Companies That Rely On US Census Data Worry Citizenship Question Will Hurt

Same issues arose from the Canadian business community with respect to the 2011 National Household Survey, given the adverse impact on demographic and other data, particularly in smaller geographic areas:

Some critics of the citizenship question the Trump administration wants to add to the 2020 census are coming from a group that tends to stay away from politically heated issues — business leaders.

From longtime corporations like Levi Strauss & Co. to upstarts like Warby Parker, some companies say that including the question — “Is this person a citizen of the United States?” — could harm not only next year’s national head count, but also their bottom line.

How governments use census data is a common refrain in the lead-up to a constitutionally mandated head count of every person living in the U.S. The new population counts, gathered once a decade, are used to determine how congressional seats and Electoral College votes are distributed among the states. They also guide how hundreds of billions in federal tax dollars are spread around the country to fund public services.

What is often less visible is how the census data undergird decisions made by large and small businesses across the country. The demographic information the census collects — including the age, sex, race, ethnicity and housing status of all U.S. residents — informs business owners about who their existing and future customers are, which new products and services those markets may want and where to build new locations.

Weeks before the Supreme Court heard oral arguments over the citizenship question last month, more than two dozen companies and business groups filed a friend-of-the-court brief against the question. Its potential impact on the accuracy of census data, especially about immigrants and people of color, is drawing concern from both Lyft and Uber, as well as Levi Strauss, Warby Parker and Univision.

“We don’t view this as a political situation at all,” says Christine Pierce, the senior vice president of data science at Nielsen — a major data analytics company in the business world that filed its own brief with the high court. “We see this as one that is around sound research and good science.”

Next year, the Trump administration wants to use the census to ask about the citizenship status of every person in every household in the country through a question approved by Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, who oversees the Census Bureau. The collected responses, the administration maintains, would be used to better enforce Voting Rights Act protections against discrimination of racial and language minorities.

Researchers at the Census Bureau, however, recommended against adding a question, which they said would produce citizenship information that’s less accurate and more expensive than existing government data. The question could bump up the cost of the 2020 census by at least $121 million, according to the bureau’s latest estimates.

Three federal judges have issued orders blocking the question, and the issue is now before the U.S. Supreme Court. The justices are expected to issue their ruling by the end of June.

“No substitute for a good census”

In the meantime, Nielsen and other companies are pushing back against the administration’s efforts.

Pierce says asking about a topic as sensitive as a person’s citizenship status is likely to discourage some people from participating in the head count. It’s also important, she adds, to test changes to a survey before implementing them.

The Census Bureau had not conducted a field test of a 2020 census form with a citizenship question before Ross decided to include the question.

Pierce emphasized these points last year in an affidavit for the New York-based lawsuits over the citizenship question. Through the court filing, she testified that Ross mischaracterized comments she made in a phone conversation they had that was later cited in Ross’ memo announcing his decision to add the question.

“If there is an undercount, that could carry through to our audience estimates and could mean that people will make decisions based on data that isn’t as accurate as it should be,” Pierce says, referring to the TV ratings that Nielsen produces using census data.

That data, Nielsen estimates, are tied to $90 billion in TV and video advertising.

“There’s just no substitute for a good census and having that count be as thorough as possible,” Pierce says.

Data that affect “our day-to-day lives”

The ride-hailing app Lyft is worried that an inaccurate census could mean that some communities may not get their fair share in federal funding for roads and public transportation over the next 10 years.

“That is a direct impact on our business because it means that those roads will end up being more clogged up and those people will have a harder time getting around,” says Anthony Foxx, a former U.S. secretary of transportation during the Obama administration who now serves as Lyft’s chief policy officer.

“This data that comes out of the census is not just some bureaucratic government data that sits in a vault somewhere that no one sees. It’s actually data that affects our day-to-day lives,” says Jessica Herrera-Flanigan, Univision’s executive vice president of government and corporate affairs.

Census Bureau research suggests including the question would discourage Latinos and Latinas from responding. Herrera-Flanigan is concerned that could lead to an undercount of Latinx residents.

“It’s a big lift”

Still, Univision is planning to talk up next year’s census on its TV programs. The children’s talent show Pequeños Gigantes recently featured a segment with kids attempting to explain what a census is.

“Regardless of what happens in the courts, we are going to be pushing people to know about the importance of the census and actually do it,” Herrera-Flanigan says. “It’s a big lift.”

It’s also tricky ground for businesses to navigate — especially after President Trump has tweeted his support of the citizenship question.

“The American people deserve to know who is in this Country,” Trump tweeted the day after the Supreme Court hearing.

At a public meeting earlier this month, Census Bureau official Burton Reist noted the bureau is running into hurdles trying to recruit businesses to promote the census.

“We had a meeting with McDonald’s, but that was a year ago. And we’ve had a hard time getting anything to come from it,” he explained to members of the bureau’s National Advisory Committee on Racial, Ethnic and Other Populations.

In response, Arturo Vargas — who leads the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials Educational Fund, a member of the committee — said business leaders have told him they’re reluctant to promote a census that has become so “politicized” by the Commerce Department’s efforts to get a citizenship question added.

“This is now something that, even though it’s such a fundamental aspect of our democracy, that they themselves are not willing to be associated with something that is so controversial now,” Vargas said.

Reist said, so far, a promotional partnership is “underway” between the bureau and the J.M. Smucker Company.

NPR has confirmed the bureau is also in discussions with Procter & Gamble, the company behind Pampers, Luvs and other brands.

Since speaking with the bureau early last year, McDonald’s has “not made any decisions on this at this time,” a spokesperson for the company, Lauren Altmin, said in an email.

