress might have played a role.
Census Bureau Director John Thompson’s announcement that he is leaving at the end of June comes less than a week after he testified on Capitol Hill, telling House appropriators that his agency would be able to carry out the Census effectively, despite a number of cost overruns and a lower budget than normal for this point in the 10-year planning cycle.
Normally as Census planning shifts from the seventh year of the decade to the eighth, the budget jumps dramatically. But Congress did not pass the Obama administration’s budget for 2017, leaving the bureau about $160 million short of its $1.61 billion request. The Trump administration’s request for 2018 is essentially flatlined, at a time when the government is usually adding hundreds of millions of dollars to carry out one of the most challenging statistical counts in the world.
On May 3, Thompson told Rep. John Culberson (R-Texas), the appropriations subcommittee chairman overseeing the Census budget, that the bureau would be able to meet the challenges of carrying out the Census in new and cheaper ways.
Thompson's retirement leaves the choice of a new director up to the Trump administration, keeping in mind that that the Deputy Director position is currently vacant. Given their track record on appointments, it is a bit of a frightening prospect. Thompson is not a demographer in the usual sense of the word--he holds bachelor's and master's degrees in math, not in the social or behavioral sciences, and he is not a member of the Population Association of America (a major strike against him!!), but he did have experience working at the Census Bureau. And, yet, even as I say that, how could he possibly think that the proposed budget for the 2020 census was OK?

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