AP interview: Census director aims to restore trust in count

Aug 15, 2022, 11:02 PM | Updated: Aug 16, 2022, 11:12 am
FILE - Then-Census Bureau Director nominee Robert Santos, testifies before the Senate Homeland Secu...

FILE - Then-Census Bureau Director nominee Robert Santos, testifies before the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs committee, Thursday, July 15, 2021, on Capitol Hill in Washington. Santos, now the Census Bureau director, said Tuesday, Aug. 16, 2022, in an interview with The Associated Press that the statistical agency was starting its outreach efforts with hard-to-reach communities earlier, rather than just before the next count, which is in 2030. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin, File)

(AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin, File)

Indifference. Distrust of government. Budget uncertainties.

The next U.S. census isn’t until 2030, but already Census Bureau leaders are looking for ways to adapt to a roiled civic climate that only seems to be getting more contentious. So this week they are issuing a call for public recommendations to make sure everyone is counted in the next once-a-decade U.S. head count that determines political power and federal funding.

Census Bureau Director Robert Santos said Tuesday in an interview with The Associated Press that the statistical agency is planning to start its outreach efforts with hard-to-reach communities earlier, rather than just before the count, and it may start door-knocking efforts sooner than in the past. Santos also addressed a backlash against a controversial confidentiality method in the wide-ranging interview.

“We are looking to restore trust on a continuous basis, not just a couple of years before a decennial census,” Santos said.

The call for public recommendations in a Federal Register notice came as the Census Bureau on Tuesday released further metrics on how well it did in the 2020 count, which was challenged by political interference from the Trump administration, the coronavirus pandemic and natural disasters.

Census data is used to determine how many congressional seats each state gets. It’s also utilized for redrawing political districts and to help determine the distribution of $1.5 trillion in federal funding each year.

A report card issued in May showed that, in the 2020 census, the Black population was undercounted by 3.3%, those who identified as some other race had a 4.3% undercount, almost 5% of the Hispanic population was missed and more than 5.6% of American Indians living on reservations were undercounted. The non-Hispanic white and Asian populations were overcounted by 1.6% and 2.6%, respectively.

The metrics released Tuesday showed the count of housing in the 2020 census was fairly accurate — a statistically insignificant overcount of 0.04%. Small apartment buildings were overcounted while mobile homes were undercounted. Homes headed by Black, Asian, Native Hawaiian residents, as well as householders who classify themselves as some other race, also were overcounted.

The discrepancy between overcounts in housing but undercounts of people among minority groups may be because the housing count relies on an address list while the count of people relies on their responses, according to the Census Bureau.

“We still need to do the analyses to see how one could overcount housing units and undercount population,” Santos said.

Tuesday’s report card also showed that residents of Puerto Rico were overcounted by 5.7%, which wasn’t statistically different from the 2010 census. Santos said these evaluations on the quality of the 2020 count can’t “uncover the ‘whys this happened’ — all we can do is estimate what happened.”

Santos also addressed the backlash from some researchers over a new confidentiality method the Census Bureau implemented for the first time with the 2020 census data.

Last week, demographers and other researchers began gathering signatures for a letter they plan to present to Santos asking that the Census Bureau abandon differential privacy for the 2030 census, as well as other Census Bureau data products like the American Community Survey. The survey provides the most comprehensive data on how people in the U.S. live by asking questions about commuting times, internet access, family life, income, education levels, disabilities, military service and employment.

Differential privacy algorithms add intentional errors to data to obscure the identity of any given participant. It is most noticeable at the smallest geographies, such as census blocks. The Census Bureau says they are needed since, without them, the growth of easily available third-party data combined with modern computing could allow hackers to piece together the identities of participants in its censuses and surveys in violation of the law. Previous methods of protection are no longer effective, according to the statistical agency.

Santos said he wasn’t prepared at this point to say differential privacy will be used for the 2030 census since “there may be new revelations in terms of new techniques that are available.” He also said it may take longer than planned to decide how to implement differential privacy algorithms on American Community Survey data, a change that had been expected no earlier than 2025.

“Anything is possible over the course of the next several years because of the way technologies and algorithms are advancing,” Santos said.


