Monthly Archive for November, 2011

Raiding the Census Piggy Bank

Raiding the Census Piggy Bank
Terri Ann Lowenthal | The Census Project Blog
November 28, 2011

Cohabiting Couples and Their Money

Cohabiting Couples and Their Money
D’Vera Cohn | Pew Social & Demographic Trends
November 22, 2011
This note discusses how the new alternative measure of poverty released by the Census Bureau treats cohabiting couples.

Under the traditional measure of poverty, unmarried couples who live together are counted as separate units. Under the alternative metric, called the Supplemental Poverty Measure, the assumption is that cohabiting couples pool their funds and share expenses just as married couples do. The result: A lower share of cohabiting couples is considered poor under the alternative metric than under the official measure.

Guide to Statistics on Historical Trends in Income Inequality

A Guide to Statistics on Historical Trends in Income Inequality
C. Stone, H. Shaw, D. Trisi and A. Sherman | Center on Budget and Policy Priorities
November 28, 2011

This resource is from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. It provides information on the (a) commonly used sources and statistics, including a discussion of relatives strengths and limitations; (b) an overview of the trends over the last ~60 years; (c) an overview of how the most well-off Americans and doing; (d) an overview of how the least well-off Americans are doing.

[Link to PDF version]

Blast from the Past: 1967 Census data for West Bank and Gaza Strip

The 1967 Census of the West Bank and Gaza Strip: A Digitized Version [tabular]

In the summer of 1967, just after the Six-Day War brought the West Bank and Gaza Strip under Israel’s control, the Israeli Central Bureau of Statistics conducted a census of the occupied territories. The resulting seven volumes of reports provide the earliest detailed description of this population, including crucial data about respondents’ 1948 refugee status.

In recent decades, these volumes of tables — over 300 tables in all — have received little or no attention from historians of the occupation, not least because it is not easy to use the reports in print form and in any case the volumes are not widely available even in good research libraries.

The Levy Economics Institute of Bard College is making the contents of these volumes available in machine-readable form for the first time, free of charge to anyone with access to the internet. The tables can be downloaded in Excel format for intensive research.

Many tables provide information cross-tabulated with several social characteristics at once (for example, education or occupation cross-tabulated with age, gender and refugee status) and presented for small geographic locales as well sub-totaled for regions.

Also, in conjunction with the Palestinian Authority’s censuses of 1997 and 2007 these tables help provide an understanding of trends over 40 years. We hope that the data can be exploited by researchers interested in a fuller understanding of the social history of the Palestinian people in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

For an overview of our project and to access the hundreds of tables contained in the 1967 Census database.

The Rising Age Gap in Economic Well-being

The Rising Age Gap in Economic Well-being: The Old Prosper Relative to the Young
By: Richard Fry, D’Vera Cohn, Gretchen Livingston and Paul Taylor
Source: Pew Research Center

From Overview:

Households headed by older adults have made dramatic gains relative to those headed by younger adults in their economic well-being over the past quarter of a century, according to a new Pew Research Center analysis of a wide array of government data.

In 2009, households headed by adults ages 65 and older possessed 42% more median1 net worth (assets minus debt) than households headed by their same-aged counterparts had in 1984. During this same period, the wealth of households headed by younger adults moved in the opposite direction. In 2009, households headed by adults younger than 35 had 68% less wealth than households of their same-aged counterparts had in 1984.

Full report (PDF)

More on the Politics of Data via Canada

Ottawa Needs to Repair Damage to Census-Gathering Process: Ivan Fellegi
Jim Day | The Guardian
November 8, 2011

Fellegi, Canada’s chief statistician emeritus, spoke on statistics, public confidence and lessons from t he 2011 Canadian Census at this years Symons Lecture on the state of Canadian Confederation.

Suggestions include embeddding “The United Nations Fundamental Principles of Official Statistics Act.”

The first principle emphasizes the need for impartiality, but provides no guidance on how to achieve this goal, he said while giving the Symons Lecture on the State of Canadian Confederation Tuesday in Charlottetown.

The second principle, he says, would be used to retain trust in official statistics by Statistics Canada using strictly professional considerations, including scientific principles and professional ethics, on the methods and procedures for the collection, processing, storage, and dissemination of statistical data.

“This has clearly been violated,’’ he said, lashing out at the Harper government for scrapping the mandatory long census form for the 2011 census and replacing it with a voluntary national household survey.

Fellegi spoke about the problems with a voluntary response and the implications this has for the usefulness of the data.

“Without this information, we cannot make informed decisions about where to plan the next extension of public transit, or where to target different types of health resources…the knowledge it offers forms the backbone of our society, an information society that needs and wants to know about itself.’’ [quoting Armine Yainizyan]

“If you can’t trust the evidence, you would be stupid to make decisions based on that evidence,’’ he said.

He concludes with a great quote about the appropriate treatment of official statistics.

Like clean water, he explained, the public expects clean official statistics when needed.