Source: Companies That Rely On Census Data Worry Citizenship Question Will Hurt

George Will: Supreme Court mulls citizenship question for census

Thoughtful column by Will:

The oral arguments the Supreme Court will hear on Tuesday will be more decorous than the gusts of judicial testiness that blew the case up to the nation’s highest tribunal. The case, which raises arcane questions of administrative law but could have widely radiating political and policy consequences, comes from the Enlightenment mentality of the nation’s Founders, and involves this question: Does it matter that a conspicuously unenlightened member of the president’s cabinet lied in sworn testimony about why he made a decision that he arguably has the statutory power to make?

Because America’s 18th century Founders were rational, empirical, inquisitive pursuers of evidence-based improvement, they placed in the Constitution’s second section after the preamble a requirement for a census. And the 14th Amendment stipulates the required actual enumeration, every 10 years, of “the whole number” of persons residing in the country. From 1820 (when Congress wanted “foreigners not naturalized” to be counted) through 1950, the census almost always included a citizenship question, and in 2018 Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross decided that the 2020 “short-form” questionnaire, the one that goes to every household, should include one. Ross has testified that he was “responding solely” to a Justice Department request for the question to provide data helpful to enforcement of the Voting Rights Act (VRA) of 1965.

A federal district judge called this Ross rationale “pretextual” because Ross was justifying a decision “already made for other reasons.” This was a polite but still stinging way of saying Ross lied, which he almost certainly did: Justice officials initially rejected Commerce’s request that it ask for a citizenship question, and said such data was unnecessary for VRA enforcement. The district judge said Commerce sought the Justice letter to “launder” the request for the citizenship question “through another agency,” this being just one of “a veritable smorgasbord” of rules violations by Ross and his aides.

Ross also testified that he was “not aware” of any discussions of the citizenship questions between Commerce and the White House. But after 18 states, 15 municipalities and various immigration advocacy groups sued, he acknowledged meeting early in 2017 with then-presidential adviser Stephen Bannon, an anti-immigration zealot. The district judge also said Ross “materially mischaracterized” — translation: lied about — a conversation with a polling expert in order to obfuscate the expert’s objections to the citizenship question.

Because more information is preferable to less, the citizenship question might seem sensible. However, the question might result in less information because the Census Bureau’s own experts believe that the citizenship question would cause 6.5 million people — almost one in 10 households includes one or more noncitizens — to not respond to the questionnaire for fear of law-enforcement consequences. The 6.5 million are approximately as many people as live in Indiana. Of the estimated 24 million noncitizens (about 7% of America’s population of almost 329 million), almost 11 million are here illegally.

The citizenship question is, the Trump administration insists, “a wholly unremarkable demographic question.” But why, then, was Ross so dishonest concerning its genesis? This is probably why: A substantial undercount would affect the formulas by which hundreds of billions of dollars of federal spending are dispersed, to the disadvantage of blue states and cities with large immigrant populations. Furthermore, because the 14th Amendment stipulates that seats in the House of Representatives shall be apportioned on the basis of “the whole number of persons in each state” regardless of citizenship, an undercount could cost some states, particularly blue states, congressional seats, and hence electoral votes.

The district court judge was scalding about the “egregious” behavior of Ross, who “in a startling number of ways” either “ignored, cherry-picked, or badly misconstrued” evidence, and “acted irrationally … in light of that evidence.” Yet the judge professed himself “unable to determine — based on the existing record, at least — what Secretary Ross’ real reasons for adding the citizenship question were.” Perhaps the judge was precluded from coming to a conclusion about Ross’ motives; the public is not.

This is another case in which Trump administration behavior (following equally indefensible Obama administration behavior) is provoking plaintiffs to ask the judiciary to police the blurry boundaries of executive discretion. The Supreme Court, however, is apt to decide that Ross’ wretched behavior does not alter the fact that Congress has granted to him sufficient discretion over the census to accommodate his decision to include the citizenship question. This, in spite of reasonable surmises about his motives that his behavior seemed designed to disguise.

Source: Will: Supreme Court mulls citizenship question for census

US Businesses Wage Two-Front War Against 2020 Census Citizenship Question

Similar to the concerns of Canadian business when the Harper government cancelled the mandatory census in favour of the less accurate voluntary National Household Survey:

Leading U.S. businesses have been pushing back against the White House’s anti-immigrant policies since the weeks following Inauguration Day, and now they have joined the fight to keep a controversial new citizenship question out of the 2020 census.

The legal battle over the new census question has been in the media spotlight as a lawsuit—joined by major U.S. business organizations—inches closer to a Supreme Court hearing.

In the trenches, though, an equally important fight is shaping up. If the courts preserve the new citizenship question, major U.S. businesses are already in position to launch a holistic, boots-on-the-ground outreach campaign to encourage census participation.

Why U.S. businesses need an accurate census

The new census question asks, “Is this person a citizen of the United States?” It further breaks down the question with different boxes to check for persons who are born in the U.S. or Puerto Rico and other territories, born abroad with at least one U.S. citizen parent, naturalized citizens, and lastly, “No, not a U.S. citizen.”

All things being equal, the question is a straightforward one. However, under the current administration, anything related to immigration is far from innocuous. Critics—and they are numerous—argue that the question appears deliberately designed to discourage counting in urban areas where immigrants congregate.

An inaccurate census may serve political purposes, but it is anathema to the U.S. business community.

Earlier this week, Reuters took a deep dive into the relationship between the business community and the Census Bureau and noted several significant reasons why U.S. businesses depend on accurate data:

“Retailers like Walmart and Target Corp use Census data to decide where to open stores or distribution hubs, and what to stock on shelves,” wrote Reuters reporter Lauren Tara LaCapra. “Big banks like JPMorgan Chase & Co use the information similarly for branch strategy, and real-estate firms scrutinize the statistics to determine where to build homes and shopping centers. TV networks like Univision, meanwhile, rely on the numbers to plan programing in local markets. And the Census is an important input for tech giants like Google when they create myriad data-based products, such as maps.”

To cite just one example, Amazon’s multi-city search for a second headquarters also harvested Census data to aid the company’s decision making, LaCapra explained.

