Archive for the 'Methodology' Category

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Do You Still Trust the Census Bureau?

The New York Daily News had a typically provacative headline “Census ‘faked’ 2012 election jobs report” two nights ago. This is a serious charge and even more, it contributes fodder to those who do not trust or support the federal data infrastructure in the first place. The following is the banner above the comments section for the New York Post article – and this sentiment probably represents the early coverage of this story.

trust census bureau logo

The following is the coverage of this in chronological order (as much as possible). Note that there are some references to Jack Welch. He famously tweeted his disbelief of this particular jobs report back in 2012 [See previous coverage.]

Census ‘faked’ 2012 election jobs report
John Crudele | New York Post
November 18, 2013

If these claims by ‘reliable sources’ are proven true, the Obama administration will be dealing with another huge scandal
Becket Adams | The Blaze (founded by Glenn Beck)
November 18, 2013

Census Bureau Statement on Collection of Survey Data
November 19, 2013

Here Are Some Issues With That Report About How The Unemployment Rate Was Faked Before The 2012 Election
Joe Weisenthal | Business Insider
November 19, 2013

Was Jack Welch right? Jobs numbers under fire
Jeff Cox | CNN
November 19, 2013

Did the Census Bureau Really Fake the Jobs Report?
Jordan Weissmann | The Atlantic
November 19, 2013

Five questions about the New York Post’s unemployment story
Erik Wemple | Washington Post
November 19, 2013

Census Sees No ‘Systemic Manipulation’ of U.S. Jobs Data
Michelle Jamrisko | Bloomberg News
Nov 19, 2013

House panel to investigate unemployment data
Annalyn Kurtz | CNN Money
November 19, 2013

House probes Census over ‘fake’ results
John Crudele | New York Post
November 19, 2013

Rep. Issa gets involved in alleged Census data fabrication, demands documents: ‘These allegations are shocking’
Becket Adams | The Blaze
November 19, 2013

Monthly jobs numbers from Census Bureau may have been manipulated since ‘10 – report
RT USA
November 19, 2013

Republican House leaders to look into report on faked jobs data
Reuters News Service
November 20, 2013

Political Questions About the Jobs Report
Nelson Schwartz | New York Times
November 20, 2013

Census Bureau: No systematic manipulation of jobs data
Paul Davidson | USA Today
November 20, 2013

Count your blessings; you could live in Canada

The following are articles, mostly from the Canadian press about the (a) the quality of data in the National Household Survey (NHS); and (b) the politicization of funding for basic science research. Much of the poor quality of the NHS data has to do with design changes at the behest of the prime minister’s office, rather than the statistical experts at Statistics Canada.

[Criticism of the National Household Survey]
To restore faith in Statscan, free the Chief Statistician
Munir Sheikh | The Globe and Mail
October 24, 2013
This op-ed is written by the former Chief Statistician who resigned amid the changes in the design of the National Household Survey. He could not agree with the statements coming from the Prime Minister that a voluntary survey can be a substitute for a mandatory survey. Here’s his resignation letter with the famous “It can not” sentence:

And that’s all he wrote. . . Munir Sheikh resigns as Chief Statistician
Kady O’Malley | CBC
July 21, 2010
[Resignation letter]

Canada’s voluntary census is worthless. Here’s why
D. Hulchanski, R. Murdie, A. Walks, and L. Bourne | Globe and Mail
October 4, 2013
Data from the NHS show that Canada’s income inequality has dropped. But, this may have more to do with the flawed NHS than reality. The authors compare tax receipt data to NHS data to illustrate the problem.

Canadian income data ‘is garbage’ without census, experts say
Tavia Grant | The Globe and Mail
October 4, 2013

[Politicization of Science Funding]
Blinded to science: The plight of basic research in Canada
Josh D. Neufeld iPolitics Insight
October 21, 2013
This piece is a good summary of the move by the Canadian government towards funding applied research instead of basic research. This statement summarizes the issue:

Basic research is the seed corn of the economy, generating the applications and economic benefits of tomorrow … Trouble is, it’s very difficult to predict which basic research programs and projects will lead to the innovations of tomorrow.

Others from the series of posts on science policy in Canada can be found here:

Series of Posts on Science Policy in Canada
to be published in iPolitics

Quantitative Text Analysis: Michael vs Jacob

Most of the data demographers use are numeric and are easily handled via statistical packages. Text data via Google NGrams or names from the Social Security Names Database are more commonly analyzed using Python.

CSCAR and ARC are sponsoring free Python training Friday, November 8th. Space is limited.

In case you miss the workshop, here’s a link to some Big Data Tutorials by Neal Caren at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill.

And, to get back to the title of this blog entry, below are three data visualizations on names. The first two are the most common name by state & gender from 1960 to 2010.

