The title is in all caps because that’s how the press is responding to the Trump Administration’s likely appointment to the Census Bureau. This is a very politicized appointment to the Deputy Director position, which is typically a career civil servant with operational and statistical expertise. In fact, the previous Deputy Director [Nancy Potok] just left the Census Bureau to become the Chief Statistician of the United States at OMB.

Read the posts and weep:

Trump’s new Census Bureau hire could give the GOP a big boost
Paul Waldman | Washington Post
November 21, 2017
This post concentrates on how bad this pick is and the permission it gives the administration to do anything it wants to.

Now let’s put this in a broader context. All across the government, this administration has been demonstrating its utter contempt for the idea of expertise, that people given great responsibility might actually want to know what they’re doing. The resentment of pointy-headed elitists has long been a resource Republicans have drawn on, and it has expressed itself to a degree in their prior administrations. But they largely accepted that you could appoint ideologues who also have relevant knowledge. In the Trump administration, however, knowledge seems to matter less than ever.

. . .

It’s not like none of this has any precedent. But officials seem particularly unapologetic about it this time around. Trump, to repeat, is not making these decisions. But it’s his brazenness — not just about his own ignorance and inexperience, but about everything — that gives those who work for him permission to take things a step or two farther than they might have under a different Republican president. They see not only his personal history but also his willingness to do things such as appoint members of his family to key posts, and they know that they no longer have to act with any restraint. The result is in many cases a more purely partisan and ideological set of appointments and policies, because people no longer feel that they need to pay lip service to expertise or any broad, bipartisan conception of the national interest.

Leading Trump Census pick causes alarm
Danny Vinik and Andrew Restuccia | Politico
November 21, 2017
The 2020 count might be put in the hands of an inexperienced professor who wrote that ‘Competitive Elections are Bad for America.’

Brunell was under consideration over the summer for the Senate-confirmable job of census director, but the administration declined to nominate him after receiving pushback from Capitol Hill, according to two people who track the census closely.

. . .

“This is worse than making him director,” said a former high-ranking Commerce Department official. “There still is going to be hell to pay on the optics. The Democrats and civil rights community will go nuts.”

The Fewer Competitive Districts We Have, The Better
David Harsanyi | The Federalist
November 22, 2017
The Federalist responds to criticism of the potential candidate: Perhaps Thomas Brunell is unfit to run the U.S. Census Bureau. But his thesis on competitive elections is perfectly reasonable.

Trump Is On The Verge Of Politicizing The Census, Advocates Say
Sam Levine | Huffington Post
November 22, 2017
One former Census official said the White House’s reported pick for a high-level Census post was mind-boggling.

. . . the Trump administration was choosing to make the Census partisan.

“Politics have no business in the Census but the Trump Administration’s leading candidate for the deputy director slot at the Census Bureau, Thomas Brunell, would introduce blatant partisan politics into the national headcount,” Flynn said.

Vanita Gupta, who ran the civil rights division in the Department of Justice during the Obama administration and is now president and CEO of The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, said Brunell’s appointment would undermine the credibility of the Census.

“With regard to the deputy director, historically and traditionally, that person has had significant civil service experience, strong management credentials overseeing a large organization and operation, and considerable expertise in the federal statistical system,” she said in a statement. “Thomas Brunell is outside that mold. Coupled with the partisan nature of the body of his work, this appointment would undermine the credibility of the bureau’s role as a fundamentally nonpartisan statistical agency. Very little in Brunell’s background suggests that he is the right person for this job.”

Sparks said by picking Brunell, the Trump administration would be making a clear statement about how they see the Census.

“They’re making a statement if he is appointed. A real political statement that the White House wants to have their thumb on the Census Bureau,” he said.

Link to Additional Articles

Mystery of the missing tables

The First FBI Crime Report Issued Under Trump Is Missing A Ton Of Info
Clare Malone and Jeff Asher | FiveThirtyEight blog
October 27, 2017

This is a case of missing tables, rather than missing data. But it is a crucial loss because many reporters and state/local government folks just use the tables for reporting purposes. Imagine if the Census Bureau eliminated the tabular data from the Census/ACS. It would be a disaster.