How U.S. businesses can help ensure an accurate census

In this context, a new census question that could discourage millions of U.S. residents from participating—or participating accurately—is a bottom-line bombshell.

Nevertheless, there is an opportunity for businesses to step forward and take the lead, even if the new census question survives in court.

LaCapra of Reuters suggests that U.S. businesses have already amassed experience in encouraging census participation at a grassroots, face-to-face level: “Ahead of the 2010 Census, McDonald’s Corp featured information on restaurant placemats, Walmart greeters handed out flyers, big retailers featured reminders on receipts and utility companies stuck inserts into electric, gas and water bills.”

Intentionally or not, AB-InBev has already taken the lead on the 2020 census. The global company’s Budweiser brand touched off a media firestorm by unveiling a pro-immigrant advertisement at the 2017 Super Bowl.

Partnering with the U.S. census bureau

That could be just a small harbinger of private-sector participation in the 2020 census.

The U.S. Census Bureau itself provides guidance for companies that want to get involved in the 2020 census. It is actively recruiting private-sector partners through its Integrated Partnership and Communicationsprogram, which is tasked with “building ties with more than 300,000 state, local, and tribal governments, community-based organizations, nongovernmental organizations and advocacy groups, and the private sector.”

The IPC program appeals directly to the corporate social responsibility movement, explaining that “you benefit by fulfilling your CSR goals, accessing our personalized data training and information services, networking with other businesses you otherwise wouldn’t encounter, and engaging with your customers and employees around a civic duty.”

IPC is keenly aware of brand reputation, telling companies: “You have invested heavily in understanding how to reach and how to communicate with your customers and employees. You are trusted brands and trusted voices.”

Furthermore, IPC underscores the bottom-line benefits:

“The 2020 Census data will help you create projections of growth to identify prime locations to open new operations or close old ones. You can enhance your hiring practice and identify skilled workers. Our data provide valuable information on your customer base (income level, household size, homeownership status) to inform your pricing and location strategies.”

Helping the Census Bureau help you

As IPC partners, companies receive messaging, branding and guidance on spreading the word. That includes basics like sharing a link to the 2020 census on company websites, providing Internet connections and free call time to underserved households, and hosting community educational events.

IPC also suggests that companies engage in commentary, through op-eds and similar content, to explain why partnering with the Census Bureau is so important to them.

In addition, the IPC guidance aims to build the 2020 census-taker workforce. IPC partners are asked to advertise Census job openings and help applicants with filling out forms. That can include providing transportation to libraries and other locations where help is available, or where training sessions are located.

That’s just for starters. IPC also encourages companies to sign up for Census Bureau news alerts, spread the word by following @uscensusbureau on Twitter, and distribute Census bureau infographicsand other materials. The organization also hosts workshops to develop local solutions to specific challenges in their community and generate commitments to tackle them.

How brands can take stands supporting the census

IPC also asks companies to use text messaging and social media to encourage Census employment and participation. In that regard, IPC has one particularly salient piece of guidance for its partners, and that is to “actively monitor, fact check, and correct misinformation on social networks about the 2020 Census.”

Reportedly, the Census Bureau has received “initial” commitments from Facebook, Google and Twitter to clamp down on misinformation.

It will be especially interesting to see how the commitment plays out for Facebook. The company has a years-long history of alleged civil rights violations to account for and overcome, in addition to an ongoing connection with white nationalism and tolerance of white nationalismthrough one of its controversial board members, along with its alleged facilitation of Russian propaganda during the 2016 election.

Companies that have come forward include Levi Strauss & Co, Uber, Lyftand Univision. Yet Reuters also reported that companies involved in the lawsuit against the new census question have been reluctant to publicize their stand, fearing backlash from the Trump administration.

Source: US Businesses Wage Two-Front War Against 2020 Census Citizenship Question

Census Bureau Seeks Citizenship Data From DHS Ahead of 2020 Census

While I am a great fan of more widespread use of administrative data to improve Census data (e.g., incorporation of immigration and tax data in the Canadian census), hard to see this as innocent data use given the personal identifiers provided rather than anonymous data, not to mention the overall context of the Trump administration’s immigration and citizenship policies:

As the U.S. Supreme Court weighs whether the Trump administration can ask people if they are citizens on the 2020 Census, the Census Bureau is quietly seeking comprehensive information about the legal status of millions of immigrants.

Under a proposed plan, the Department of Homeland Security would provide the Census Bureau with a broad swath of personal data about noncitizens, including their immigration status, The Associated Press has learned. A pending agreement between the agencies has been in the works since at least January, the same month a federal judge in New York blocked the administration from adding the citizenship question to the 10-year survey.

On Wednesday, a federal judge in California also declared that adding the citizenship question to the Census was unconstitutional, saying that the move “threatens the very foundation of our democratic system.”

The data that Homeland Security would share with Census officials would include noncitizens’ full names and addresses, birth dates and places, as well as Social Security numbers and highly sensitive alien registration numbers, according to a document signed by the Census Bureau and obtained by AP.

Such a data dump would be apparently unprecedented and give the Census Bureau a view of immigrants’ citizenship status that is even more precise than what can be gathered in door-to-door canvassing, according to bureau research.

Six former Census and DHS officials said they were not aware that individuals’ citizenship status had ever before been shared with the Census. “Generally, the information kept in a system of records is presumed to be private and can’t be released unless it fits with a certain set of defined exceptions,” said Leon Rodriguez, who led the DHS agency responsible for citizenship under the Obama administration.

The move raises questions as to what the Trump administration seeks to do with the data and concerns among privacy and civil rights activists that it could be misused.

Census spokesman Michael Cook said the agreement was awaiting signatures at DHS, but that Census expected it would be finalized “as soon as possible.”

“The U.S. Census Bureau routinely enters into agreements to receive administrative records from many agencies, including our pending agreement with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, to assist us in our mission to provide quality statistics to the American public,” Cook said in a statement. “By law, the Census Bureau does not return any records to the Department of Homeland Security or any of its components, including Immigration and Customs Enforcement.”

