US Census experts find no political influence in state totals
Oil boom remakes N. Dakota county with fastest growth in US
WATFORD CITY, N.D. (AP) — First came the roughnecks and other oil field workers, almost all men. Lured by steady wages as the nation climbed out of the Great Recession, they filled McKenzie County’s few motel rooms, then began sleeping in cars, tents, trailers — anything to hide from the cold wind cutting across the North Dakota prairie. Once empty dirt roads suddenly were clogged with tanker trucks. Crime rates spiked. Soon everything shiftedLured by steady wages as the nation climbed out of the Great Recession, they filled McKenzie County’s few motel rooms, then began sleeping in cars, tents, trailers — anything to hide from the cold wind cutting across the North Dakota prairie.
Outside experts found no evidence of political interference in the state-by-state population totals from the 2020 census used for divvying up congressional seats, but their limited review didn't include demographic data or places smaller than states, according to a task force report released Tuesday.
The task force was established by the American Statistical Association last year during the most difficult U.S. head count in recent memory due to the pandemic, natural disasters and attempted political interference from the Trump administration, which unsuccessfully tried to add a citizenship question to the census form and attempted to end field operations early.
Here's why the Native American population had a surprising jump in the Census
The Native American population grew to its largest size in generations after years of fighting for an accurate Census tally. The jump was surprising, experts and advocates say, and much more complicated than the result of successful outreach campaigns. © courtesy Street Level Health Project Samantha Vazquez, a wellness and prevention manager at Street Level Health Project in Oakland, California, addresses members of the Mayan Mam community about the importance of the 2020 census during an outdoors workshop in May 2020.
The Trump administration also named political appointees to the Census Bureau who statisticians and Democratic lawmakers feared would politicize the once-a-decade head count of every U.S. resident, and pushed to have the apportionment numbers released before President Donald Trump left the White House in January.
The Census Bureau made the correct call by delaying the release of the apportionment data until April so that it could have more time reviewing and crunching the numbers, the report concluded.
“From people we know in the Census Bureau, there was a very good and effective effort not to have political appointees cause trouble,” said Tom Louis, a task force member who is a former chief scientist at the Census Bureau. “They weren’t allowed to get in the way of proper due diligence of the data.”
Alabama drops lawsuit challenging Census privacy method
The state of Alabama on Thursday asked to dismiss its lawsuit challenging the U.S. Census Bureau's use of a controversial statistical method aimed at keeping people’s data private in the numbers used for redrawing congressional and legislative districts. Alabama and three Alabama politicians had sued the Commerce Department, which oversees the Census Bureau, in an effort to stop the statistical agency from using the method known as “differential privacy." They also wanted to force the bureau to release the redistricting numbers earlier than planned.
The task force also encountered no irregularities indicating the 2020 figures were unfit for use in the apportionment of congressional seats or were of lower quality than those in 2010. However, the information given by the Census Bureau for review by the task force was too limited for a thorough assessment on the quality of the data. Due to tight deadlines facing the Census Bureau, the task force only was provided with state-level population counts lacking demographic information on race and Hispanic origin, the report said.
“That is not a thorough assessment,” said Nancy Potok, a former chief statistician of the U.S. who chaired the task force. “We didn’t find any anomalies that were immediate causes of concern that you couldn’t use the data.”
The task force was created last year to examine the quality of the initial data, because of concerns raised by the obstacles the census faced, until a more in-depth study could be conducted. The association's president, Robert Santos, was a task force co-chair until he was nominated by President Joe Biden to be the next Census Bureau director.
Census Bureau computer servers target of January 2020 cyberattack
U.S. Census Bureau computer servers were targeted during a cyberattack last year, but the hackers' attempts to retain access to the system were unsuccessful, according to a watchdog report released Wednesday. The cyberattack occurred in January 2020 and did not involve the 2020 census, The Associated Press reported. According to the Office of Inspector General, the Census Bureau did not take steps to limit its online system's vulnerabilityThe cyberattack occurred in January 2020 and did not involve the 2020 census, The Associated Press reported.
Video: 2020 Census Data Explained: America Is More Diverse Than Ever (Newsweek)
As part of the task force's review, the Census Bureau allowed three outside statisticians to look for potential opportunities for errors in the census numbers that were greater in 2020 than they were in 2010. The statisticians assigned a ranking for those potential error risks by each state using 10 measurements.
The statisticians found that the states with the highest potential risks for more errors in 2020 than 2010 were Alaska, Montana, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Texas and Utah. The states with the lowest risks were Delaware, Idaho, Indiana, Kentucky, Nebraska, South Carolina, South Dakota and Tennessee.
“These states have very different populations and range from mostly urban to mostly rural ... which indicates that the error risks apply to very diverse populations and not only to either densely or sparsely populated areas of the country," the statisticians wrote.
However, the task force ultimately decided that reaching any conclusions about data quality from the 10 measurements would be premature at the state level.
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In Somaliland and Kenya, efforts aim to protect cheetahs in the wild and stop smugglers from shipping them to the Arabian Peninsula to be sold as pets. © Photograph by Nichole Sobecki Leah Lentaam and her husband Daniel Lentaam corral their family’s goats into a boma for the evening in Meibae Community Wildlife Conservancy in Samburu County, Kenya, on March 25, 2021. Two months ago the family lost three goats to a cheetah attack.
The statisticians also found out that data was collected using the most accurate methods — either from households filling out the questionnaire on their own or having a household member answer questions from a census taker — in 90% of households in 2020, a decrease from 93% in 2010.
This was the first head count in which the Census Bureau used administrative records from the IRS, Social Security Administration and others to fill in missing details about households lacking information. After reviewing studies on their use before the 2020 count, a task force member said he was unable to conclude whether using administrative records is more accurate than having census takers gather information about homes’ residents.
Two other panels of outside experts also are reviewing the quality of census data, and early next year the Census Bureau plans to release its own study of how good a job it did.
One of the panels of outside experts, overseen by The National Academy of Sciences Committee on National Statistics, is expected to provide a much more detailed assessment.
That group should also look at why so many people didn't answer questions on the form in 2020, whether there were increases in undercounts of Blacks, Hispanics and children in 2020 and how administrative records were used to fill in gaps about households that didn't answer their census forms, the task force said.
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Opinion: White fear is the wrong way to tell the Census story .
Right-wing media narratives frame America's growing non-White population as a problem to be solved through gerrymandering, xenophobia and anti-democratic legislation, writes Peniel Joseph of responses to recent US census data -- and yet, America's changing demographics tell a different, more inspiring story. Rather than a narrative of White decline, what if we saw in this data the increasing numbers of racially blended families and mixed-race children -- and understood them as signs of a more racially diverse, economically just and culturally rich future? Transforming the racist narrative of the changing demographics in the US will