The FBI portal added a new data tool, but it does not have the capability to produce the missing tables because it requires aggregation of many years. And, even for those that use raw microdata, the published tables provide a useful check on coding/weighting assumptions.

It is not unheard of for tables to be re-assessed and deleted, but this review process did not take place.

Changes to the UCR’s yearly report are not unheard of, and the press release that accompanies the 2016 report, which was published in late September, acknowledges the removal of some tables, saying that the UCR program had “streamlined the 2016 edition.” But changes to the report typically go through a body called the Advisory Policy Board (APB), which is responsible for managing and reviewing operational issues for a number of FBI programs. This time they did not.

Another reason to eliminate tables is for efficiency for the data provider. But:

“How much time and savings is there in moving an online table?” Nolan said. “These are canned programs: You create table 71 and table 71 is connected to a link in a blink of an eye.”

Criminologists Are Asking Jeff Sessions To Release FBI Crime Data
Clare Malone | FiveThirtyEight blog
November 30, 2017

On Tuesday, a research alliance representing two professional associations of criminologists lodged a formal statement of concern with Attorney General Jeff Sessions and acting FBI Director Christopher Wray over a number of data tables that were missing from the FBI’s 2016 Crime in the United States report.

The new head of the Bureau of Justice Statistics is a sabermatrician:

. . .Jeffrey Anderson, a former professor of political science with no apparent statistical background besides helping create a system to assess the strength of college football teams, adjusted for their schedule difficulty.

Census 2020 Oversight Hearing

Full House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform
October 12, 2017

Live Testimony: Part 1 | Part 2

I followed this live and posted some tweets:


But, if you want the full experience, watch the testimony. Note that late in the hearing, Matt Cartright, D-PA, asked when the Census Bureau would be getting a new director. Apparently, the Trump Administration had a candidate in mind but has withdrawn the name due to push back and the fact that he would have to be confirmed. We now find out, that this candidate is now in line to be the Deputy Director of the Census Bureau. [Read about this hubbub here.]

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.

Opoid Use and Labor Force Participation

US Map Opoids and LFP

Image link: Large | Small

Alan Krueger has a paper in Brookings Papers on Economic Activity on opoid use and labor force participation and it got quite a bit of press coverage as well. And, luckily for us, the data are also available:

Where have all the workers gone? An inquiry into the decline of the U.S. labor force participation rate
Alan Kruger | Brooking Papers on Economic Activity
Fall 2017
This paper is part of the Fall 2017 edition of the Brookings Papers on Economic Activity, the leading conference series and journal in economics for timely, cutting-edge research about real-world policy issues.

Paper | Data | Slides [Krueger] | Slides [Katz, discussant] | Slides [Notowidigdo, discussant]

Additional Coverage
How the opioid epidemic has affected the U.S. labor force, county-by-county
Fred Dews | Brookings Now
September 7, 2017

The Opioid Crisis Is Taking a Toll on the American Labor Force
Eric Levitz | New York Magazine
Sep 7, 2017

The stunning prevalence of painkiller use among unemployed men
Danielle Paquette | WonkBlog: Washington Post
Sep 7, 2017

Drugs Are Why 1 in 5 Men Drop Out of the Labor Market
Sy Mukherjee | Fortune
Sep 7, 2017

One in Five Men Leave Workforce due to Opioid Epidemic, so Drugs – not Immigrants – are Stealing Jobs
John Haltiwanger | Newsweek
Sep 7, 2017

The Future of Free Public Access to Government Information

This tweet and post alerted us to the potential loss of free public access to government information, due to a potential modification of Title 44.

DLF tweet

This PSC blog entry will provide links to all the posts on the potential changes to Title 44 on the freegovinfo.info website, a really valuable site founded by the two Jims (James A. Jacobs and James R. Jacobs). But, first some bonus links:

Link | Audio of James A. Jacobs summarizing the issue
Link | The Digital Library blog post, which gives a nice summary of the audio
Link | Call to sign a petition to protect the public right to government information

Here we go again: GPO wants to change Title 44
James A. Jacobs and James R. Jacobs | freegovinfo.info
July 15, 2017
This piece is heavily referenced, providing a history of previous attempts at re-writing Title 44. It includes the gem of a “Let Me Google That For You Act” introduced by Tom Coburn, R-OK that would repeal the National Technical Information Act of 1988.

