Monthly Archive for March, 2012

White House on the Social Statistics Bandwagon

New U.S. Research Will Aim at Flood of Digital Data
Steve Lohr | New York Times
March 29, 2012
The Obama administration is set to announce on Thursday a major initiative regarding big data computing, which will involve several government agencies and deparments, with commitments totaling $200 million.

The United States of Big Data
Rachael King | The Wall Street Journal
March 29, 2012

White House Press Release
NSF Press Release

April 2: 1940 Census Release

Identifiable data from the 1940 census is set to be released Monday, April 2, 2012.

The two links below provide fun background to the data. The data will be released via the National Archives.

Census Bureau | National Archives

The Census Bureau can release identifiable data 72 years after the data it was collected. [See History of 72-year rule].

Identifiable data means that family researchers can look up parents, grandparents, neighbors, etc. as long as that person was included in the 1940 census.  It will include names, birth dates, etc.

Currently, the data are only indexed by enumeration district, so unless one wants to scroll through all the records for a state, one should use this handy address to enumeration district crosswalk:

Need help? Come see us in Data Services.

Small Government Folks and the Federal Statistical System

WND is a compilation of small government bloggers.

They are in favor of making the ACS voluntary; consider the ACS a virtual colonoscopy; do not like the questions in the ACS, even though the questions go through Congressional scrutiny; and think the 6 questions in the Census are 5 questions too many. A previous entry provides links to articles in favor of the voluntary ACS.

Caught!: Census Bureau on Wrong Side of Law?
Bob Unruh |
March 22, 2012
Invasive questions ‘a clear violation of Article I of the U.S. Constitution’

Rutherford Institute Issues Final Warning to Census Bureau Over Forcing Americans to Complete Highly Invasive Surveys Unrelated to Census
John Whitehead | Rutherford Institute
March 22, 2012

Legal Concerns Regarding the American Community Survey
Letter from John Whitehead, Rutherford Institute to Robert M. Groves, Census Bureau
March 22, 2012

Immigration Group: Look at Census to round up illegals
Bob Unruh |
April 5, 2010
‘We’d like for Congress to pass a special bill demanding the data be used’
[even though the Census does not have an ‘are you here illegally question’ and that the data are not used for administrative purposes]

Critics Call Census Pages ‘Involuntary Colonscopy’
Bob Unruh |
March 18, 2010
Feds accused of hijacking forms for their ‘unauthorized programs’
[Criticism is of both the 2010 Census and the ACS, which is the replacement for the census long-form]

Feds Implement Perpetual Census
Julie Foster
June 16, 2001
American Community Survey will be mailed out continually

House Bill would Limit Census
Julie Foster
April 21, 2000
‘It is the antithesis of a democratic society’

The bill further asserts “the only information needed in order to
carry out that purpose are the names, ages, and the number of
individuals residing in a household, and the address or location of such

Reprieve: The Statistical Abstract Lives On

The Statistical Abstract Lives On – Proquest will Publish Starting in 2013
Sue Polanka | Points of Reference – A Booklist Blog
March 22, 2012

ProQuest Picks up Where the Census Bureau Left Off: The Statistical Abstract of the United States Will Be Back This Year

Researchers’ cherished guide to social and economic stats gets a new lease on digital and print life

March 22, 2012 (ANN ARBOR, Mich.) — ProQuest will rescue one of researchers’ most valued reference tools when it takes on publication of the Statistical Abstract of the United States beginning with the 2013 edition. The move ensures continuation of this premier guide to an extraordinary array of statistics, which has been published since 1878. The U.S. Census Bureau, responsible for publishing the work, announced in March 2011 that it would cease production of the Statistical Abstract after the 2012 edition, prompting widespread concern among librarians, journalists, and researchers about the disappearance of this essential research tool.

If you were not aware of the impending demise of The Statistical Abstract, see this previous post.

More on the Idea of a Voluntary ACS

Most of the articles below oppose H.R. 931, which would make response to the ACS voluntary.

A separate entry provides links to an organization in favor of H.R. 931. It is against most everything the Census Bureau does: have a mandatory ACS and counting non-citizens in the Census. They are in favor of using the Census to round up the undocumented population.

Imagining a Census Survey Without a Mandate
Carl Bialik | The Wall Street Journal
March 30, 2012

Census Gets Questions on Mandatory Queries
Carl Bialik | The Wall Street Journal
March 30, 2012

The Census Bureau does more than count all Americans every 10 years. It also runs hundreds of other surveys in between. But Americans are only obligated by federal law to participate in the once-a-decade headcount and a massive, continuous data-collection effort known as the American Community Survey.

