Thursday, December 11, 2014

Budget bill includes 50 percent cut in U.S. Census Bureau’s 2015 budget

Congress is passing a Fiscal Year 2015 budget that includes a 50 percent cut of $123 million "in mostly planning monies for Census 2020 in the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2015 budget," Phil Sparks, of The Census Project, wrote in a mass email.

"As the seven living former Census directors, both Republican and Democrat, wrote in a recent letter to Congress, critical planning for the next decennial census cannot wait and funds must be appropriated now for money-saving techniques that could cut the costs of taking the census by billions of dollars," Sparks writes. "But, these techniques need to be tested in the field next year for implementation in 2020."

Why the cuts? “The background to the move is that some on the conservative and libertarian side want to make it optional to respond to the bureau’s American Community Survey, which generates important, detailed demographic information about localities," said Al Cross, director of the University of Kentucky's Institute for Rural Journalism and Community Issues, which publishes The Rural Blog. "The bureau and its allies objected strongly to that, so this may be a way of extracting a pound of their flesh.”

Proposed cuts could lead the Census Bureau to "be forced to accept a significantly less accurate measure of America, which would carry its own high economic and governmental costs, according to advocates," Michael McAuliff writes for the Huffington Post.

"The census is required by the Constitution to count everyone in the nation every 10 years, an endeavor that has gotten increasingly expensive for many reasons, including population growth, inflation, rising distrust of government and increased difficulty tracking everyone down and getting them to answer," McAuliff writes. "For the last several decennial counts, the cost has roughly doubled from one to the next. After the last one, which came in slightly cheaper than predicted at $13 billion, Congress ordered the Census Bureau to figure out how to do it cheaper."

One method was to cut the number of door-to-door census takers and letters sent in favor of using the Internet, McAuliff writes. The White House still asked for a budget of $963.4 million, much higher than the proposed $123 million. (Read more)

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