With time cut from counting, now is not the moment to streamline the 2020 Census’ fact-checking phase.
At the start of August, the U.S. Census Bureau announced that it would be cutting short its counting efforts by a month. As the new deadline approaches, Sept. 30, reporters and demographers are now announcing that the Census Bureau is also streamlining the way it checks the numbers being gathered, quietly cutting parts of the plan without announcing them to the public.
One such cut was the use of local experts to review counts for housing units of historically under-counted populations — nursing homes, people of color, immigrants, renters and rural residents.
Before the cut, “the count review operation … helped the Census Bureau identify more than 240,000 housing units and 6,500 group living quarters, such as nursing homes and prisons, that were missing from the bureau’s records,” said the agency in a statement.
The Census Bureau states it has counted more than 80% of housing units in the country as of Thursday. But this does not clearly indicate how much of the American population has actually been counted so far. And with the lack of boots on the ground to check its numbers, how can anyone say with certainty that this once-in-a-decade count is trustworthy information?
As Thomas Louis, a former chief scientist at the Census Bureau puts it:
“Eliminating (the Bureau’s count review operation) will help the Bureau achieve the December 31, 2020 deadline for delivery of apportionment data, but will do so at a considerable cost in the quality and credibility of that data.”
This is unacceptable. Not only do these cuts increase the risk of inaccurate numbers leading to inaccurately dispersed funds, but these changes are hacking away at the transparency needed to maintain the people’s trust in government data.
We are in a time already charged with trust issues. Let’s not add fuel to the fire.