An accurate and affordable decennial Census may be in jeopardy if funding levels aren't rapidly increased, according to a report in Politico.
Data from the decennial Census and the American Community Survey (ACS) are essential benchmarks for producing any statistically representative studies in the United States, which is why full funding of the Census Bureau budget is a key policy priority for the marketing research and analytics industry. Moreover, the "Census affects every corner of America, determining where hundreds of billions of federal dollars flow annually, where businesses open new stores and which states gain—or lose—seats in the House of Representatives in 2020 reapportionment."
The White House initially proposed a $100 million increase for the Census Bureau for fiscal year 2018, but even that seemingly large increase is deceptively innadequate to the task. "But counting everyone is expensive, and especially so for hard-to-reach people." The Census Bureau not only has to spend "billions of dollars" finding everyone, the agency eventually sends "human enumerators into the field to follow-up with non-respondents."
The Insights Association recently spoke with Politico about the financial hurdles to executing an accurate and affordable 2020 Census:
Congress has told the Census it can’t exceed the $12 billion it spent in 2010. It has made some major changes intended to save costs, from online forms to more efficiently updating its address book. By all accounts, it’s a well-designed plan. Overall, the Census Bureau says these changes will save $5 billion—though both the GAO and the Department of Commerce inspector general have questioned the Census’s cost estimates. But experts said those savings will not happen unless Congress adequately funds the agency in the next few years so it can employ new techniques in updating its address book and test out its new technology.
“They are missing out on some important preparation steps, and it’s going to cause problems,” said Howard Fienberg, a lobbyist at the Insights Association, a trade group which represents the research industry.
The White House rejected that critique, and says the Census has the money it needs to build out its systems now. “The increase proposed in the budget blueprint provides adequate funding for the Census Bureau to support IT system investments to conduct a modernized decennial census in 2020,” said Coalter Baker, a spokesperson for the White House budget office.