Association of MultiEthnic Americans

Census 2000 - 1999 Archives

********** C E N S U S   2 0 0 0   B U L L E T I N **********
Vol. 3 - No. 1      Jan. 25, 1999

Following the U.S. Supreme Court's 5-to-4 ruling today against the use, for purposes of congressional apportionment, of statistical sampling in Census 2000, Commerce Department Secretary William M. Daley issued the following statement:

"To begin with, let me say that we are very grateful that the Supreme Court issued its ruling quickly, although we obviously are disappointed with the decision.

"Our focus will continue to be conducting the most accurate census possible.

"As the President said in his State of the Union Address, 'since every person in America counts, every American ought to be counted.'

"As everyone knows, the 1990 census was the first in fifty years to be less accurate than its predecessor.

"It contained 12 million mistakes, undercounting millions of Americans, especially children and members of racial and ethnic minority groups.

"The Census Bureau proposed the use of sampling to correct these errors, an approach that was strongly supported by the National Academy of Sciences and the statistical community.

"It is very important to understand that the only issue before the Supreme Court was the use of sampling for apportioning the seats in the House of Representatives among the States.

"The court itself summarized its ruling by stating 'we conclude that the Census Act prohibits the proposed uses of statistical sampling in calculating the population for purposes of apportionment.'

"In reaching that conclusion, the Court actually affirmed the legality of sampling for other purposes.

"The Census Bureau is reviewing the Court's opinion and the results of the dress rehearsal in order to ensure that the 2000 census is designed to produce the most accurate accounting of the American people and, of course, to comply fully with the law.

"Thank you very much."

Earlier in the day, Census Bureau Director Kenneth Prewitt said, "As I have said many times, the Census Bureau is committed to only one principle -- to provide the most accurate, scientifically sound census possible in accordance with the law.

"The Census Bureau career professionals will conduct the census for 2000 that provides the nation apportionment numbers that do not rely on statistical sampling."

For further information about Census 2000 Bulletins, contact J. Paul Wyatt on 301-457-3052 (fax: 301-457-3670; e-mail: pio@census.gov).


NEWS ALERT - January 8, 1999

Changes in House Leadership May Affect Census Oversight
Census Subcommittee Given Reprieve
Also: What's In Store for 1999?

The recent changes in the Republican leadership of the U.S. House of Representatives could affect Congressional monitoring of final preparations for the 2000 census. With the ascension of Rep. J. Dennis Hastert (R-IL) to the Speaker's position, plans to shift oversight of the census to an internal watchdog committee have been scrapped. (See December 14, 1998 News Alert for background.) Instead, the Subcommittee on the Census will continue its work as part of the renamed Committee on Government Reform (previously the Committee on Government Reform and Oversight). Rep. Dan Miller (R-FL) and Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-NY) are expected to continue as the subcommittee's chairman and ranking minority member, respectively, but Republicans have proposed reducing the panel's membership to four Republicans and two Democrats, down from a 5 - 3 split last year. Final decisions on the subcommittee's structure and membership will be made when the full committee holds its organizational meeting.

Hastert, a member of the census subcommittee when it was created a year ago, was sworn-in as Speaker when the 106th Congress convened yesterday. The new Speaker also chaired the House panel overseeing the census in 1997. He has been a strong critic of the Census Bureau's plan to use statistical sampling methods in the 2000 census and has raised concerns about the effect of the census long form on response rates.

Looking ahead in 1999: As the Census Bureau makes final preparations for the 2000 census, here are some key activities and decisions that stakeholders can expect in the coming months:

* Census budget: The President will submit his budget request for Fiscal Year 2000 to Congress in early February. The Census Bureau's original plan calls for about $2.1 billion for census operations next year. Congress and the President also must agree on how the Census Bureau can spend the remainder of this year's $1.027 allocation after June 15, 1999, the deadline set for a final decision on the use of sampling.

* Congressional oversight: The House and Senate committees responsible for overseeing census activities must still reorganize for the new Congress. The House Subcommittee on the Census has announced tentative plans for a field hearing in Phoenix, AZ, in late January.

