Sunday, September 6, 2009



September 6, 2009
No. 73

Editor's note: Welcome back from August break, census stakeholders. As Fall begins, the pace of final census preparations and congressional oversight will accelerate, and we will report on the most important operational and policy developments as often as possible, as the start of the 2010 census nears. This Census News Brief summarizes recent issues and activities; it's a little longer than usual, so thanks for your continued interest and patience!


Same-Sex Spouse Data Plans

New Report on 2010 Census Challenges in Gulf Coast

Conservatives Hint at Census Lawsuit

Concerns About In-Language Messages Persist

Stakeholder Activities

Census Appropriations Update

The Rest of the News ...


Plans for data on same-sex marriages

Civil rights group calls for special census in Gulf Coast

Conservatives hint at census lawsuit

Language outreach still a concern

Stakeholder activities
Appropriations update, and more.


The Census Bureau is preparing to release raw data from the 2010 census "relationship question" that will show the number of same-sex marriages, after the Commerce Department's General Counsel concluded that federal law does not bar the agency from publishing statistics on people who report a spouse of the same gender.

The agency issued a more detailed outline of its plan to publish same-sex spouse responses after several news outlets reported earlier this year that the Census Bureau was changing a policy developed during the Bush (George W.) Administration. The plan's summary, "A Census That Reflects America's Population," says that the bureau "is now focusing its efforts on the statistical issues of accurately measuring this population in future surveys," including the ongoing Current Population Survey (CPS), American Community Survey (ACS), and Survey of Income and Program Participation (SIPP).

While conceding that it is too late to change a previous operational decision to re-code same-sex spouse responses as "unmarried partners" for 2010 -- a step that the summary describes as "embedded" in the coding process -- the Census Bureau will release unedited 2010 census relationship data in 2011, at the same time that it releases detailed tabulations of demographic and housing information from the decennial, in which same-sex spouse responses will have been recoded as "unmarried partner." (The first detailed data release is called Summary File 1, which is published after the basic detailed population data needed for congressional redistricting under Public Law 94-171.) In 2012, traditional special reports from the census will include an analysis of responses by same-sex couples. Commerce Secretary Gary Locke also has asked the Office of Management and Budget, which oversees federal statistical policy, to create an inter-agency task force on the collection and tabulation of relationship data.

The July 30, 2009 legal analysis by Commerce General Counsel Cameron Kerry reverses an opinion reached during the Bush Administration that the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) (1 U.S.C. §7) prohibited the Census Bureau from publishing responses from same-sex couples who describe themselves as spouses on their census forms. Based on the previous interpretation, as well as its own research on the quality of relationship data, the bureau planned to recode -- as "unmarried partners" -- responses from people of the same gender who identified themselves as husband or wife. Mr. Kerry's analysis concluded that DOMA's definitions of "marriage" and "spouse" apply when the words appear in acts of Congress, rulings, regulations, and other federal administrative documents, a description he said does not apply to the census questionnaire, noting that the words do not appear in the Census Act or any related rulings. The General Counsel highlighted the Census Bureau's "role as the nation's objective demographer" and said the decennial census "routinely collects and reports information that reflects changes in social mores."


As the Gulf Coast region marked the fourth anniversary of Hurricane Katrina in late August, the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights Education Fund (LCCREF) issued a report evaluating the consequences for 2010 census operations of demographic and economic conditions in communities still recovering from the 2005 storms (Hurricane Rita hit many of the same areas that fall). The "nation's oldest and largest civil rights coalition" called for a special census early in the next decade to measure continued re-settlement in the hardest-hit areas.

At an August 24 New Orleans press conference, Wade Henderson, president of the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights, called Hurricane Katrina "a natural disaster and man-made catastrophe" and said an inaccurate census in Katrina-affected areas "would be one more devastating blow depriving residents and their communities of the assistance they need to fully recover." Trap Bonner, executive director of Moving Forward Gulf Coast, said that achieving an accurate census "will require an enormous effort on the part of everyone from the president, the Congress and the Census Bureau to community-based organizations like ours that have developed a special trust with people in hard-to-count groups."

Counting in the Wake of a Catastrophe: Challenges and Recommendations for the 2010 Census in the Gulf Coast Region (August 2009) summarizes recent demographic trends in Katrina-affected areas that relate to census-taking, such as the devastation and rebuilding of homes, changing racial and ethnic composition, and reduced telephone service. The report discusses how these conditions present additional barriers to achieving an accurate census; for example, lower-than-average unemployment could make it more difficult for the Census Bureau to recruit enough census workers next year, while high vacancy rates and temporary living situations "will increase the difficulty and scope of Update/Leave, Nonresponse Follow Up, and subsequent field operations."

