In DepthU.S. Policy

Scientists fear pending attack on federal statistics collection

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Science  06 Jan 2017:
Vol. 355, Issue 6320, pp. 16
DOI: 10.1126/science.355.6320.16

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The U.S. Census Bureau has traditionally maintained a fairly low profile among federal agencies. But it may soon be getting some unwanted attention as a symbol of many things that President-elect Donald Trump and congressional Republicans don't like about government. For starters, the agency needs a hefty budget increase to continue preparations for the next constitutionally mandated decennial census in 2020. But that request goes against the Republican mantra of curbing government spending. More broadly, some social scientists worry that Trump's penchant for disregarding data and making up his own may clash with the agency's mission as a federal statistical agency. In addition, some of the questions it asks people have also irritated Republican legislators, who cite them as a prime example of government overreach into the private lives of their constituents. In particular, Congress seems likely to revive attempts to eliminate or make voluntary the American Community Survey, a 70-item questionnaire the bureau sends to 3.5 million homes each year.