Jessica Collins, a spokeswoman for Citizenship and Immigration Services, said no agreement has been finalized. She said the purpose of such agreements is help improve the reliability of population estimates for the next Census.

“The information is protected and safeguarded under applicable laws and will not be used for adjudicative or law enforcement purposes,” Collins said.

Civil rights groups accuse the White House of pursuing a citizenship question because it would discourage noncitizens from participating in the Census and lead to less federal money and representation in Congress for states with large immigrant populations. Census researchers say including the question could yield significant underreporting for immigrants and communities of color.

Under the pending three-year information-sharing agreement, the Census Bureau would use the DHS data to better determine who is a citizen and eligible to vote by “linking citizenship information from administrative records to Census microdata.”

“All uses of the data are solely for statistical purposes, which by definition means that uses will not directly affect benefits or enforcement actions for any individual,” according to the 13-page document signed by Census.

Amy O’Hara, who until 2017 directed Census Bureau efforts to expand data-sharing with other agencies, said she was surprised that a plan was in the works for sharing alien numbers with the bureau.

“I wish that we were not on this path,” she said. “If the citizenship question hadn’t been added to the Census, this agreement never would have been sought.”

In previous administrations, government lawyers advised Census researchers to use a minimal amount of identifying data to get their jobs done, said O’Hara, now co-director of Georgetown University’s census research center. During her tenure, the bureau never obtained anything as sensitive as alien numbers, which O’Hara called “more radioactive than fingerprints.” The numbers are assigned to immigrants seeking citizenship or involved in law enforcement action.

Some privacy groups worry the pending agreement is an end-run around the courts.

“What’s going on here is they are trying to circumvent the need for a citizenship question by using data collected by another agency for a different purpose,” Jeramie Scott, an attorney at the Electronic Privacy Information Center. “It’s a violation of people’s privacy.”

The agreement would bar the bureau from sharing the data with outside agencies. But confidentiality provisions have been circumvented in the past.

During World War II Congress suspended those protections, and the bureau shared data about Japanese-Americans that was used to help send 120,000 people to internment camps. Most were U.S. citizens. From 2002-2003, the Census Bureau provided DHS with population statistics on Arab-Americans that activists complained was a breach of public trust, even if the sharing was legal.

The quiet manner in which the agencies pursued sharing records could stoke concerns that the Trump administration may be seeking to create a registry of noncitizens, said Kenneth Prewitt, who was Census director from 1998-2001 and is now a Columbia University professor.

Census scholars say that could not happen without new legislation, which is not likely under the Democratic majority in the House of Representatives.

In mid-April, the Supreme Court will hear arguments as to whether the 2020 Census can include a citizenship question, with a decision expected weeks later.

Next week, Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, whose department oversees the census, is set to testify before the Senate on his role in the controversy.

About 44 million immigrants live in the United States — nearly 11 million of them illegally. The 10-year headcount is based on the total resident population, both citizens and noncitizens.

The Census figures hugely in how political power and money are distributed in the U.S., and underreporting by noncitizens would have an outsized impact in states with larger immigrant populations. Political clout and federal dollars are both at stake because 10-year survey results are used to distribute electoral college votes and congressional district seats, and allocate more than $880 billion a year for services including roads, schools and Medicare.

The push to get a clearer picture of the number of noncitizens in the U.S. comes from an administration that has implemented hard-line policies to restrict immigration in numerous agencies.

Against advice of career officials at the Census Bureau, Ross decided last year to add the citizenship question to the 10-year headcount, saying that the Justice Department requested the question to improve enforcement of the federal Voting Rights Act.

Some prominent GOP lawmakers endorsed the citizenship question, saying it would lead to more accurate data, and a joint fundraising committee for Trump’s re-election campaign and the Republican National Committee used it as a fundraising tool. Immigrants’ rights groups and multiple Democratic-led states, cities and counties filed suit, arguing that the question sought to discourage the Census participation of minorities.

A citizenship question has not appeared on the once-in-a-decade headcount since 1950, though it has been on the American Community Survey, for which the Census Bureau annually polls 3.5 million households.

Documents and testimony in a New York trial showed that Ross began pressing for a citizenship question soon after he became secretary in 2017, and that he consulted Steve Bannon, President Donald Trump’s former chief strategist, and then-Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, a vocal advocate of tough immigration laws who also has advised the president. Emails showed that Ross himself had invited the Justice Department request to add the citizenship question.

A March 2018 memo to Ross from the Census Bureau’s chief scientist says the DHS data on noncitizens could be used to help create a “comprehensive statistical reference list of current U.S. citizens.” The memo discusses how to create ‘baseline citizenship statistics’ by drawing on administrative records from DHS, the Social Security Administration, State Department and the Internal Revenue Service, in addition to including the citizenship question in the census.

In January, New York federal judge Jesse Furman ruled that Ross was “arbitrary and capricious” in proposing the question.

The new data comes from Citizenship and Immigration Services, a DHS agency that has taken on a larger role in enforcing immigration restrictions under Trump.

After Francis Cissna took over as director in October 2017, the agency initiated a “denaturalization task force” aimed at investigating whether immigrants obtaining their citizenship fraudulently. The agency also has slashed the refugee program to historic lows and proposed reinterpreting immigration law to screen whether legal immigrants are likely to draw on the public welfare system.

Cissna also rewrote the agency’s mission statement: “Securing America’s promise as a nation of immigrants” became “Securing the homeland and honoring our values.”

Source: Census Bureau Seeks Citizenship Data From DHS Ahead of 2020 Census

USA: A Judge Blocked the Census From Asking About Citizenship. Here’s Why It Matters

One of the better analysis that I have seen:

A federal judge in New York has blocked the Trump Administration from adding a question about citizenship status to the 2020 Census, marking a victory for critics who have said the question is unnecessary and is intended to decrease the number of immigrants and minorities counted in the decennial survey.

