In DepthSTATISTICS

Trump team raises price tag for 2020 census

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Science  20 Oct 2017:
Vol. 358, Issue 6361, pp. 285
DOI: 10.1126/science.358.6361.285

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Summary

Congress has repeatedly told the U.S. Census Bureau not to let the next decennial census in 2020 exceed the $12.1 billion cost of the 2010 head count, a tall order given inflation and a growing population that's harder to count. So the former census director, John Thompson, came up with a plan to modernize the census and save $5.2 billion, which he said would allow the agency to meet the target. But Thompson retired last summer, and last week Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross told a congressional oversight panel that a new estimate puts the cost of the 2020 census at $15.6 billion. He said the prior administration provided Congress and the public with "overly optimistic assessments of both the ease of implementing new technologies and the cost savings they would provide." Ross also pointed a finger at lawmakers, using the euphemism of "appropriations constraints" to describe how a Republican Congress has repeatedly cut former President Barack Obama's proposed budgets for the Census Bureau, which is part of the Department of Commerce. Ross says the agency needs $187 million more this year than the $800 million President Donald Trump has requested. But many Democrats say the need is much greater. And social scientists who rely on census data say that a flawed tally will undermine the credibility not only of the Census Bureau, but also the entire federal statistical enterprise.