Obama To Tap Sampling Expert To Be Census Director
President Obama will today announce that he has chosen potentially-polarizing University of Michigan professor Robert M. Groves to become census director, according to the Associated Press.
Groves, a survey methodology and statistics expert who has backed the use of statistical sampling, was associate director of the Census Bureau for two years in the early 1990s.
Groves' nomination, which must be confirmed by the Senate, could prompt opposition from Republicans: As the AP notes, "Groves recommended that the 1990 census be statistically adjusted to make up for an undercount of roughly 5 million people, many of them minorities in dense urban areas who tend to vote for Democrats."
After complaints from Republicans and the George H.W. Bush White House, Republican Commerce Secretary Robert Mosbacher overruled Graves, saying such a move would be "political tampering."
Next year's census is seen as enormously important by lawmakers, since the results impact the allocation of funds and the makeup of Congressional districts. The Commerce Secretary, Gary Locke, oversees the effort, which essentially kicked off this week with the deployment of 140,000 census workers for canvassing.
Counting every single American is an enormous and challenging undertaking, and the use of sampling to make up for perceived undercounting of certain groups, particularly those in densely-populated urban areas, has been widely debated. The Supreme Court has ruled that Congressional seats must be apportioned only through a direct head count, prompting anger from minority groups and advocated for the poor who say those groups end up underrepresented in the final count.
Yesterday, Hispanic groups called for immigration reform so that Hispanics are fully counted in the process; in the year 2000, the AP notes, approximately 1 million were estimated to have been missed. When Republican Sen. Judd Gregg was nominated for the Commerce post – he later removed himself from consideration – Hispanic and other groups expressed concern that he was not committed to finding a way to fully count all Americans.
If confirmed, Groves has his work cut out for him: As Mother Jones notes, the Government Accountability Office has placed the census on its "High-Risk List" because of "performance deficiencies and uncertain, escalating costs." The government will spend an estimated $15 billion on the count.
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