* Legal challenges to sampling: The Supreme Court is expected to issue a decision in the spring in two cases challenging the use of sampling in the census. The plaintiffs in U.S. House of Representatives v. U.S. Department of Commerce and Glavin v. Clinton contend that the Census Act and the Constitution prohibit sampling to determine the State population totals used to apportion seats in Congress. The Supreme Court heard oral arguments in both cases on November 30.

* Advisory committees: The 2000 Census Advisory Committee to the Secretary of Commerce will issue its final report in mid-February. The report is expected to include recommendations on the outreach and promotion campaign, hiring efforts, and the use of sampling to supplement traditional counting methods.

* Census Monitoring Board: The Board has not yet announced plans for future meetings or hearings. By law, it must submit reports to Congress by February 1 and April 1, 1999, and semi-annually thereafter until its sunset in September 2001.

* National Academy of Sciences panels: The Panel to Evaluate Alternative Census Methodologies, chaired by Dr. Keith Rust of Westat, Inc., is expected to issue its final report in a month or so. The new Panel to Review the 2000 Census, chaired by former Bureau of Labor Statistics Commissioner Janet Norwood, will continue to monitor and evaluate final design decisions and implementation.

* Race and ethnic data: The Office of Management and Budget (OMB) is expected by March to issue draft guidelines for tabulating multiple responses to the question about race in the census and other federal surveys. OMB revised the official standards for collecting racial data in October 1997, allowing respondents to report more than one race but rejecting a proposal to add a new "multiracial" category.

Congressional hearings (continued): In the final News Alert of 1998, we provided an initial report on the House census subcommittee's first field hearing, held in Miami on December 10. Local officials and community-based organizations also made the following recommendations to improve the census process in their testimony before the panel.

Rep. Carrie P. Meek (D-FL) urged passage of legislation she introduced in the last Congress to allow recipients of Federal benefits or pensions to work in temporary census positions without losing their benefits as a result of the income they earn in those jobs. Other witnesses representing historically hard-to-count populations endorsed Rep. Meek's proposal as a way to promote the hiring of enumerators who live in the neighborhoods they will canvass. Many of the witnesses noted that immigrants, who make up a majority of the Miami area's population, are more likely to fear giving information about themselves to the government. They urged the Census Bureau to stress the confidentiality of census responses in its promotional campaign.

The Alliance for Aging, Inc. noted that non-traditional housing arrangements may result in an undercount of low-income elderly people. A leader in South Florida's large Haitian-American community cited fear of government authorities, overcrowded housing conditions, and lack of English proficiency as significant factors that contributed to an undercount of Haitians in 1990. This witness emphasized the need for educational materials in Creole and Spanish, the importance of hiring enumerators who speak Creole and are trusted in the community, and the allocation of funds to begin census outreach efforts in 1999.

Nearly all of the witnesses said that despite their recommendations for improved outreach and operational enhancements, they support the use of scientific sampling to reduce the disproportionate undercount of minorities and the poor. Rep. Meek called a census design that doesn't include sampling "a rickety, out-dated, baroquely complex approach to counting people door-to-door." However, Dario Moreno, Associate Professor of Political Science at Florida International University, said that statistical methods could invite "politicization" of the results by ignoring local demographic differences in designing the sample to measure the undercount. He urged the Census Bureau to work closely with local organizations that serve immigrants and undertake a "massive foreign-language public education program" as a way to reduce the undercount.

Media watch: On January 11, National Public Radio will broadcast a live interview with Census Bureau Director Kenneth Prewitt on the Diane Rehm Show. The program is broadcast weekdays at 10:00 a.m. EST from WAMU/88.5 FM in Washington, D.C., and is carried on many NPR stations across the country (see the WAMU web site for a list of stations). Dr. Prewitt will discuss current issues related to the 2000 census. Listeners may call 1-800-433-8850 to ask questions or comment during the program.

Questions about the information contained in this News Alert may be directed to TerriAnn Lowenthal at (202) 484-2270 or, by e-mail at <terriann2k@aol.com>. Please direct all requests to receive News Alerts, and all changes in address/phone/fax/e-mail, to Census 2000 at <Census2000@ccmc.org> or 202/326-8700. Please feel free to circulate this information to colleagues and other interested individuals.