The report offers several operational and policy recommendations, including a congressional field hearing in the Gulf Coast region to "examine the barriers to achieving an accurate and fair census" in the aftermath of the 2005 storms; a federally-funded special census in 2012 or 2013 in designated Gulf Coast communities; and appointment of a senior level Gulf Coast Coordinator to oversee final preparations and census operations in the region. Nearly 50 community groups working to address the lingering consequences of Hurricane Katrina wrote to Rep. William "Lacy" Clay (D-MO), chairman of the House census oversight subcommittee, in July, seeking a hearing on the Census Bureau's "ability to achieve an accurate count of Gulf Coast residents in the 2010 census." The advocates, led by nonprofit Moving Forward Gulf Coast and representing communities in Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama, expressed particular concern about the count of low-income and Black, Latino, and Asian American populations. Federal law (Title 13, U.S.C., §196) allows the Census Bureau to conduct special censuses in between decennial counts, at the expense of the requesting local government. A federally-funded, region-wide special census would require additional authorization and appropriations from Congress.

To download the report (or to view the report by section), go to The full press release is available at


The chairman of the House Republican Census Task Force suggested in a fundraising letter that a conservative legal advocacy group would take the Obama Administration to court, if necessary, to prevent the Census Bureau from using "statistical sampling" in the 2010 census, which the letter says will "invite rampant corruption as government bureaucrats fudge the numbers to serve Obama's liberal agenda."

Calling the census "the alpha and omega of political power in America," Rep. Lynn Westmoreland's (R-GA) appeal asks recipients to sign a "Census Defense Form" to "prevent President Barack Obama from hijacking and rigging the 2010 Census in favor of liberals," and requests a donation to help the Southeastern Legal Foundation (SLF) "defend the 2010 Census with me." SLF filed a lawsuit against President Clinton in 1998 (Glavin v. Clinton, No. 98-564), challenging the Census Bureau's plan to use sampling techniques to complete the Nonresponse Follow-Up operation and to adjust the final census numbers based on measures of undercount and overcount from a post-census survey.

House Republicans, led by then-Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-GA), filed a concurrent legal challenge to the 2000 census plan (Department of Commerce v. U.S. House of Representatives, 525 U.S. 316, 1999), which the Court considered together with the Glavin case. The U.S. Supreme Court found in the House of Representatives lawsuit that the Census Act (13 U.S.C., §195) prohibits the use of "sampling" to compile the state population totals used for congressional apportionment. The Court did not rule on the constitutionality of sampling methods.

In light of the case, the Census Bureau dropped plans to sample the final ten percent of unresponsive homes during Nonresponse Follow-up; it did conduct an Accuracy and Coverage Evaluation (A.C.E.) survey to measure undercounts and overcounts (or "coverage") in the census and determine if A.C.E.-based adjustments to the original census numbers would improve accuracy for non-apportionment purposes such as legislative redistricting and the allocation of federal program funds. The bureau decided, after two years of analysis, not to adjust the population figures for any use, citing concerns about the reliability of the A.C.E. findings.

SLF is a "national constitutional public interest law firm and policy center that advocates limited government, individual economic freedom, and the free enterprise system," according to the organization's web site ( Sharon Goessling, SLF's executive director, wrote in a February 18, 2009 op-ed in The Washington Times that statistical sampling "gives statisticians appointed by politicians the power to determine final congressional apportionment numbers. Imagine 30 million 'virtual' people; where they live and how many there are would be at the mercy of political statisticians." (The Census Bureau's permanent staff of roughly 13,000 at headquarters and in the 12 regional offices includes only a handful of political appointees, including the director, Associate Director for Communications, and Chief of Congressional Affairs.)

Current Census Director Robert Groves held a career Associate Director position at the agency during the 1990 census; he was hired by then-Director Barbara Everitt Bryant, who was appointed by President George H.W. Bush. Rep. Westmoreland's fundraising letter highlights Dr. Groves' support in that position for "manipulating the Census by using 'statistical sampling'," a reference to the recommendation by a nine-member panel of career experts at the Census Bureau to adjust the 1990 census numbers based on the results of a quality-check survey. Dr. Bryant concurred with the panel's recommendation, but Commerce Secretary Robert Mosbacher rejected an adjustment of the census. Rep. Gingrich was among lawmakers from both political parties who supported a statistical adjustment of the 1990 census, saying in an April 1991 letter to Secretary Mosbacher that an undercount in Georgia would "seriously dilut[e]" minority voting strength in the state. Dr. Groves told senators at his May 2009 confirmation hearing that he would not advocate for a statistical adjustment of the 2010 census and that the Census Bureau had not researched or prepared to implement the complex scientific procedure.

