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It seems as if the Census bureau is dying a slow death of a thousand cuts. This is just the latest cut (and by the way, did anyone notice that this Census press release actually comes from the site “content.govdelivery.com”?!). This seems like a good time to remind folks to read our earlier response to Census budget cuts, “Fear, uncertainty, or doubt? Why the Census and ACS are critical to a well-functioning democracy.”
As a result of tight budgetary considerations, the U.S. Census Bureau has proposed permanently discontinuing a statistical product from the American Community Survey beginning in fiscal year 2016. The product, often called the “3-year estimates,” combines three years of data collection into a three-year rolling average and is available for communities with populations of 20,000 or more.
Although the Census Bureau would discontinue this product, every community in the nation will continue to receive a detailed statistical portrait of its social, economic, housing and demographic characteristics through other American Community Survey products. Specifically, the Census Bureau will continue producing annual estimates for communities of 65,000 or more, and communities of all sizes, including the nation’s smallest, will continue to receive updated five-year rolling averages each year.
The Census Bureau has proposed dropping the three-year product in order to prioritize funding for activities that enhance the quality of the entire data set and enhance the experience for the survey respondent. For example, these activities include additional training for field representatives, continued review of the survey questions and the way they are asked, and expanded outreach and partnership with stakeholders.
Spending plans for fiscal year 2015 are currently under review by the Office of Management and Budget. For more information about the Census Bureau’s fiscal year 2016 budget, please visit OMB’s site.
For fascinating, provocative reading about where the Census Bureau will reside in the federal government organization, read the Feb 10, 2009 Wall Street Journal: “Why Obama Wants Control of the Census: Counting Citizens is a Powerful Political Tool” (author: John Fund). http://online.wsj.com/article/SB123423384887066377.html.
Serious changes may be happening, and more quickly than imagined. Even the seven former Census directors who support turning the Census into an independent agency recommended doing so after the 2010 Census.
To quote the article, “[S]tatisticians at the Commerce Department didn’t think [Obama’s changes] would mean having the director of next year’s Census report directly to the White House rather than to the Commerce secretary.”
Lots of food for thought.