The ruling is just the first in a series of cases on the issue, which has significant implications for future elections, political representation at every level and federal funding decisions for the next decade. The Trump Administration is also facing five other lawsuits over the Census question, and the battle is expected to end up at the Supreme Court.

But U.S. District Judge Jesse Furman’s decision on Tuesday was an important moment. The suit’s plaintiffs — a collection of immigrant advocacy groups, states and local officials — argued that the Trump Administration tried to add the citizenship question to intentionally dissuade immigrants from responding to the survey. The U.S. Census, which is conducted every 10 years, has not included a question about citizenship since 1950. More detailed sampling surveys have done so, but those go out to far fewer households.

Furman ruled that the way Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross added the question was “arbitrary and capricious” and violated administrative procedures.

“He failed to consider several important aspects of the problem; alternately ignored, cherry-picked, or badly misconstrued the evidence in the record before him; acted irrationally both in light of that evidence and his own stated decisional criteria; and failed to justify significant departures from past policies and practices,” Furman wrote in his 227-page decision.

The judge also ruled that Ross’s explanation for the citizenship change — that the Justice Department said it was needed to help enforce the Voting Rights Act — was “pretextual.”

Ross initially offered voting rights enforcement as his official explanation, but documents released as part of the ongoing lawsuits revealed that he began pushing the issue on his own soon after becoming Commerce Secretary.

The Justice Department said it was disappointed in the ruling, while advocacy groups like the ACLU cheered the decision.

“This ruling is a forceful rebuke of the Trump administration’s attempt to weaponize the census for an attack on immigrant communities,” Dale Ho, director of the ACLU’s Voting Rights Project, said in a statement. “The evidence at trial, including from the government’s own witness, exposed how adding a citizenship question would wreck the once-in-a-decade count of the nation’s population. The inevitable result would have been — and the administration’s clear intent was — to strip federal resources and political representation from those needing it most.”

As this was the first ruling in the cases against the citizenship question, evidence that came out during the trial could encourage those pursuing similar lawsuits, said William H. Frey, a demographer and expert on the Census at the Brookings Institution.

“This is good news for people who want to have a Census that represents America,” Frey told TIME. “You want to make sure that all groups are represented and it helps the proper apportionment of Congress, it helps federal spending that is allocated to different groups around the country.”

If immigrants and other minorities avoid responding to the census because of a question about citizenship, experts, including the Census Bureau itself, say it would likely result in a survey that significantly undercounts those populations.

The Census provides crucial data that is used for a wide variety of decisions, including how many representatives each state sends to Congress and how much federal money different areas receive for everything from highway funds to Medicaid. The data can also affect state representation and even the Electoral College, which is based on Congressional delegations.

The private sector often relies on Census numbers as well for decisions about where to open stores or where to base factories and other employment opportunities, Frey notes.

“The Constitution says that we need to count everyone in the United States and I think that as a scientist, as a demographer, as someone who has been doing this for a long time, the research is pretty unequivocal that that’s going to not be done if the citizenship question is on there,” he said.

Source: A Judge Blocked the Census From Asking About Citizenship. Here’s Why It Matters

Citizenship query will not cause U.S. census undercount: official

Does not appear he was entirely comfortable in his testimony, but not to the extent he felt compelled to resign as happens with Statistics Canada when the then Chief Statistician, Munir Sheikh, resigned over his views on the change to the less methodologically sound National Household Survey were misrepresented:

The U.S. Census Bureau’s top scientist on Wednesday insisted the bureau can get a full count of American residents during the 2020 census, despite the Trump administration’s addition of a question on citizenship.

The agency’s chief scientist, John Abowd, made the comments in testimony in federal court in New York, where a group of U.S. states, cities and civil rights groups have sued the administration to remove the question, arguing it could dissuade non-citizens from participating in the decennial census.

Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, a Republican, announced the citizenship question in March, saying it was needed to enforce federal laws against voter discrimination.

But plaintiffs say that is a pretext, and they want U.S. District Judge Jesse Furman, who is hearing the case, to strike the question. They say Ross’ real motive is to scare immigrants into abstaining from the census, costing their mostly-Democratic communities political representation and federal aid.

Abowd’s testimony spanned two days and grew tense at times.

Closing arguments were tentatively set for Nov. 27.

On Wednesday, plaintiffs accused government lawyers of “ambushing” them with new evidence.

On Tuesday Abowd appeared to fight back tears when a plantiff lawyer said the Trump administration had decided to add the citizenship question well before asking him to study the matter.

Abowd admitted the question could lower the response rate and quality of data in the 2020 census, but said it will not cause an undercount because the bureau will follow up with non-responders. If that process requires more effort than expected, he said, enumerators can simply work harder.

“There is enough capacity in the current cost model” to “adjust their workloads,” Abowd said, citing a $1.7 billion contingency in the census budget.

He said the bureau will also rely on neighbors and existing government records to augment missing data.

Witnesses for the plaintiffs previously testified that such methods will not produce a full count.

An economist and Cornell University professor, Abowd is among the trial’s most compelling witnesses. Appointed to his Census role during the Obama administration, he advised against including the citizenship question earlier this year. But as a witness, he has had to defend it.

“CARRYING OUT OBLIGATIONS”

On Wednesday, when Abowd testified that the bureau was planning a new study on the impact of the citizenship question on the voluntary response rate of the census, an attorney for the American Civil Liberties Union objected.

“They’re trying to ambush us with new evidence,” attorney Dale Ho said, saying that the information should have been revealed during discovery.

The judge appeared to agree, saying he was “inclined to strike” Abowd’s testimony on the topic.

On Tuesday, Abowd appeared to hold back tears when Ho said Ross had withheld information from Abowd.

Abowd was asked to spend his holidays last December running an analysis on the pros and cons of adding the question. In fact, Ho said, Ross had decided months earlier that he supported its addition.

