GAO: ‘Perfect Storm’ Threatens ‘Major Institutional Defeat’ for Census Bureau

“A confluence of factors are threatening a ‘major institutional defeat’ as the Census Bureau begins to wrap up its decennial count, according to a government watchdog, with the risks being exacerbated by the Trump administration’s compressed schedule to deliver results.”

“Census’ decision to move up its deadline to complete the enumeration by one month to the end of September and to deliver apportionment data by the end of the year in the midst of a global pandemic risks an incomplete and inaccurate count, J. Christopher Mihm, managing director for strategic issues at the Government Accountability Office, told lawmakers at a hearing on Thursday. John Thompson, who led the Census Bureau from 2013 through 2017, added that he was concerned about the new deadlines, saying the agency was on a ‘scary’ course that could lead to poor data quality and severe undercounting among minority populations…”

“The bureau is currently operating under a federal court-issued temporary restraining order preventing it from taking steps to wind down the count following a lawsuit seeking to block Census’ new schedule. The order will remain in place until at least a court hearing next week. Rep. James Comer, R-Ga., the top Republican on the oversight committee, generally praised Census for the work it has completed on a condensed schedule and noted the agency would be forced to violate its statutory obligations to deliver data by the end of the year if the court extends its injunction…”

“Mihm particularly flagged the risk for Census to fail to count the final 2%-3% of households that are the hardest to reach, calling it something the bureau ‘needs to work on and something that will be very difficult for them to do.’ Typically, he said, Census would spend the final four weeks of its count going after almost exclusively that final 2%. If the agency fails to capture those individuals this year, it would mark an ‘unsuccessful’ count: ‘That would be a major institutional defeat for the Census Bureau,’ Mihm said…” Read the full article here.

Source: ‘Perfect Storm’ Threatens ‘Major Institutional Defeat’ for the Census, Top Watchdog Says – By Eric Katz, September 10, 2020. Government Executive.

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