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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Thursday, December 7, 2017

Can We Save the 2020 Census in the U.S.?

Ever since the Republicans took control of both houses of Congress there have been concerns about funding for the 2020 census in this country. A poorly funded census will be a lower quality census which will be troublesome for research of all kinds, including for businesses who rely heavily on that information. Remember, though, that the Constitutional mandate for a census is that those data are the basis for forming Congressional Districts. Thus, the census is inherently political, even as we demographers view it as a key source of data about the country. The Census Bureau has been without a director for several months now, following the resignation of John Thompson. The Director and Deputy Director positions have gone unfilled in the meantime, but there is growing concern that the Trump administration is going to put a possibly biased and almost certainly unqualified person in charge of census operations. 

Today's Washington Post has a detailed story about this:
This week the Population Association of America and the Association of Population Research Centers, whose members include over 3,000 scientists and over 40 federally-funded organizations, sounded an alarm bell about one of their most sacred cows: the United States Census Bureau.
Reports had surfaced saying the White House planned to install as the bureau’s deputy director Thomas Brunell, a political science professor with scant managerial experience who is best known for his testimony as an expert witness on behalf of Republican redistricting plans and a book that argues against competitive electoral districts.
News of the appointment, which sources close to the bureau say is imminent, sparked handwringing among statisticians, former bureau directors, and civil rights leaders.
The appointment would “undermine the credibility” of the traditionally nonpartisan bureau, the president of the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights said in a statement. Brunell “appears to lack the necessary management and statistical agency experience, and may be viewed by many to have a very political perspective,” the president of the American Statistical Association wrote.
In a recent letter to Wilbur Ross, the Secretary of Commerce (which houses the Census Bureau), the Population Association of America urged him "to promptly submit to the United States Senate a qualified nominee to serve as the Director of the U.S. Census Bureau and to reserve the agency’s Deputy Director position for a qualified candidate who can help lead the agency during these critical years leading up to the 2020 Census." We should all be writing a similar letter.

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