November 5, 2015

The war on the Census budget is also a war on minorities

Prospect - Congress is insisting that the Census Bureau spend less preparing for and conducting the 2020 census than it did on the 2010 census, even though the U.S. population is expected to have grown by more than 25 million people by 2020. The bureau has chosen not to fight this directive, which census experts call delusional. Instead, the bureau has embarked on a high-risk strategy to save $5 billion by rolling back door-to-door canvassing and conducting a largely electronic, Internet-based census.

...Civil-rights advocates worry that the bureau’s plan won’t be as effective in reaching communities of color and immigrant populations even if all the technology works well. About a quarter of all those counted in the 2010 census came from face-to-face non-response follow-up, and this process is critical for reaching people of color who tend to be harder to contact by mail. The bureau is hoping that digital “in-office” canvassing using government and commercial databases will be just as good to prepare for the 2020 census, but that is as unproven as the technology itself.

Success is possible only if Congress makes the necessary upfront investment to develop, test, and refine the bureau’s new systems. As Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D-MD) puts it, “We have to spend millions now to save billions later.” Congress also should be prepared to accept higher costs than expected if tests show savings are coming at the expense of accuracy

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