Census is in trouble: decennial and economic

For the last 8 months or so, there have been articles about funding/planning woes at the Census Bureau. Below are a series of posts that highlight these issues again.

A few cents, a lot of sense, and the Census
Editorial | Washington Examiner
October 12, 2017
This editorial, from a right-leaning editorial board, says that Republicans will be blamed for a bad 2020 Census:

It will not pay for Republicans to be cheap. A faulty census will lead to a dubious reapportionment of congressional districts among states, and an even more dubious redistricting. Our democracy can’t afford a further erosion of trust.

A botched Census under a Republican president would buttress suspicion that Republicans can win elections but can’t govern competently.

It reiterates that this is a government responsibility – not just a wasteful endeavor:

The Census isn’t an Obama boondoggle or New Deal invention. It’s at the heart of what the federal government is supposed to do. The decennial census is an obligation specified in Article I, Section 2 of the U.S. Constitution to determine how many seats each state gets in the House of Representatives.

An “actual enumeration” of the American people is due “within every subsequent Term of ten Years, in such Manner as they shall by Law direct” after the first census of 1790.

Is Washington Bungling the Census?
Danny Vinik | Politico
October 11, 2017
This post notes that the Economic Census is being delayed by 6 months. It should start collecting data on June 2018 instead of January. The reason: the Census Bureau needs the money for 2020 Census planning:

The Census needed the money earmarked for the Economic Census to prepare for the 2020 decennial, which Congress has underfunded by hundreds of millions of dollars. In a tight budget environment, the bureau was effectively forced to choose between two of Washington’s most important efforts to collect data on the country. Even if it’s conducted on the new schedule, the delay of the 2017 Economic Census will have negative effects down the line; it leaves outdated baseline numbers in place for policymakers, and creates problems for companies that need to comply. Said another census-watcher of the 2017 survey: “It will always have this asterisk.”

Census 2020: How it’s supposed to work (and how it might go terribly wrong)
Heather Long | Washington Post
October 11, 2017

2020 Census needs major cash infusion, commerce secretary will tell Congress on Thursday
Michael Scherer and Tara Bahrampour | Washington Post
October 10, 2017
This post makes reference to a House Congressional Oversight meeting where Wilbur Ross, Secretary of Commerce answered questions about the 2020 Census – note that he testified because there is no Census Bureau director.

The post also gives a fair number of examples of Census Bureau plans to use technology to reduce the cost of the 2020 Census and how this effort has been stymied by a lack of funding. In the end, there will be more paper/pencil labor, which costs more than some of the automated systems the Census Bureau planned to use – but haven’t been able to test.

Commerce: 2020 census to cost $3B more than planned
Chase Gunter | FCW: The Business of Federal Technology
October 10, 2017

The Census Bureau is retreating from a plan to save $5 billion in the 2020 Census.

The bureau had held out hopes for massive savings over the $17.5 billion in projected costs based on 2010 methodologies, but the agency had to revise its estimates. Technology cost overruns and fears of low online response rates have contributed to the steep upward revision of the costs of counting the U.S. population in 2020.


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