My Two Census

Formerly the non-partisan watchdog of the 2010 US Census, and currently an opinion blog that covers all things political, media, foreign policy, globalization, and culture…but sometimes returning to its census/demographics roots.

And the fight begins: Robert M. Groves vs. The GOP

With Democrats controlling the Senate, it appears that President Obama’s nominee for Census Director, Dr. Robert M. Groves, will have an easy time coasting his way to being confirmed (so long as there are no unpaid taxes, former mistresses, or other skeletons in his closet). However, as The New York Times states, members of the GOP are unhappy with the selection of Groves for the following reasons:

Republicans expressed alarm because of one of Mr. Groves’s specialties, statistical sampling — roughly speaking, the process of extrapolating from the numbers of people actually counted to arrive at estimates of those uncounted and, presumably, arriving at a realistic total.

If minorities, immigrants, the poor and the homeless are those most likely to be missed in an actual head count, and if political stereotypes hold true, then statistical sampling would presumably benefit the Democrats.

Republicans have generally argued that statistical sampling is not as reliable as its devotees insist. “Conducting the census is a vital constitutional obligation,” Representative John A. Boehner of Ohio, the House minority leader, said Thursday. “It should be as solid, reliable and accurate as possible in every respect. That is why I am concerned about the White House decision to select Robert Groves as director of the Census Bureau.”

Representative Darrell Issa of California, the ranking Republican on the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, also issued a statement of dismay. “This is an incredibly troubling selection that contradicts the administration’s assurances that the census process would not be used to advance an ulterior political agenda,” Mr. Issa said.

The Census Bureau is part of the Department of Commerce, whose secretary, Mr. Locke, said during his recent confirmation hearings that “there are no plans to use any type of statistical sampling with respect to population count.”

In 1999, the Supreme Court ruled that an actual count must be used to apportion seats among the states in the House of Representatives, the only purpose for the once-a-decade census spelled out in the Constitution. But the 5-to-4 ruling left open the possibility that statistical adjustments could be used to redraw Congressional districts within the states, and for other purposes, like the distribution of federal money.

When he was associate director of statistical design at the Census Bureau in the early 1990s, Mr. Groves pushed for statistically adjusting the 1990 census to make up for an undercount widely believed to have been several million people. But Robert A. Mosbacher Sr., the commerce secretary in the administration of President George Bush, torpedoed the idea, calling it an attempt at “political tampering.”

Mr. Boehner, recalling that controversy, said Thursday that “we will have to watch closely to ensure the 2010 census is conducted without attempting similar statistical sleight of hand.”

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