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Census Chief Resigns: Here's Why You Should Care

by Countable | 5.11.17

The head of the U.S. Census Bureau has resigned, according to widespread media reports. John H Thompson headed up the bureau since 2013.

This sudden change comes just as the Census Bureau is gearing up for the next big count of the United States' populous -- in 2020. And his resignation follows months of red flags from officials, concerned that the Census budget is not big enough.

Here's why this matters.

Statistics are second only to financial statements in their ability to cause most people’s eyes to glaze over and their ears turn off. There are some who would disagree, sure, but for most of us statistics are not sexy.

But here’s the thing. Governments cannot make accurate decisions about how to portion out financial resources or update systems of citizen representation without solid data. Businesses cannot estimate their potential impact in new markets without solid data. Data may not be king, but it is the power behind the throne.

The Census Bureau has conducted comprehensive surveys of the U.S. population every 10 years since the founding of the republic, as mandated by the Constitution. The information is used to apportion seats in the U.S. House of Representatives and to define legislature districts, school district assignments and other important functional areas of government. The data is also used to provide adequate services for the elderly, build new roads and schools, locate job training centers, staff police and fire departments.

More than $400 billion in federal funds is distributed each year to states, local communities and tribal governments for neighborhood improvements, public health programs, education and transportation and more based off of Census data.

In the three years leading up to the Census, funding for it climbs steeply in anticipation of the massive data collection effort. Tens of thousands of staff are hired to collect data, new systems to streamline the collection process are tested, publicity explodes to aid participation. The 2010 Census was the largest ever, costing over $13 billion over ten years.

Congress instructed the Bureau to keep the cost of the 2020 count the same as the previous one in 2010. But critics maintain that is impossible. The Washington Post quoted an unidentified congressional staffer who argued:

“They’re not accounting for inflation; they’re not accounting for the 30 million more Americans, for the fact that people don’t have hard [telephone] lines anymore. And you’re going to do the census for the same amount of money? That’s not possible.”

The Bureau, however, did roll out plans for vastly expanding electronic data collection, which is expected to keep costs at approximately $12.5 billion over ten years, assuming testing and preparation are fully funded.

The Trump administration caused further concern with their 2017 budget, which proposed $1.5 billion for the Bureau. That’s $140 million less than the $1.64 billion requested by the department to continue preparations.

Now the Director of the Bureau has resigned. A new director must be appointed by the President. Will Congress encourage the administration to move quickly on that appointment? Will they approve enough money to keep the multi-year preparation effort moving forward as planned? The effects of the 2020 Census will be felt for years at every level of government.

Do you think the administration should prioritize replacing the Census Bureau Director and funding Census preparations? Use the Take Action button to tell your reps what you think!

— Asha Sanaker

(Photo Credit: U.S. Census Bureau via Flickr / Creative Commons )

Countable

Written by Countable

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  • Randy
    05/11/2017
    ···

    Here is what you do: gerrymander congressional districts in 2010; game the election to "win" with a 2.8 million vote deficit; install a conservative Supreme Court judge after stonewalling the previous majority president's nomination; fire the chief investigator of the minority president's campaign; defund the census bureau. At what point do we recognize this as a coup d'etat?

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  • Carol
    05/11/2017
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    Don't be deceived! Underfunding the Census is a GOP trick to deprive Democrats of their legitimate representation by undercounting the population.

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  • Cynthia
    05/11/2017
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    We need the Census Bureau and the information it provides to be timely and accurate, so that means we need an immediate replacement Chief and the appropriate funding to carry out the Census.

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  • Derrick
    05/11/2017
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    Damning with faint praise is something Corporate America understands, so, understand this: "President Trump is acting in accordance with his competence, in accordance with his law and Constitution," Putin said. If this is true, Congress MUST guard our citizenry from foolish and short sighted political expediency. This issue must rise above the "Peter Principal" to ensure our democracy's future.

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  • Haley
    05/11/2017
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    The Census is central to understanding the needs of our country's citizens, the demographics, the trends, the challenges, and the areas of financial need. Without a speedy appointment of a new director, and without adequate funding, our government cannot adequately fulfill its constitutional responsibility to collect data about our population. It is very important that congress push President Trump to appoint a new director quickly, as well as advocate for adequate funding for the Census Bureau on the basis of realistic, modern needs and costs.

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  • Samuel
    05/11/2017
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    Just to name a few things Trump's administration has done to make America great again: defunding science and public education, attempting to abolish the EPA, starting a trade war with Canada, exasperating relations with North Korea, aborting 24 million pre-existing Americans, spending hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars in personal expenses just within the first 100 days of office, abruptly firing every official that doesn't whole heartedly agree with his narrative, and now defunding the Census Bureau. Can we impeach this Nixonian relic now? We got countries like France opting to accept American refugees. France! We've become the laughing stock of diplomatic superpowers all over the world thanks to this guy!