Click on the images to activate the gifs.

us_map_gnames us_map_bnames

Notice that for the girls, Lisa dominated the US in 1965, which means I was born 10+ years too early to have that name. And for the boys, watch the epic battle for Michael vs Jacob. Also note that Jose is the dominant male name in Texas in 1996. Arizona also has two Hispanic names (Jose and Angel) in the recent past.

The third data visualization explores unisex names:
unisex names

Finally, think of these as data. We have a link to research on black first names as well as a post on the declining popularity of Mary.

Resources:
Big Data Tutorials, Neal Caren (University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill).

Google NGrams Viewer

Google NGrams Data
Note, we have downloaded quite a bit of this. See Data Service before you download another copy.

Social Security Names Database

A Wondrous GIF Shows the Most Popular Baby Names for Girls Since 1960
Rebecca Rosen | The Atlantic
October 18, 2013

America’s Most Popular Boys’ Names Since 1960, in 1 Spectacular GIF
Megan Garber |The Atlantic
October 24, 2013

The most unisex names in US history
Data Underload | FlowingData Blog
September 25, 2013

Visualizing Births and Deaths in Real-Time

Data visualizations are becoming more and more popular and sometimes they include demographic concepts. The following are two simulations of births and deaths – one for the US and the other for the world.

Click on the images to start the simulations. To read more about how these were made see references below:

us_map world_map

Watch This Anxiety-Provoking Simulation of U.S. Births and Deaths
John Metcalfe | The Atlantic Cities
December 11, 2012

This Map Shows Where in the World People Are Dying and Being Born
John Metcalfe | The Atlantic Cities
October 14, 2013

World Births/Deaths Simulation – Adding World Cities
Brad Lyon | Nowhere Near Ithaca Blog
October 9, 2013

Reproducibility Initiative: It’s not just for cancer

Reproducibility Initiative logo

The following are links to related efforts in Open Science. The first is about funding for a “Reproducibility Initiative” to validate 50 landmark cancer studies. Frankly, this can/should apply to population research as well. Included are links from The Economist and Nature about the importance of replication.

In general, there is a move towards “Open Science” across all disciplines. In fact, a different initiative, “The Reproducibility Project” is an effort to identify the predictors of reproducibility among published studies in psychology – a field that contributes far too much to the “Retraction Watch” website.

Reproducibility Initiative
Science Exchange News
October 16, 2013

Initiative gets $1.3 million to verify findings of 50 high-profile cancer papers
Richard Van Noorden | Nature News Blog
October 16, 2013

Unreliable research: Trouble at the lab
The Economist
October 19, 2013
Scientists like to think of science as self-correcting. To an alarming degree, it is not.

The governments of the OECD, a club of mostly rich countries, spent $59 billion on biomedical research in 2012, nearly double the figure in 2000. One of the justifications for this is that basic-science results provided by governments form the basis for private drug-development work. If companies cannot rely on academic research, that reasoning breaks down. When an official at America’s National Institutes of Health (NIH) reckons, despairingly, that researchers would find it hard to reproduce at least three-quarters of all published biomedical findings, the public part of the process seems to have failed.

If a job is worth doing, it is worth doing twice
Jonathan Russell | Nature
April 3, 2013

Reproducibility Project
Large-scale open collaboration to estimate the reproducibility of a sample of studies in psychology

Retraction Watch
Tracking retractions as a windo into the scientific process

Center for Open Science
A non-profit organization, which provides infrastructure tools for open science.

Time for a Legal Prohibition on Data Re-identification?

This is a very thorough blog post on respondent re-identification issues. The author takes to task the re-identification rainmakers, who have made careers out of exposing re-identification risks – often overstating the risks. He calls for a well-designed legal prohibition on data re-identification.

In fact, may of the restricted data contracts PSC users operate under have an “inadvertent discovery” clause. Here’s the language from LAFANS, which prohibits broadcasting the “find” to others.

Ethical Concerns, Conduct and Public Policy for Re-Identification and De-identification Practice: Part 3 (Re-Identification Symposium)
Daniel Barth-Jones | Columbia University
October 2, 2013

Counting Prisoners

The New York Times had another editorial on this issue:
Prison-Based Gerrymandering
Editorial Board | New York Times
September 26, 2013

A search on its site shows that this has been a common editorial/story topic
[Counting Prisoners Editorials/Stories]

The PSC Infoblog has had a previous post on this topic as well, which included the Census Bureau’s response to the issue. The Census Bureau released group quarters data in time for redistricting.

Another excellent source on this topic is the National Academy of Sciences book, which is available in the PSC library:
Once, Only Once and in the Right Place: Residence Rules in the Decennial Census
Daniel Cork and Paul Voss, Editors | The National Academies
2006

Two updates from The Census Project

Sorry, Come Back Later (Make an Educated Guess in the Meantime)
Terri Ann Lowenthal | The Census Project Blog
October 7, 2013
This piece reflects on the government shutdown – reflecting that Congress has done what the House couldn’t do – shut down the federal statistical infrastructure.