To keep official statistics clean, notes Fellegi, requires proactive maintenance through legal safeguards and on-going public vigilance.

Reproductive Technology and the Supreme Court

Supreme Court to hear in vitro case
David G. Savage | Los Angeles Times [Washington Bureau]
November 15, 2011
If reproductive technology allows a child to be conceived after a father’s death, can the child claim Social Security survivor’s benefits? Justices will decide a mother’s case [Astrue vs Capato]

Flying Blind: Budget Cuts are Eroding Data & Information Resources

The newest example of a funding cut leading to the loss of data and information comes from the Department of Agriculture.

Government Counting Sheep? Now, Only in Its Dreams
William Neuman | New York Times
November 8, 2011

Budget cuts are leading to self-imposed cuts to agricultural surveys and reports.

The government began producing regular crop reports in 1863, the year after Lincoln created the Agriculture Department. One of the reports being eliminated, an annual sheep inventory (5.5 million head on Jan. 1), can trace its roots at least as far back as 1866. Also ending are reports on bees, honey production, flowers and nursery crops.

The statistics service said it was forced to reduce the frequency of some reports and eliminate others because its budget was cut for the fiscal year that ended in September and it expects further cuts for the current year. The eliminated reports will save $11 million a year.

“These are not cuts we wanted to make, but budget reductions by Congress made it necessary,” said Matt Herrick, a spokesman for the Agriculture Department.

Do farmers – and others – appreciate the data and information?

But the Agriculture Department is saying, in effect, that the nation can get by just fine, thank you, without knowing how much hops brewers are holding in storage (46 million pounds in September) or the value of honey sold by North Dakota beekeepers ($70 million in 2010).

Farmers say such data is crucial — and not just because it helps them decide how much to plant or how many animals to raise.

There is also an issue of trust. Having the government collect the data and provide reports removes bias and political interference. Here’s an example of the issue from one of the smaller industries:

“The mink industry has its opponents,” said Michael Whelan, executive director of Fur Commission USA. “In order to counter some of their misinformation, I have to inform the legislators that mink production in their state is an important component to the economic base.”

With the elimination of the mink report, which cost taxpayers $130,000 a year, the industry will have to compile its own numbers, raising credibility questions. “People may ask if I’m inflating or deflating the numbers for political purposes,” he said.

Cuts to the reports and surveys have happened in the past [Reagan-era] and were restored.

Many of the reports being cut today, including those on mink, catfish, trout, flowers and honey, were eliminated during an earlier round of budget tightening in 1982. A year later, most of the reports were restored by Congress because of appeals from farm groups.

Not sure that we can count on a restoration this time.

More on Census Funding

The Senate passed the FY 2012 Census Bureau budget. This was for less than in the original White House request and is likely to lead to cuts to Census Bureau programs.

Press Release
The Census Project | November 2, 2011

While the Senate action preserved a trimmed-back version of the 2012 Economic Census of the nation’s businesses, the bill leaves the Census Bureau with insufficient funding “to complete measurement of undercounts and overcounts in the 2010 Census, information that state and local governments are anxious to see, and other evaluations that will improve planning for the 2020 enumeration,” according to a letter sent to both Senate and U.S. House of Representatives leadership by scores of census stakeholder organizations.

Stakeholder letter to Barbara Mikulski (November 2, 2011)

The Senate version of the Census appropriations is $88 million less than the Obama administration requested. It will also lead to other cuts:

. . . the Bureau also would eliminate coverage of group quarters (such as military barracks, college dorms, nursing homes, and prisons) in the American Community Survey (ACS), undermining the accuracy of some characteristics data, such as poverty, age, household composition, and educational attainment, for many communities.

The more drastic House vote will be next.

The Wall Street Journal comments on potential cuts to the Economic Census.

Census Confronts Budget Ax
Ben Casselman |Wall Street Journal
October 31, 2011

House lawmakers, facing record budget deficits, have proposed cutting some funding for the Census Bureau. The bureau says if the cuts go through, it would have to cancel the economic census, a once-every-five-year snapshot of the economy, due again next year, that is the basis for much of the country’s economic data.

Time to Get Down to (Census) Business
Terri Ann Lowenthal | The Census Project Blog
October 6, 2011

At a Senate hearing last spring, Census Director Robert Groves laid out the agency’s guiding principles for designing the next decennial count. At the core of all of them is the stark fiscal reality facing the country: the Census Bureau will have to do more with much less.

No matter how little it is willing to spend on the 2020 census over the long haul, Congress must invest some money upfront for research, testing and design development. The alternative will tie the agency’s hands behind its back until it is too late for meaningful innovation, end-to-end testing to support outcome-based decisions, and timely interaction with community-based partners.

Census: Learning Lessons from the 2010, Planning for the 2020
Robert M. Groves | Director of the Census Bureau
April 6, 2011

See also:
House Bill Guts the Census Bureau Budget