Census Accuracy vs. Costs
Bruce D. Spencer
Bruce Spencer is a statistician whose interests span the disciplines of statistics and public policy with a special focus on the design and evaluation of large-scale statistical data programs. He has conducted a cost-benefit analysis for the 2020 U.S. Census, as well as one for South Africa’s statistical agency, Statistics South Africa, in 2013.
Funding vs. Inaccuracy in the 2020 Census
The U.S. Census Bureau continues to prepare to launch the 2020 Census on April 1, as mandated by the U.S. Constitution. In a recent working paper, statisticians Bruce Spencer of IPR and Zachary Seeskin of NORC (PhD 2016) weigh the importance of taking an accurate census count versus the financial expense of gathering information for the census. They find that while census accuracy is expensive, is it crucial. The census determines how many representatives each state gets and how federal dollars are distributed. Census error, exacerbated by past funding shortfalls, could easily shift seats in the U.S. House of Representatives and misallocate billions in federal funding, due to an inaccurate count.