“From the beginning of the time I started my analysis through today, I’m just carrying out my obligations,” said an emotional Abowd.

Source: Citizenship query will not cause U.S. census undercount: official

USA: Citizenship Question May Be ‘Major Barrier’ To 2020 Census Participation

Evidence-based:

The controversial new citizenship question the Trump administration added to the 2020 census may turn out to be a “major barrier” to the country’s full participation in the upcoming national head count, according to a national study commissioned by the Census Bureau.

The Constitution requires every person living in the U.S. — both citizens and noncitizens — to be counted once a decade. Those population numbers are used to determine how many congressional seats and Electoral College votes each state gets.

For the upcoming 2020 census, the Trump administration is planning to include a question it says the Justice Department needs to better enforce Voting Rights Act protections against racial discrimination. The question asks, “Is this person a citizen of the United States?”

In focus groups conducted in March and April to inform the government’s outreach efforts for the census, some participants identified that question as a significant reason why they would avoid taking part in the head count.

“They tended to both believe that the purpose of the question was to find undocumented immigrants and that the political discourse is targeting their ethnic group,” explained Sarah Evans, a lead researcher at PSB, a firm that is affiliated with census contractor Young & Rubicam. “This was an idea we heard across audiences,” she added.

The administration announced the addition of the question in late March, after the study had already begun. The 30 groups asked about the question represent populations the bureau consider to be among the hardest to count, including Spanish speakers, Vietnamese speakers and people of Middle Eastern or North African descent.

This preliminary finding of the 2020 Census Barriers, Attitudes and Motivators Studywas announced Thursday at a public meeting of the bureau’s National Advisory Committee on Racial, Ethnic, and Other Populations. It comes as the Trump administration is fighting six lawsuits from dozens of states, cities and other groups around the country over Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross’ decision to add the citizenship question to forms for the upcoming head count. A trial for the two lead lawsuits in New York City is set to start on Nov. 5.

Federal law prohibits the Census Bureau from releasing any information it collects that identifies individuals until 72 years after it’s collected, although the agency can share information with the public about specific demographic groups at a level as detailed as a specific neighborhood. Census Bureau officials emphasize that individuals’ information cannot be shared with law enforcement agencies such as the FBI and Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

Still, the study, which also included a nationwide survey distributed between February and April, found that many participants did not believe that the government will keep that promise of confidentiality. The fear is particularly high among Asian and black participants, as well as those who do not have a high school diploma and those with low proficiency in English or the internet.

Close to half of the survey participants (47 percent), researchers noted, incorrectly answered a question about whether the census is used to find people living without documentation, including more than a third that responded with “don’t know.” Some U.S. citizens surveyed may feel “endangered” by the political discourse surrounding the citizenship question, the researchers’ presentation at the bureau’s headquarters in Suitland, Md., also highlighted.

Making people “panic”

Latino “participants worried that their participation in the census could harm them personally or others in their communities/households they care about,” the researchers wrote in their presentation’s slide deck.

During a focus group of Spanish speakers, a participant described the current climate as a “hunt” for Latinos.

“Latinos are going to be afraid to be counted because of the retaliation that could happen,” the participant reported. “It’s like giving the government information, saying, ‘Oh, there are more here.’ ”

During another focus group of people of Middle Eastern or North African ancestry, one participant said: “ICE is working with different groups on deportation sweeps, and it would make me feel like I’m aiding in that. They’re doing a lot of illegal stuff, and so I wouldn’t fill out any of the questions.”

The citizenship question’s purpose, a Vietnamese-speaking focus group participant said, was “to make people panic,” especially those who are afraid of deportation.

Asked by NPR how the Census Bureau plans to incorporate these findings into the communications plan for the 2020 census, spokesperson Naomi Evangelista did not provide any details but instead pointed to a blog post written by the agency’s acting director, Ron Jarmin.

“The extensive research effort yielded rich insights that will inform the subsequent stages of the communications campaign,” Jarmin wrote, adding that the study’s findings will guide advertising, social media and other efforts to encourage people to respond to the census.

The latest findings underline previously released research from the bureau that suggested that asking about citizenship status will discourage noncitizens, including immigrants living in the country illegally, from participating in the census. As a result, that could undermine the accuracy of the information gathered for the head count. Before Ross announced his decision to add the citizenship question, Census Bureau researchers advocated for a different way of producing citizenship information for the Justice Department that would generate data more accurate and less expensive than self-reported responses to a question on the census.

Source: Citizenship Question May Be ‘Major Barrier’ To 2020 Census Participation

There is nothing Orwellian about collecting accurate, real-time data: Barrie McKenna

Good commentary. Given the Conservatives legacy in downgrading the Census to the less accurate National Household Survey in 2011, their record on these kinds of issues is suspect.

And, as McKenna notes, “Worse than Big Brother is Blind Brother:”

To hear Conservatives spin it, Statistics Canada’s plan to gather the banking and spending records of hundreds of thousands of Canadians is akin to “Big Brother on steroids” and an “Orwellian intrusion into the lives of Canadians.”

The truth isn’t nearly as sinister. Rest assured, the government is not plotting a massive surveillance campaign to find out what you ate for lunch or your monthly mortgage payment.

Guess what? Ottawa already has your social insurance number – because it gave it to you. And it has your tax returns.

The government does, however, need better data to provide a complete and accurate portrait of Canada’s economy and society, in real time. As part of a “modernization” of its operations, Statscan wants banks, cellphone companies, retailers and other companies to share more of the so-called big data they have, and leverage them for the collective public good.

As Canada’s chief statistician Anil Arora put it: “Traditional statistics gathering methods are no longer sufficient to accurately measure Canada’s economy and social changes.”

Yes, some of the information Statscan wants to gather is personal. But all personal identifiers, including names, addresses and social insurance numbers, would be removed before any of it is compiled and released to the public. That’s what the agency already does routinely with census data, the monthly household survey and vast amounts of competitively sensitive corporate information.

