Monthly Archive for July, 2017

Baking a cake without ingredients

The Census Bureau was criticized for canceling some of its testing for the 2020 Census by the committee that just cut the funding for the testing.

Census Bureau budget indicates 2018 field tests of 2020 Census will be cut back
Census Project
July 17, 2017

Relevant excerpt

Now, because of budget cuts, the Census Bureau is dropping the West Virginia and Washington state test sites.

To say the least, this puts the 2020 Census in danger of a botched count.

In response, House Democrats on the Appropriations Committee offered an amendment to the spending bill increasing the FY 2018 census budget by more than $300 million to fully fund the 2018 field tests. The amendment was rejected by the committee on a party-line vote with all GOP members voting against the proposal.

Ironically the committee report which accompanies the approved committee FY 2018 budget (and which was written by the House Republicans) calls upon “the Census Bureau to reconsider its proposal to cancel two of the three test sites scheduled for 2018.” Committee member and U.S. Representative Grace Meng (D-NY) noted the report calls for something that the Appropriations Committee had just cut, funds necessary to implement its own budget!

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Where has John Thompson Gone?

John Thompson resigned from the Census Bureau, effective June 30th. [See previous post on this]. Here’s where he landed:

Logo for COPAFS


John H. Thompson Appointed Executive Director of COPAFS

WASHINGTON, July 12 – The Board of Directors of the Council of Professional Associations on Federal Statistics (COPAFS) is pleased to announce the appointment of John H. Thompson as Executive Director, effective July 24. Thompson succeeds Katherine Smith Evans, who has served as Executive Director since October 2012.

[Link to full Press Release]

The Gray Lady Speaks

The New York Times posts an editorial about the 2020 Census – its funding, leadership, and the consequences thereof.

Save the Census
Editorial Board | The New York Times
July 17, 2017

Selected excerpts from the editorial:

The Government Accountability Office already put the 2020 census on its list of high-risk projects early this year, due to uncertainty about its budget and technology, and Americans’ increasing distrust of government data collection.

Then, the Census Bureau’s director, John Thompson, who was expected to remain on the job until at least the end of the year, resigned in June. Mr. Trump has not named a permanent replacement. The agency’s deputy director, Nancy Potok, an experienced statistician, left in January, and she also has not been replaced.

Responses to mail-in questionnaires — still the chief data collection method for the census — and door-to-door interviews have been declining for years, a G.A.O. report said.

The bureau — criticized in the past by government watchdogs and Congress for cost overruns and management missteps — is strapped for cash in a critical preparation year.

The bureau hopes to bolster its door-to-door “clipboard” force by automating the force’s work and introducing online reporting. But there’s not much money to test whether the approach actually works on the census: The bureau scrapped three field tests slated for this year, and two more for next year, including tests among rural people, who are traditionally one of the most seriously undercounted populations. There’s also less money to protect the online system from hacking of the kind that crashed Australia’s online count last year.

Mr. Trump poses an additional threat: His repeated efforts to discredit voter registration data and government employment numbers leave census officials worried that a random tweet from him could discourage more people from participating. Census professionals worry that the administration’s efforts to deport undocumented immigrants could make them wary of providing information about themselves and where they live.

The census is the federal government’s chief source of data about the American people and economy, a sweeping endeavor. “If you don’t do the investment at the front end, you can’t fix it later,”. . .

How to Measure Affordable Housing? Include Transportation Costs

Logo for an index


The Housing and Transportation H+T Affordability Index
This index provides a comprehensive way of thinking about the true affordability of place. The H+T Index offers an expanded view of affordability, one that combines housing and transportation costs and sets the benchmark at no more than 45% of household income. It presents housing and transportation data as maps, charts and statistics for 917 metro and micro areas. Costs can be seen from regional to neighborhood level.

Below is an article that references this H+T Index:

It’s Time to Change How We Measure Affordable Housing
Joe Cortright | City Lab
June 23, 2017
A cheap home isn’t affordable if it comes with high transportation costs

. . . .There are lots of reasons to believe that a single, fixed percentage of income standard does a poor job of reflecting whether housing is priced appropriately, and whether households are being asked to spend too much. I’ve explored some of these issues before, but today I want to focus on one key issue: the tradeoff between cheap rents and costly transportation.

. . .

What this means as a practical matter that you can’t judge whether an individual household’s living situation is affordable just by looking at whether they spend less than 30 percent of their income directly on housing.

Maybe just a nothing burger, but. . .

Funding for fetal tissue research in jeopardy & funding for teen pregnancy prevention axed.

NIH fetal tissue research would be barred under House panel’s spending plan
Lev Facher | STAT News
July 13, 2017

WASHINGTON — A House subcommittee’s draft 2018 spending plan would prohibit federal funds from being spent on research that uses fetal tissue, a symbolic win for conservatives who are also taking aim at money for family planning and public health programs around the country.

Trump administration suddenly pulls plug on teen pregnancy programs
Jane Kay | Reveal: Center for Investigative Reporting
July 14, 2017

The Trump administration has quietly axed $213.6 million in teen pregnancy prevention programs and research at more than 80 institutions around the country, including Children’s Hospital of Los Angeles and Johns Hopkins University.

. . .

Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price and other top Trump appointees are outspoken opponents of federal funding for birth control, advocating abstinence rather than contraceptives to control teen pregnancies.

. . .

The elimination of two years of funding for the five-year projects shocked the professors and community health officials around the country who run them.

An economist’s best friend: a natural experiment

Male Earnings, Marriageable Men, and non-marital fertility:
Evidence from the Fracking boom

Melissa Kearney and Riley Wilson | NBER Working Paper [23408]
May 2017

This paper takes advantage of the fracking boom to see if an influx of high paying jobs would increase the likelihood of marriage among men without college degrees.

You have to read the paper to find the answer.
Abstract | Paper

Another option is to read the transcript from an interview with one of the authors (Kearney) in Freakonomics Radio link. The last half discusses the findings. This link also goes to a podcast of the interview.

The Fracking Boom, a Baby Boom, and the Retreat from Marriage
Stephen J. Dubner | Freakonomics Radio
July 5, 2017

Search terms as data

The Digital Footprint of Europe’s Refugees
Phillip Connor | Pew Global
June 8, 2017

This post from Pew Global shows how Arabic-language Google searches for the term for “Greece” by users in Turkey very closely match the migrant flows into Greece during the summer of 2016. The volume even has daily peaks after midnight, when most migrants made the journey.
Executive Summary | Complete Report

And, just for fun, here are two of the figure from the post:

Google search volume figures

Google search volume figures

Pre-emption Laws

The title says it all:

Blue cities want to make their own rules. Red states won’t let them
Emily Badger | New York Times
July 6, 2017

[Note that the article makes use of the geography-based data visualization previously covered here]

Here’s a report from the National League of Cities that provides a state by state look at this issue:

City rights in an era of pre-emption: A state-by-state analysis
N. DuPuis, T. Langan, C. McFarland, A. Panettieri, & B. Rainwater | National League of Cities
2017

And, here’s a book that came up when I searched for “ripper laws.” The link is just to a snippet of the text.

Contemporary American Federalism
Joseph Zimmerman
2009