House Republican Leader John Boehner (R-OH) created the seven-member GOP Census Task Force in February, after expressing concern over what Republicans viewed as politicization of the census by the White House. (See February 23, 2009 Census News Brief for more information on the Task Force.)


The City and County of San Francisco has told Census Director Robert Groves that it would "consider all available options to ensure that the Census counts" all of its residents, if the Census Bureau does not include multilingual messages in the advance letter sent to homes next March, alerting residents to the start of the census and the arrival of questionnaires. City Attorney Dennis Herrera and Board of Supervisors President David Chiu urged Dr. Groves to "reconsider your decision to abandon the multilingual advance letter," saying the change from past practice was "bad policy that will undermine the accuracy of the Census and will worsen the already disproportional undercounts of communities where English is not the primary language."

The August 12 letter noted that almost half of San Francisco's households speak a language other than English at home and that, of those, more than half say they do not speak English very well, according to Census Bureau estimates. In the 2000 census, the advance notification letter included information in five languages other than English (Spanish, Chinese, Korean, Vietnamese, and Tagalog), allowing respondents to check a box and mail back the letter to receive a form in one of those languages. The letter also offered a toll-free number for assistance in a non-English language.

The Census Bureau's 2010 Census Advisory Committee established a subcommittee to review the issue of in-language messages on the advance letter, after the stakeholder panel expressed concern about the Census Bureau's plan at its May 2009 meeting. Agency staff said the 2000 census procedure resulted in some households mailing back questionnaires in English and another language, and that the advance letter prompted only 100,000 telephone requests for an in-language form, a number they said did not justify the resulting operational difficulties. The Census Bureau will rely instead on its public information campaign and partner organizations to spread the word about the availability of in-language questionnaires and assistance guides in 2010. San Francisco officials said that while they "applaud" these efforts, "we believe it is vital that people receive direct correspondence from the Bureau in a language they can understand." They noted that an undercount would "cost the City at least tens of millions of dollars in federal funds" and "lead to distortions in electoral apportionment."


Illinois philanthropies launch 2010 census initiative: On September 2, ten leading foundations in Illinois launched the Count Me In campaign, an unprecedented collaborative effort to support 2010 census outreach and promotion activities targeting hard-to-count populations in the state. The foundations announced grants, totaling $1.2 million, to 26 organizations that will fund 60 nonprofits whose goal is to increase census participation in 37 targeted communities. The philanthropic alliance includes the Joyce Foundation, The Chicago Community Trust, The Chicago Bar Foundation, and The Boeing Company.

In a press statement announcing the grantees, Joyce Foundation President Ellen Alberding said, "The groups we fund -- using tactics ranging from door-knocking and celebrity text messaging to barber shop and church outreach -- could persuade thousands of Illinoisans to be counted." Nora Moreno Cargie, Director of Global Corporate Citizenship at Boeing, said the initiative presented "a tremendous opportunity to leverage the strengths of the organizations we are funding to ensure that Chicago and other Illinois communities are on strong economic footing for the next decade."

A full description of Count Me In and a list of grantees and their planned projects are available at

Campaign targets Asian American communities: The Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund (AALDEF) launched a 2010 census campaign to promote participation in the diverse Asian American community. The Twenty10 Project will feature multilingual educational materials, including fact sheets in English and 13 other languages, such as Arabic, Bengali, Korean, and Tagalog.

At the August 11 initiative launch, AALDEF staff attorney and project director Glenn Magpantay said, "[A]n accurate count of the Asian American population is essential." The group says it will monitor census operations and "advocat[e] for crucial changes to Census policies," including "stronger enforcement of the confidentiality of census information, expansion of the Telephone Questionnaire Assistance (TQA) program, and relaxed immigration enforcement during enumeration."

For more information on the AALDEF census initiative and to download the multilingual fact sheets, go to


Congress returns to work this week with less than a month to complete work on funding bills for Fiscal Year 2010, which begins on October 1. The House of Representatives approved its version of the FY2010 Commerce, Justice, and Science Appropriations bill (H.R. 2847) in June. The bill allocates about $7.2 billion for the Census Bureau, including $6.7 billion for the 2010 census. The funding level is $206 million below the Administration's budget request of $7.375 billion, after an apparent misunderstanding between appropriators and the Commerce Department over whether that amount represented a carry-over of funds from FY2009 (it was, in fact, committed to a media buy for the 2010 census). The Census Bureau said it would need to dip into a $573 million contingency fund if the money is not restored when appropriators finalize the bill in a conference committee.