Thanks to the government shutdown, the Census Bureau’s work has come to a grinding halt. No harassing phone calls to unwitting, over-burdened citizens. No pesky, door-knocking surveyors invading the privacy of hard-working Americans who just want to live a quiet, government-free life (as soon as someone fills that pothole down the street). Even the duty-bound who want to cooperate (however grudgingly) from the comfort of their own computers are out of luck; online survey response is closed for business.

Losing Sleep (While Counting Sheep)
Terri Ann Lowenthal | The Census Project Blog
October 1, 2013
This is a timely piece on the first day of a government shutdown. The Census Bureau needs funding from Congress so that it can do the necessary research for a smarter 2020 Census. The review of the fiscal situation and Congressional gridlock is not pretty.

budget uncertainty is causing significant concerns for the 2020 census program as we enter that period during which it is crucial to conduct tests so that we can begin applying new technologies and methods … We have already delayed planned research and testing activities to later years … We cannot further delay critical research that will help us make critical design decisions for those systems. [John Thompson]

. . . the Census Bureau needs money to figure all of this out in time. The bureau can execute a fundamentally redesigned 2020 census for the 2010 census price tag (plus inflation), Director Thompson says. Invest now, save later – that’s the bottom line.

And, a nice closing line: “Did I mention that the next census starts in less than six years? The Census Bureau can do a lot of things, but it cannot stop the clock. I bet Director Thompson is having a few sleepless nights, too.”

I might note that according to this link, 87% of Commerce employees are furloughed. Obviously, Census2020 planning is not happening today. I wonder if it shuts down the data collection operations for the ACS, CPS, etc.?

census.gov is #shutdown but you can read about Census 2010 research

The Census Bureau website is down with the government shutdown:

Census shutdown message

But, you can read all about some research based on the 2010 Census. Here is a sampling:

Misclassifying New York’s Hidden Units as Vacant in 2010: Lessons Gleaned for the 2020 Census
Joe Salvo and Peter Lobo | Population Research and Policy Review
August 6, 2013
This is a great article if you are interested in the details of the history of the Census Bureau’s master address file; how it gets created, corrected, updated, etc.

This piece traces the puzzling number of vacancies in two areas of New York City during the 2010 Census, which resulted in a lower census count than New York City had expected. It is a nice piece of detective work. As a reminder, Peter Lobo was a PSC trainee who I always quote as saying “I worked with Ren Farley at Michigan, and the time I spent there were some of the best years of my life.”

Quality and the 2010 Census
Hogan, Howard et.al. | Population Research and Policy Review
April 5, 2013
This is a nice summary of ways to evaluate census quality – 2 of the 5 authors are PSC trainees (Howard Hogan and Victoria Velkoff).

There is a companion press conference on the Census Bureau website, which will be linked to when the #shutdown is over.

The rest of the articles in this special issue devoted to the 2010 Census are here:

Population Research and Policy Review
Volume 32, Issue 5, October 2013
Special issue on New Findings from the 2010 Census
Guest Editor: William P. O’Hare

The Census as a Luxury

The following are a collection of news articles, editorials, and reports on the likely possibility that the UK will be scrapping its census – to be replaced by a survey and a sweep of commercial data sources and administrative records.

In for the count: Arguments for scrapping UK census do not add up
Editorial | Fiscal Times
September 2, 2013

Quotes:

The census is Whitehall’s window on British society. If you are not counted, you do not count.

Yet the government believes that the census is a luxury that Britain can no longer afford. When it was last conducted in 2011 it required a 35,000-strong army of researchers and cost £480m. This is cheap by international standards – the US census costs more than three times as much per head – and a drop in the £7tn-odd ocean of public spending that will, over the course of a decade, be influenced by the results. Census data can save ministers from costly mistakes. Abolishing it may prove penny-wise but pound-foolish.

And, the Canadian problem:

At stake is not only the accuracy of the census itself, but also that of countless sample-based surveys that it is used to calibrate.

And, a nice, pithy conclusion:

The carpenter’s rule is to measure twice and cut once. The government should reflect on this advice before ditching an indispensable yardstick of social change.

Ending the national census would make us blind to our society
Danny Dorling | The Guardian
September 2, 2013

This is a shorter version of a paper published in Radical Statistics. This paper has useful references.

The 2011 Census: What surprises are emerging . . . cancellation is stupid
Danny Dorling | Radical Statistics

The next two articles are from the Fiscal Times. This is not an open access journal. You may be able to read the articles by answering a survey question (on cloud computing, smart phone usage, etc.).

Researchers in UK count cost of plan to scrap census
Kate Allen | Fiscal Times
September 1, 2013
This piece emphasizes that neither a survey or currently available data (administrative/proprietary commercial) would provide the geographical detail or the content scope that a census would.

Loss of census seen as threat to UK historical insight
Kate Allen | Fiscal Times
September 1, 2013
This piece emphasizes what a loss of a census would mean for historical research, including genealogy.