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  • Susan
    05/11/2017
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    The funding for a lot of rural areas of America is based strictly on census data. There are 30 million more people in the United States. We cannot get the job done on less money then was obligated on the last census. This is a priority for us

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  • Ticktock
    05/11/2017
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    The most important steps in "1984" was to limit information and communication. Our government and economy run on accurate information and the census is one of the most important. It's not surprising that Trump would hamstring the census. Without it we cannot talk about who we are, how wealth is distributed, where we live, go to school, shop or work. We will not know how old or how and where the country is aging. We will not know how many people live in our homes or their age distribution. We will know nothing about who we are as a nation or what our needs are much less do something about having those needs met. Without information and being able to talk intelligently there is no need for communication. There would be no data to base facts on for the basis of a conversation. This I think the Trump Administration would love. They would be free to make it up as they narrate their version of reality. This is also one step toward authoritarianism. Our society is being dismantled piece by piece. We need the census fully funded based on it's estimated cost not Trumps cuts.

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  • Kodiwodi
    05/11/2017
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    Some of us chose to live rurally in this country. Whether we farm ranch, breed, practice hydroponics, develop renewable energy or retired out here, we didn't come out here to be forgotten and have our votes not count. Please get involved in the replacement of the Census Bureau Director so our rural areas will be well represented and money to our areas will be properly apportioned.

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  • Susan
    05/11/2017
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    Please prioritize replacing and properly funding the Census Bureau Director position along with properly funding Census collection. It is way to important a process that cannot be ignored.

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  • Ellen
    05/11/2017
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    Accurate accounting of the citizens of the US is mandated by the constitution Not fulfilling that requirement hurts Americans, pld and young and results in incorrect distrubtions of funds Other than a special prosecutor to investigate Trump and his henchmen, this is the most important job for congresa

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  • Jesse
    05/11/2017
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    Honestly, what else would be expected from this administration? Accurate census data is critical in order to appropriately budget for the future of our country, but would this administration even give much attention to the statistics? We're talking about the people who are trying to strip healthcare from millions of people despite the all of the data that shows that it's a bad move. Even with a well-funded census bureau, it's not going to change government priorities at this point. That being said, we still must stand up to get our fair representation no matter what our government chooses to do with that information. We must fill the open position and properly fund our census bureau.

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  • Marcy
    05/11/2017
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    Reckless politics paired with stupidity and corruption smells like a dictator to me.

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  • denali
    05/11/2017
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    The census is very important for all of us. We need correct representation and correct numbers to assure we are treated fairly. The census should be non partisan and done with integrity.

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  • Jim
    05/11/2017
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    An underfunded, leaderless Census Bureau is just one more way the rich and powerful (aka this Administration and their cronies) can manipulate the system and line their pockets. How many more good people are going to be fired, quit or get pushed out before someone stands up and puts an end to all of this? We need Republican lawmakers to stand up and put the American people first.

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  • Susan
    05/11/2017
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    We need an accurate census in order to appropriately designate representatives in the house. Once the census is complete, we must draw logical congressional district lines without jerrymandering!

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  • Nancy
    05/11/2017
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    Ask the Canadians about their census. Harper's government cut it down. People were cheering for getting the long form back when Trudeau gained office! Let's learn from their mistakes and do the census right. Not on the cheap.

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  • Wayne
    05/11/2017
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    Defunding the Census is republicans' Machiavellian dismantling of our democracy in order to create false data to show Whites are still the majority and to allow them to gerrymander (the south) instead of actually winning elections. The North Carolina courts have ruled that their gerrymandering (stack and pack) was, and I quote, "surgical racism".

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  • Richard
    05/11/2017
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    I believe that with the census comes the drawing of the congessional districts, at least some of them. That in and of itself is important since the cheating republicans redrew lots of districts to favor them, thus it is hard to vote those extremists in the party out of office, especially if they tow the party line for the outside interests that donate all that money for their campaign. So after the census the democrats need to get involved too so the cheating republicans don"t do it again. The democrats problem is they won't go to the lengths that republicans do to cheat, the same way they try to say there is voter fraud when it is virtually non existent and use that as an excuse to get laws passed making it harder to vote ,which effects minorities and some working people , by keeping turnout down they get an unfair advantage. The Democrats need to get down to their level for a while to put things right ,so we don't have a President and congress that looks like what we have now.

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  • Tara
    05/11/2017
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    The census is a brilliant all-american institution that has catapulted our country's successful governance and economics to the top of the world. Among the many losses that our country has already faced in just the last hundred days, we cannot afford to lose yet another powerful tool that has scaffolded every strength that our country has to be proud of.

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