The ACS will reach 3.5 million households this year, using dozens of detailed questions—including asking about a household’s use of flush toilets, wood fuel and carpools—to determine the need for various government programs. The survey’s mandatory status, along with telephone and in-person follow-ups to initial mailings, helps keep response rates near 100%.

Now, 60 Republican members of Congress, including presidential candidate and Texas Rep. Ron Paul, are challenging the survey’s mandatory status, with a bill that would make it voluntary to complete the ACS. The push is fueled by privacy concerns and the very detailed nature of the questions.

“The freedom of the American people from unwanted government intrusion into their private lives and affairs is a higher priority than the quality of the government’s data,” said Paul spokeswoman Rachel Mills.

. . .

“We already suffer too much from what might be referred to as ‘policy making by anecdote,’ ” Andrew G. Biggs, a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, a conservative think tank, told the congressional panel. “Reducing the quantity and quality of data available to policy makers, analysts and researchers threatens to exacerbate this problem.” Dr. Biggs added, “Mandatory participation in the ACS remains a reasonable policy.”

Getting Serious About H.R. 931: A Press Briefing was held on this Possible Legislation
Website link goes to the audio of the press briefing. Speakers were Terri Ann Lowenthal, Ken Hodges, and Terry Ao Minnis. The link also goes to letters opposing H.R. 931, Congressional Testimony, and other background materials.

Curtailing Census is short-sighted
Gerald Ensley | Tallahassee Democrat
March 23, 2012

Oh, they’re willing to keep requiring the government to count the number of people. But a Republican-led coalition in the U.S. House of Representatives is trying to do away with the annual American Community Survey (ACS), the chief source of national demographic data.

The legislation is sponsored by Congressman Ted Poe, R-Texas, who supports the Republican National Committee’s assertion the Census is a “dangerous invasion of privacy.” The bill seconds the notion touted by Republican presidential candidate Ron Paul that “government has no right to continuously survey the American people.”
. . .

Though the statistical sample is smaller, census officials say it is statistically reliable, especially when averaged over continuously updated three- and five-year increments. More importantly, it produces more timely data than the decennial census.

“If you look the long form nine years into the decade and allocate federal money based on that, the data is out of date,” Lowenthal said. “What (ACS) loses in statistical quality it makes up for in timeliness of information.”

Supporters say such reliable data would be lost in a voluntary survey.
. . .
Opponents characterize such questions as a “colonoscopy of the American public.” Census supporters say they’re simply a way to determine where roads, traffic lights and bike lanes are needed. A way to determine where veterans hospitals and services are needed. A way to determine which polling places need to provide a second-language ballot for voters. A way to determine where to spend money on health, social and welfare services.

They emphasize that — by law — all census data are confidential.

“It’s not about the government having information on us as individuals,” said Ken Hodges of the Nielsen Research group. “It’s about assembling the data in our communities.”

Census data’s flow could slow: Bill to guard privacy troubles policymakers
Paris Achen | The Columbian
March 23, 2012

Legislation in the U.S. House of Representatives to end mandatory participation in the Census Bureau’s American Community Survey could compromise the reliability of statistics used by federal, state and local policymakers to plan for the future, equitably distribute services and measure progress on a variety of benchmarks, local policymakers say.

. . .

Hudson and other Clark County policymakers say that by making results unreliable, House Bill 931 by U.S. Rep. Ted Poe, R-Texas, could render the survey useless.

. . .
During a hearing in the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee this month, Poe argued that the survey should be voluntary, because it’s outside the constitutionally required census and is an unnecessary invasion of privacy. An individual who refuses to participate faces a fine of up to $100, according to Section 221 of the U.S. Code.

“Government makes way too many things mandatory,” said Kelly Parker, chief executive officer of the Greater Vancouver Chamber of Commerce. “I would argue private-sector research companies and marketing companies could do similar research in the community.”

Making the survey optional would decrease participation by at least 20 percent and could double the outcomes’ margin of error, according to an analysis by the Census Bureau.

“A voluntary American Community Survey would reduce the reliability and the chance of skewing the data, depending on who chose to respond and who didn’t,” said Ken Pearrow, Clark County GIS coordinator. “I am concerned it would make the information less useful and less reliable.”

The Responsibilities of Being American
Terri Ann Lowenthal | The Census Project Blog
March 13, 2012

Terri Ann Lowenthal reacts to the hearing on H.R. 931. She reminds readers of the legal precedents to the census, that federal laws allocate money based on data from the ACS, and that the data are used for statistical purposes not to create a private dossier of any respondent.

Here’s her limerick to start out the piece:

Three lawmakers argued unmindfully,
“We view government surveys unkindly.
Census law shouldn’t force
Us to be a data source,
And we’d rather make policy blindly!”