Reading between the tea leaves: more about revising Title 44
James A. Jacobs and James R. Jacobs | freegovinfo.info
July 31, 2017
Clarificaiton of GPO’s intentions with revising Title 44. First, not just Chapter 19, but “a thoughtful evaluation of all chapters.” This post is also nicely annotated.

This is not a drill. The future of Title 44 and the depository library program hang in the balance
James A. Jacobs and James R. Jacobs | freegovinfo.info
July 27, 2017
This post provides suggested talking points/letter content for public input. Alas, the deadline of August 31 has passed, but there is still a petition you can sign

Mid-August came 5-posts:

Strengthening the Discussions about Title 44
Strengthening the Discussions, Part 1: Modernize the definition of “publications”
Strengthening the Discussions, Part 2: Ensure Free Access
Strengthening the Discussions, Part 3: Ensure Privacy
Strengthening the Discussions, Part 4: Ensure Preservation

The Promise of Evidence-Based Policymaking

This is the final report of the Committee on Evidence-Based Policymaking, reported on earlier.

The Promise of Evidence-Based Policymaking
The final report, required by the Evidence-Based Policymaking Commission Act of 2016 (P.L. 114-140), was unanimously agreed to by the Members of the Commission.

Biographies for members of the Commission on Evidence-Based Policymaking

Answers to questions about the purpose and activities of the Commission on Evidence-Based Policymaking.

News: Certificate of Confidentiality

Rebecca Clark sent out some news via Twitter today:


Here’s the official notice from NIH:

NOT-OD-17-109: Notice of Changes to NIH Policy for Issuing Certificates of Confidentiality

Stanford Open Policing Project

This is a collection of vehicle and pedestrian stops from law enforcement departments across the US. Currently the data consist of 130 million records from 31 state police agencies. Next stop is law enforcement agencies in major cities.

Data availability grid

The website is quite extensive. It provides access to the raw data as well as a standardized version – to enable cross-state comparisons. There is also excellent guides on how to use the data. Follow their suggestion and start with a small state. There are lots of publications based on these data – many of them covered in the popular press.

Stanford Open Policing Project

  • Data ReadMe
  • Standardized Stop Data
  • Analysis Code and Further Documentation [hosted on GitHub]
  • Publications
  • Popular Press
  • Commission on Evidence-Based Policymaking

    This commission has been meeting since June 2016. All the presentations and transcripts from each meeting are available on the internet:

    Commission on Evidence-Based Policy Making

    There have been 7 meetings so far. A final report is due September 2017. The presentations cover difficulties in linking data, especially at the state-level from statutory, to content differences, to formatting.

    As an introduction, here’s the charge for the commission:

    The Commission on Evidence-Based Policymaking begins its work in the midst of an unprecedented movement toward evidence-based policymaking. This movement has been growing for more than a decade at the federal and state levels, and reflects a continued desire from the American public and policymakers that credible information be available to inform decisions about government programs and activities. Congress and the President created this bipartisan Commission to provide the nation with guidance on ways to further expand our approaches to evidence-building in government. We recognize that we have been given an enormous opportunity to help the country move towards better and more effective government in the coming decades, and look forward to developing a bipartisan strategy to ensure that evidence increasingly informs the important decisions that affect the lives of Americans.

    And, from the “about” section, a bit more on its charge:

    Members will apply their diverse range of experience and multidisciplinary expertise to study several key issues related to the use of survey and administrative:

    • Existing barriers to accessing and using data government already collects
    • Strategies for better integrating existing data with appropriate infrastructure and security, to support policy research and evaluation
    • Practices for monitoring and assessing outcomes of government programs
    • Whether a data clearinghouse could enhance program evaluation and research opportunities

    During the course of its work, the Commission will solicit input from stakeholders, including Federal agencies, researchers, program evaluators, program administrators, advocacy organizations, foundations and non-profit organizations, and the business community.

    Under current law, the Commission will issue its findings and report to the President and the Congress in September 2017.