The Senate Appropriations Committee passed its version of the Commerce spending bill in early July, allocating $7.32 billion for the Census Bureau. The committee reduced the agency's budget request by $50 million, which it said reflected inflated assumptions about the cost of mileage reimbursement for census field workers. The full Senate has not yet considered the measure.

If Congress does not complete action on all 12 regular appropriations bills by October 1, it must pass a Continuing Resolution (CR) to keep federal agencies and programs running in the new fiscal year until enactment of final FY2010 funding bills. Temporary appropriations measures usually fund programs at current year levels, a situation that would jeopardize final preparations for the 2010 census, whose funding will more than double from 2009 to 2010.

Congress can include an exception for the Census Bureau in a Continuing Resolution, to allow the agency to spend at the higher 2010 levels that Congress is likely to approve in the end. A series of temporary appropriations bills for fiscal years 2008 and 2009 included exceptions (called "anomalies") for the Census Bureau, which was already gearing up for the decennial count. However, a six week delay in approving an exception from flat-line funding for Fiscal Year 2008 forced the Census Bureau to push back and curtail the 2008 Census Dress Rehearsal.


2008 ACS data release set for Sept. and Oct.: The Census Bureau will release annual one-year estimates from the American Community Survey on September 22, 2009, for all jurisdictions with a population of 65,000 or greater, as well as for congressional districts. The release will include data on health insurance coverage, marital history, and veterans' service-connected disability for the first time. The Census Bureau will publish three-year estimates for all geographic areas with a population greater than 20,000 on October 27, 2009.

In past years, the Census Bureau released annual ACS data on a flow basis starting in late August, when many lawmakers and journalists are on vacation. The three-year estimates will now be available six weeks earlier than in 2008, the first time the Census Bureau released data for smaller areas. These estimates are compiled from information collected in 2006 through 2008, a method designed to ensure adequate sample size for less populous areas. The first census tract-level estimates from the ACS -- called "five-year estimates" -- will be released in Fall 2010, compiled from data gathered in 2005 through 2009.

The ACS was launched nationwide in 2005 (group quarters were added in 2006) to gather a wide range of economic, demographic, and housing information previously gathered only once-a-decade on the decennial census "long form." As a result, the 2010 census will feature only a "short form," with 10 questions covering six topics.

Commerce Secretary speech to journalists highlights census: Secretary of Commerce Gary Locke used his speech to the 20th Annual National Conference of the Asian American Journalists Association to highlight the importance of the 2010 census, especially for the Asian-American community, whose share of the U.S. population has been growing rapidly. The Secretary, whose department houses the U.S. Census Bureau, described the important uses of census data and applauded the vast public information campaign already underway to promote the count. "Even with this unprecedented full-court press by Census, misperceptions and misinformation persist," Secretary Locke said, describing how fears about the census are "not irrational" but are ultimately "unfounded."

Secretary Locke was the first Chinese American elected governor (Washington State) and is married to a former television journalist. For the full text of Secretary Locke's August 12th speech, go to

Census advisory committees plan fall meetings: The Census Bureau's Census Advisory Committee of Professional Associations (CACPA) will meet on October 8 - 9, 2009, to discuss policy, research, and technical issues related to the 2010 census, as well as other agency economic and demographic programs. The committee's 36 members offer expertise in demographics, statistics, economics, marketing, and related scientific disciplines. The meeting will run from 8:30AM - 5:15PM on October 8 and from 8:30AM - 12:15PM on October 9.

The Census Bureau's five Race and Ethnic Advisory Committees will meet jointly on October 28 - 30, 2009, to discuss the 2010 census Communications Campaign, Partnership Program, and other decennial activities, including the American Community Survey. The REACs represent the views of the African American, American Indian and Alaska Native, Asian, Hispanic, and Native Hawaiian and Other Pacific Islander populations. The REAC sessions will run from 1:00 - 5:00PM on October 28, 9:00AM - 4:45PM on October 29, and 9:00AM - 12:00PM on October 30.

Both meetings will take place at Census Bureau headquarters in Suitland, MD, and are open to the public. Visitors must present photo ID and call 301-763-3231 upon arrival at the building.

The 2010 Census Advisory Committee plans to meet on November 5 - 6, 2009; the Census Bureau has not yet released a schedule for that meeting.

Census News Briefs are prepared by Terri Ann Lowenthal, an independent legislative and policy consultant specializing in the census and federal statistics. All views expressed in the News Briefs are solely those of the author. Please direct questions about the information in this News Brief to Ms. Lowenthal at Please feel free to circulate this document to other interested individuals and organizations. Ms. Lowenthal is a consultant to the nonpartisan Census Project, organized by the Communications Consortium Media Center in Washington, DC. Previous Census News Briefs are posted at

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