The Insights Association joined with 82 other business and community groups to call for serious investment in modernizing the Census Bureau in Fiscal Year 2022 (FY22).

In the November 8, 2021 Census Project letter, the groups urged funders on Capitol Hill "to provide the Census Bureau with no less than the amount that the House CJS subcommittee recommended, and the U.S. House of Representatives approved: $1,442,401,000."

However,"the Census Bureau needs a more substantial increase," which is why IA and other stakeholders have been making the case "throughout the FY 2022 deliberations... to provide the Census Bureau with $2 billion, a funding level that represents a $335 million increase over the agency’s FY 2021 total funding level of $1.65 billion."

The need for such an increase was highlighted by the Census Bureau's announcement today that the 5-year estimates from the American Community Survey (ACS) - the only statistically-reliable data released by the Bureau for smaller geographies and demographic subgroups - would be delayed because of difficulties in response rates during COVID-19.

The groups' letter highlighted several areas that could be addressed with proper funding, such as:

  • "Modernizing the Bureau’s data infrastructure — The Census Bureau needs to harness currently available Big Data technology and methodology to reduce respondent burden and realign the Bureau's already-existing data from multiple sources into universal "frames." A significant increase in funding for the Census Frames initiative, which was only funded at about $12.7 million in FY 2021, will allow the Census Bureau to reduce duplication, increase ease and usability of federal statistical data, enhance the quality of Bureau products, facilitate analysis of the U.S. population and economy, and ensure that the federal government can utilize administrative data, responsibly and appropriately, to maximum advantage before burdening survey respondents."
  • "Enhancing the American Community Survey (ACS) — As part of the overall Frames Initiative, the Census Bureau needs the flexibility to combine data sources with the ACS, the ongoing survey that replaced the “long form” of the Census in 2005 which provides consistent, timely and accurate data about the nation’s changing socioeconomic and demographic characteristics, to produce more timely granular data for a significant number of geographies (e.g. rural and remote regions) and sub-populations (e.g., American Indians and Alaska Natives) than achievable from the current ACS 5-year estimates. ACS data are an invaluable resource that data users, state and local governments, planners, and businesses rely on throughout the decade to make key investment and policy decisions as well as to conduct research and evaluate programs. The Bureau also needs to continue to use the ACS “as a testbed for innovative survey and data processing techniques,” as the Senate Appropriations Committee directed in its FY 2022 CJS report. Funding for the ACS has remained relatively stagnant in recent years, including a little over $226 million in FY 2021. The Bureau needs additional funding (no less than $45 million to increase the sample size by at least 1 million households) to properly plan and execute an expansion of the ACS, beginning in FY 2022 and to initiate postponed technological and methodological enhancements to the survey."

The Census Bureau, like most of the federal government, is currently operation under a continuing funding resolution since Congress failed to approve FY22 funding legislation before the end of the fiscal year.

On a more positive note, the Senate recently confirmed a new director for the Census Bureau, Robert Santos, endorsed by the Insights Association.