Monthly Archive for March, 2017

In the nick of time?

The Census Bureau released the subjects they plan to collect for the 2020 Census as well as the American Community Survey (ACS). The Census Bureau needs to send this information to Congress before April 1, 2017. They clearly met that deadline. But, there is a draft executive order “Executive Order on Protecting American Jobs and Workers by Strengthening the Integrity of Foreign Worker Visa Programs,” that would have the Census Bureau add a citizenship question to the Census. This information is already asked in the ACS – so it is not difficult for the Census Bureau to provide annual numbers on the size and composition of the foreign born population (citizen or not) x welfare use. So will Congress and/or Trump insist on changes between now and a year from now, when the exact wording of the questions has to be presented?

The Census Bureau has never wanted to collect immigration status data on the Census as they feel it would lower the response rate of non-citizens, particularly those without papers. This was true in the past and is certainly would be the case now.

Subjects Planned for the 2020 Census and American Community Survey
Census Bureau
March 28, 2017

White House proposal to ask immigration status in Census could have chilling effect, experts say
Tara Bahrampour | Washington Post
February 1, 2017

Annual questionnaires from the Census Bureau already ask whether respondents are citizens. But probing into the status of those who are not would be new, and Census experts say it would have a detrimental effect on future counts.

“It will drive the response rate down enormously,” said Kenneth Prewitt, a former director of the Census Bureau who is now a professor of public affairs at Columbia University. Immigrants here illegally are unlikely to answer questions about their status, he said, adding that the resulting undercount could have chilling effects.

“If you drive those people out of the Census, the consequence is that they’re not in it,” he said. “It’s a step toward not counting the people you don’t want to count. And that goes very far in redrawing legislative boundaries.”

Release Of Possible Topics For 2020 Census Raises Concerns
Hansi Lo Wang | NPR
March 28, 2017

WANG: Kenneth Prewitt is a former director of the Census Bureau who served under the Clinton administration. He’s concerned that the immigration debate could determine the questions asked on the census.

KENNETH PREWITT: I think that would set up a huge partisan argument. And the census would be stuck in the middle of that.

WANG: Prewitt adds that besides politics, the bureau is also dealing with uncertain funding from Congress. And that means the bureau may have to scrap more trial tests of its methods, plus follow-up visits to people who don’t respond immediately to its questionnaires.

PREWITT: That means we will not have a very good census. And not having a good census means that we have an undercount. And the undercount will vary by region and by grouping.

Budget Carnage

This is just a proposed budget, but the cuts to NIH and Commerce are not promising. And, NSF isn’t even mentioned:

US science agencies face deep cuts in Trump budget
S. Reardon, J. Tollefson, A. Witze & E. Ross | Nature
March 16, 2017

Rumours of the White House proposal have swirled for weeks, alarming many researchers who depend on government funding — and science advocates who worry that the Trump administration’s stance will jeopardize US leadership in fields ranging from climate science to cancer biology. It is not clear how much of the plan will survive negotiations in Congress over the next several months, however.

And the Trump proposal is notable for what it leaves out. The barebones document omits detail about many programmes and even entire agencies, including the National Science Foundation (NSF).

NIH, DOE Office of Science face deep cuts in Trump’s first budget
Science News Staff | Science
March 16, 2017

Here’s an articulation of the heavy lifting Trump has ahead to enact his budget re-allocation:

To reach that defense spending goal, however, Congress will need to agree to change to change a 2011 law, known as the Budget Control Act (BCA), that places binding caps on defense and non-defense discretionary spending, which accounts for roughly one-third of the $3.5 trillion that the federal government spends annually. (The other two-thirds goes to entitlement programs such as Medicare and Social Security, other kinds spending required by law, and paying interest on the national debt). Changing the BCA could be a heavy political lift, however, requiring 60 votes in the Senate. And, in general, White House budget requests are just one of many factors that Congress considers as it exercises its Constitutional authority to set spending levels. Lawmakers from both parties have already expressed skepticism about some of the cuts Trump has proposed, and the NIH cuts will likely face stiff opposition. Congress won’t decide final numbers until late this year.

The title says it all

“In Order That They Might Rest Their Arguments on Facts”: The Vital Role of Government-Collected Data is a white paper, jointly produced by the AEI and The Brookings Institution (The Hamilton Project).

One should not have to argue about the value of government-collected data, but sometimes the argument has to be made.

Here’s a quote that harkens back to the Founding Fathers – for the Supreme Court originalists?

quoted text

Executive Summary
Full Paper

This document is written for a lay audience, perhaps Congress. But, there are some facts about, justifications for, public-use government-collected data researchers may not be aware of. At the very least, assign it to your students. Or read it the next time PAA has an Advocacy Day.