Follow Mike Schneider on Twitter at https://twitter.com/MikeSchneiderAP

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


FILE - Gov. Phil Bryant speaks about his legacy following a life of public service, Jan. 8, 2020, i...
Associated Press

Texts: Favre also sought welfare money for football facility

JACKSON, Miss. (AP) — After Mississippi spent millions of dollars in welfare money on Brett Favre’s pet project, a university volleyball arena, the retired NFL quarterback tried two years later to get additional cash from the state’s welfare agency for another sports facility, new court documents show. The governor at the time, Republican Phil Bryant, […]
17 hours ago
Associated Press

Police: Man arrested in California plotted mass shooting

CHICO, Calif. (AP) — A 37-year-old man was arrested Sunday in Northern California on suspicion of threatening to kill police officers and planning a “Las Vegas-style” mass shooting, authorities said. The suspect was taken into custody by SWAT officers at a Super 8 motel in Chico after detectives obtained evidence of his plot, according to […]
17 hours ago
A sedan is wedged between a small, black pickup truck and the Bagel Time Cafe in Wildwood, N.J., ea...
Associated Press

Official: 2 killed amid crashes during pop-up NJ car rally

WILDWOOD, N.J. (AP) — A pop-up car rally over the weekend in southern New Jersey led to multiple crashes and the deaths of at least two people riding in a golf cart, officials say. Wildwood Mayor Pete Byron told NJ Advance Media on Sunday that there were a series of car crashes related to the […]
17 hours ago
Associated Press

Little evidence of political argument before teen’s death

BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) — There is little indication that an 18-year-old who died after being struck by an SUV in North Dakota was a political extremist like the driver claimed. Investigators say none of the witnesses they have interviewed support the idea that there was a political argument before authorities say Shannon Brandt struck Cayler […]
17 hours ago
Demonstrators hold placards outside the Iranian Embassy in London, Sunday, Sept. 25, 2022. They wer...
Associated Press

Unrest erupts near Iranian embassy in London over death

LONDON (AP) — Violent street protests erupted outside the Iranian embassy in London on Sunday, with rocks thrown at police and five protesters arrested. Large crowds have been gathering all week outside the Knightsbridge compound in protest against the death in Iranian police custody of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini in Iran. She had been arrested by […]
2 days ago
Cuba's President Miguel Diaz Canel walks with his wife Lis Cuesta Peraza before casting his vote at...
Associated Press

Cuba holds unusual vote on law allowing same-sex marriage

HAVANA (AP) — Cuba held a rare referendum Sunday on an unusually contentious law — a government-backed “family law” code that would allow same-sex couples to marry and adopt, as well as outlining the rights of children and grandparents. Cuba holds parliamentary elections every two years, though no party other than the Communist is allowed, […]
2 days ago

Sponsored Articles

Anacortes Christmas Tree...

Come one, come all! Food, Drink, and Coastal Christmas – Anacortes has it all!

Come celebrate Anacortes’ 11th annual Bier on the Pier! Bier on the Pier takes place on October 7th and 8th and features local ciders, food trucks and live music - not to mention the beautiful views of the Guemes Channel and backdrop of downtown Anacortes.
Swedish Cyberknife Treatment...

The revolutionary treatment of Swedish CyberKnife provides better quality of life for majority of patients

There are a wide variety of treatments options available for men with prostate cancer. One of the most technologically advanced treatment options in the Pacific Northwest is Stereotactic Body Radiation Therapy using the CyberKnife platform at Swedish Medical Center.
Work at Zum Services...

Seattle Public Schools announces three-year contract with Zum

Seattle Public Schools just announced a three-year contract with a brand-new company to the Pacific Northwest to assist with their student transportation: Zum.
Swedish Cyberknife 900x506...

June is Men’s Health Month: Here’s Why It’s Important To Speak About Your Health

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, men in the United States, on average, die five years earlier than women.

Anacortes – A Must Visit Summertime Destination

While Anacortes is certainly on the way to the San Juan Islands (SJI), it is not just a destination to get to the ferry… Anacortes is a destination in and of itself!

Ready for your 2022 Alaskan Adventure with Celebrity Cruises?

Celebrity Cruises SPONSORED — A round-trip Alaska cruise from Seattle is an amazing treat for you and a loved one. Not only are you able to see and explore some of the most incredible and visually appealing natural sights on the planet, but you’re also able to relax and re-energize while aboard a luxury cruise […]
AP interview: Census director aims to restore trust in count