Summary of H.R. 931 Hearing [Voluntary ACS]

There hasn’t been much news coverage about the possibility of changing the methodology for the ACS (voluntary as opposed to mandatory) and recovering the expense of enlarging the sample (a la Canada and its voluntary NHS) by charging users for access to the data.

Link to hearing materials:

Jordain Carney | Scripps Howard News Service
March 7, 2012

Those who argued for making the ACS voluntary said requiring participation is unconstitutional.

“I am here to suggest that the federal government does not have an overriding, compelling state interest to force people to divulge their private matters,” said Rep. Ted Poe, R-Texas, who appeared as a witness at the hearing.

Poe has repeatedly said the ACS should be voluntary. He introduced a bill, H.R. 931, in March 2011 that would make the survey voluntary.

Census Bureau Director Robert Groves disagreed. “The U.S. Constitution empowers Congress to carry out the census,” Groves said. “That is unambiguous in the Constitution.”

Groves said Census Bureau staff are required to find a statute that allows them to collect information before they put a question on the survey.

Rep. Darrell Issa, a California Republican who is chairman of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, said legally requiring a response violates the First, Fourth and Fifth Amendments.

Most of the witnesses were in favor of the ACS as a source of small-area data and left it to the Census Bureau to determine how to collect the data.

“It is literally this country’s only source of small-area statistics,” Groves said.

Making the survey voluntary would dramatically decrease responses and increase costs by approximately $66 million per year, he said.

“Without good data, policy makers are essentially flying blind,” Andrew Biggs, resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, said.

Those who do not complete the survey can receive a fine of as much as $5,000. Groves said no one has ever been penalized for refusing to answer the survey.

An alternative to the required ACS could be having the private sector pay for at least part of the Census Bureau’s survey.

Groves said the Census Bureau doesn’t have the research to say if receiving private funding would threaten the accuracy of the data.

“We haven’t considered this seriously,” Groves said. “Other countries have taken the posture that this is a basic responsibly of the central government.”

Supreme Court rebuffs Louisiana’s 2010 Census Suit

Louisiana sued the Census Bureau for counting all residents in the 2010 Census. Louisiana (and others) wanted the Census Bureau to exclude non-citizens from the apportionment count. [See background materials.]

The Supreme Court was not swayed, although it is likely that this argument will be resurrected in 2020. Or to quote the Groening article “Mehlman says it is really not too early to amend the process for the 2020 census.”

The Census, illegals, and states
Chad Groening |
March 22, 2012

Supreme Court turns away Louisiana bid to recover congressional seat lost to Census
Associated Press
March 19, 2012

SCOTUS balks at La. census suit
Walter Pierce | Independent Weekly []
March 19, 2012

The Retirement Prospects of Divorced Women

By: Barbara Butrica & Karen E. Smith
Source: The Urban Institute


Older divorced women are more likely to be poor than other older women, and historical divorce and remarriage trends suggest that in the future a larger share of retired women will be divorced. This article uses the MINT model to project the retirement resources and well-being of divorced women. We find that Social Security benefits and retirement incomes are projected to increase for divorced women and that their poverty rates are projected to decline, due to women’s increasing lifetime earnings. However, not all divorced women will be equally well off; economic well-being in retirement varies by Social Security benefit type.

Full report (PDF)

Preventing Tobacco Use Among Youth and Young Adults: A Report of the Surgeon General

Source: U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, Office of the Surgeon General

From Executive Summary:

This Surgeon General’s report examines in detail the epidemiology, health effects, and causes of tobacco use among youth ages 12 through 17 and young adults ages 18 through 25. For the first time tobacco data on young adults as a discrete population has been explored. This is because nearly all tobacco use begins in youth and young adulthood, and because young adults are a prime target for tobacco advertising and marketing activities. This report also highlights the efficacy of strategies to prevent young people from using tobacco.

After years of steady decrease following the Tobacco Master Settlement Agreement of 1998, declines in youth tobacco use have slowed for cigarette smoking and stalled for use of smokeless tobacco. The latest research shows that concurrent use of multiple tobacco products is common among young people, and suggest that smokeless tobacco use is increasing among White males.

Publication webpage
Full report (PDF)

The UNESCO World Atlas of Gender Equality in Education

Source: UNESCO

From publication website:

With over 120 maps, charts and tables, the UNESCO World Atlas of Gender Equality in Education enables readers to visualize the educational pathways of girls and boys in terms of access, participation and progression from pre-primary to tertiary education.

The Atlas features a wide range of sex-disaggregated data and gender indicators from the UNESCO Institute for Statistics. It also illustrates the extent to which gender disparities in education have changed since 1970 and are shaped by factors such as national wealth, geographic location, investment in education and fields of study.

Also planned for mid-2012 is an online data mapping tool for tracking trends over time, adapting the maps and exporting the data.

Full publication (PDF)
Download chapters
Leaflet (PDF)