Statscan has been peeking into our lives for a long time. Unfortunately, response rates from the agency’s traditional surveys have been falling, leaving it with often suspect and outdated data to feed into its key reports. The agency says getting access to financial transactions is vital to producing a timely, accurate picture of the economy.

As it should, Statscan is working closely with the federal Privacy Commissioner Daniel Therrien to ensure personal data are not put at risk, or shared publicly. It’s up to Mr. Therrien, who last week launched an inquiry into Statscan’s big data pilot project, to set the rules, and then let the agency do its job.

Statscan is hardly unique. Statistics agencies around the world are similarly leveraging big data for public policy purposes. And that’s unambiguously a good thing, according to University of British Columbia economist Kevin Milligan.

“This research is vital to forming good government policy and providing good economic information to the private sector,” Mr. Milligan says. “Statistics Canada should and does work with the privacy commissioner to balance the good that comes from research to the potential challenges to privacy.”

It’s ludicrous to suggest Ottawa is spying on Canadians. What Statscan is doing is tapping into what the private sector already knows about all of us, and aggregating it for public consumption.

If you’re seriously concerned about letting others see your financial records, shopping habits and internet surfing behaviour, well, that horse left the barn a long time ago.

Just think for a minute what companies such as Toronto-Dominion Bank, Bell, Facebook, Google, Amazon or the operator of the Highway 407 toll road already know about what you did today, or in the past month. Stitch it all together, and it’s your life in bits and bytes.

Canadians should be more concerned that there are adequate controls over what these companies are doing with your data. Perhaps Canada’s big banks are resisting giving your data to Statscan because they are more interested in exploiting it themselves.

The more ominous privacy threat may not be Statscan. The greater risk may lie with the major private-sector collectors of big data, many of which are foreign owned and store it all far beyond the reach of the government. And they often operate with far weaker privacy constraints than government agencies.

Governments already know plenty about you. There are census data, passport photos and records, tax filings, municipal property records, health records, driving offences and court records. No reasonable person would suggest this is somehow part of a nefarious Big Brother spying plot.

The agency’s data-collection pilot is not the problem. It is part of the solution. For years, Statscan’s ability to do its job was eroded by steady budget cuts. The current Liberal government reinstated some that funding in this year’s budget, with an additional $41-million over five years to improve the agency’s ability to do its job.

Worse than collecting more data is having a data deficit. Governments, and businesses, risk making major mistakes without accurate, real-time data.

Worse than Big Brother is Blind Brother.

Source: There is nothing Orwellian about collecting accurate, real-time data: Barrie McKenna

Trump Administration Asks SCOTUS To Block Top Officials From Explaining Census Citizenship Question

Will be interesting to see how the SCOTUS rules:

The Trump administration is asking the Supreme Court to step in and block two top officials from having to speak under oath in a lawsuit challenging the administration’s decision to add a question about citizenship to the 2020 Census.

In a petition filed Wednesday, the Justice Department asked the high court to prevent Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross and John Gore, the acting head of DOJ’s Civil Rights Division, from having to sit for depositions in the case. A coalition of activist groups, cities and nearly 20 states, led by New York, say the Trump administration was predisposed to adding the citizenship question, and say it violated federal law by not following the proper procedure for doing so.

Getting information from Ross and Gore is crucial to the lawsuit because Ross, who oversees the Census, has said he added the question at the request of the Justice Department. DOJ said it needed the question, which has not been asked on the decennial survey since 1950, to get better citizenship data so it can better enforce the Voting Rights Act. But documents disclosed as part of the litigation show that Ross wanted to add the citizenship question even before the Justice Department requested it, and that it was Ross who initially approached DOJ officials about making the request.

Critics say adding the citizenship question will depress the response rate among immigrants who fear sharing their immigration status with the Trump administration. Data collected by the Census is strongly protected by federal privacy laws and must be kept confidential.

A lower court in New York has ordered depositions of Ross and Gore, saying they possess unique and relevant information that can’t be obtained from other sources. In its Wednesday filing, the government said the lower court’s ruling was incorrect, and that the case should be evaluated based on an “administrative record” of documents compiled by the government detailing why it made its decision.

“The court thought Secretary Ross’s testimony uniquely vital because he was personally involved in the decision to reinstate a citizenship question and the decision is of great importance to the public,” U.S. Solicitor General Noel Francisco wrote in the brief. “The Secretary’s personal involvement in a significant policy decision is not exceptional, and the importance of the Secretary’s decision in this case does not distinguish it from many other decisions of national importance that Cabinet Secretaries make.”

The information that the government has disclosed in the lawsuit so far has raised significant questions about the decision to add the citizenship query. The documents show Ross and top aides discussing the addition of the citizenship question, and a memo in which the bureau’s top scientist advised against adding it.

Justice Department lawyers have been fighting to block the plaintiffs in the case from gathering information beyond the documents that government officials voluntarily compiled about the decision. However, they have been largely unsuccessful. On Sunday, U.S. District Judge Jesse Furman, the trial judge overseeing the case, said the government’s most recent request was “particularly frivolous — if not outrageous.”

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 2nd Circuit is also considering whether to block Ross from having to sit for a deposition, but said last week that Gore could be deposed. A trial in the case is scheduled to begin at the start of November.

“The Trump administration has repeatedly tried to block discovery in our suit ― and courts have repeatedly rejected their attempts. You have to wonder what they’re trying to hide,” said Amy Spitalnick, a spokeswoman for New York Attorney General Barbara Underwood (D). “We’ll get to the bottom of how the decision to demand citizenship status was made, as we continue our case to ensure a full and fair Census.”

Source: Trump Administration Asks SCOTUS To Block Top Officials From Explaining Census Citizenship Question

Memo Contradicts Ross’s Rationale for Adding Citizenship Question to Census

The truth will out but whether it will be consequential is another matter:

The Trump White House produces no shortage of eye-catching, headline-grabbing acts of malfeasance. Brazenly blatant acts of corruption, titillating tell-alls from the president’s porn-star paramours, and proto-authoritarian Twitter tantrums are constantly competing for limited headline space.

And yet, this administration is arguably most dangerous when it’s at its most boring. In the dull, gray innards of the federal bureaucracies, Donald Trump’s minions are making profoundly consequential (and, in many cases, deeply corrupt) decisions that will never make the “A block” of a single cable news show.

And no set of decisions has broader potential implications for our democracy than those the Commerce Department has made regarding the 2020 census.

The U.S. government’s decennial attempt to count every human being within its borders might seem like one of Uncle Sam’s most anodyne activities. But when those overseeing the count belong to a political movement that explicitly regards demographic change as its enemy — and disenfranchising Democratic constituencies as fair game — the Census can begin to resemble an ominous enterprise. Census data shapes the contours of political districts, and determines each state’s clout in the Electoral College. It dictates what proportion of federal funding for schools, roads, and libraries each state is entitled to. Thus, if a Republican administration found a facially neutral way of systematically undercounting residents in Democratic-leaning areas, it could inflate red America’s (already disproportionate) influence over our political system.

And the Trump administration appeared to be doing just that last March, when it decided to add a question about citizenship status to the 2020 census. By that point, the White House had already (unsuccessfully) attempted to put a leading proponent of GOP gerrymandering (who had no experience managing a large bureaucracy) in charge of overseeing the Census, while refusing to hire noncitizen Census-takers for the purpose of reaching immigrant communities. Meanwhile, Census Bureau researchers had already warned that test surveys were prompting “unprecedented” levels of concern from immigrants, who feared that providing the government with information about themselves would result in their deportation. Census data cannot be legally used for immigration enforcement. But, for understandable reasons, undocumented immigrants weren’t eager to bet their capacity to live in the United States on the Trump administration’s commitment to the letter of the law.

Thus, the Commerce Department’s decision to ask Census respondents about their citizenship status, for the first time since 1950, looked like a deliberate attempt to exacerbate this problem. And if the citizenship question did, in fact, depress undocumented immigrants’ participation in the Census — and thereby, lead the federal government to systematically undercount them — there would be obvious benefits to the GOP: Most undocumented immigrants live in Democratic-leaning metropolitan areas, so the fewer of them the government counts, the greater the share of federal money and political influence that rural, Republican-leaning areas will receive.

And the GOP had another, equally controversial incentive for surveying the American public about their citizenship. The judiciary has long insisted that U.S. House districts must be drawn on the basis of total population — not total voters — so that children, prisoners, undocumented immigrants, and others who lack access to the ballot are provided with indirect representation. But some conservative groups have mulled drawing state and local districts on the basis of eligible voters (ostensibly, so as to minimize the influence that godless city slickers wield over state capitols). In 2016, the Supreme Court indicated that it might approve of such a practice. But without Census data on citizens and noncitizens, red states would have no means of giving voters-only districting a try.

Still, the Trump administration insisted that its decision to alter the Census was rooted in only the purest of motives — specifically, a heartfelt desire to protect the voting rights of African-Americans. In congressional testimony, Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross explained that his bureau only began considering the citizenship question after the Department of Justice indicated that it needed such information to fully enforce the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

Of course, the idea that Jeff Sessions was desperate for new tools he could use in lawsuits against southern states with racially discriminatory political practices never passed the smell test. Anyone with a rudimentary understanding of American politics knew that Ross was “trolling the libs.”Still, it wasn’t clear whether the administration’s bad faith could be proven. And this was an important distinction — because if advocates for immigrant communities could establish, through documentary evidence, that the Trump administration had a discriminatory intent when it added the citizenship question to the Census, they just might be able to get a court to strike it down.

And on Monday, New York attorney general Barbara Underwood revealed what appears to be a smoking gun. As part of her lawsuit challenging the Census question, Underwood publicly filed a newly unredacted internal Commerce Department memo, which reveals that the Justice Department (DOJ) did not initiate the request for the citizenship question — but rather, resisted Commerce’s initial attempts to extract such a request from it.

Now, the DOJ did issue a formal request for a question about citizenship status in December of 2017 — but only after the Commerce Department had spent months lobbying for such a request. As NPR reports:

[M]emos and emails released previously as part of the lawsuits over the question already have contradicted Ross’ testimony. They make clear that Ross was eager to add the question shortly after he was confirmed as commerce secretary in February 2017 … Earl Comstock — a key Commerce Department official on census-related issues — first approached Justice Department officials in May 2017. Comstock eventually discussed the issue with James McHenry, a Justice Department official working on immigration issues who now oversees the immigration courts as the head of the Executive Office for Immigration Review.

“Justice staff did not want to raise the question given the difficulties Justice was encountering in the press at the time (the whole Comey matter),” Comstock wrote to Ross in a newly unredacted portion of the memo, which is dated Sept. 8, 2017.

With the DOJ looking to avoid controversy amid the fallout from Trump’s firing of James Comey, the Commerce Department began searching for other agencies that might force it to ask U.S. residents about their citizenship. The memo reveals that Comstock sought a request from the Department of Homeland Security, only to have DHS refer him back to the DOJ. Comstock then directed an attorney at the Commerce Department “to look into the legal issues and how Commerce could add the question to the Census itself,” according to a previously redacted portion of the memo.

All of which is to say: On Monday, the state of New York ostensibly revealed that the Commerce Secretary lied to Congress about his rationale for adding a citizenship question to the 2020 Census — a development that lends credence to the claim that the Trump administration is deliberately trying to engineer an inaccurate count of the U.S. population in hopes of consolidating their party’s grip on power through anti-democratic means.

And this wasn’t enough to qualify as headline news.

Source: Memo Contradicts Ross’s Rationale for Adding Citizenship Question to Census