Information Items

 

October 7, 2020
Information Items for AEA Committees on
Economic Statistics and Government Relations


October 7, 2020
Information Items from Late Summer 2020

AEA Committees on Economic Statistics and Government Relations

  1. Numerous problems affect expected accuracy of 2020 Census.
    COVID-19 related complications and delays led the Census Bureau to request and the House of Representatives to approve adding an additional 3 months to the to the Census schedule, extending Nonresponse Follow-Up (NRFU) activities and the quality checks that follow completion of Census data collection. The Bureau had asked Congress to extend the deadline for turning in apportionment data from Dec. 31, 2020, to April 30, 2021. The request to Congress also asked that the deadline for turning in data used for drawing legislative and local districts be extended from March 30, 2021, to July 31, 2021.

    On August 3, the Trump administration rescinded that request, and on 3 August Census Director Dillingham announced that field operations would end on September 30, 4 weeks earlier than planned (https://2020census.gov/en/news-events/press-releases/delivering-complete-accurate-count.html), requiring apportionment data be delivered on December 31,2020. The Bureau also canceled the count review operation that was scheduled for mid-September, and has begun reviewing which data quality checks will be dropped as a result of the compressed timetable. On August 7, AEA Committees sent a letter to Congressional leadership urging extension of the count and process in order to assure an accurate 2020 Census (https://www.aeaweb.org/content/file?id=12799). A number of partisan and some bipartisan bills have been drafted to revive the Census extension.

    In the meantime, 3 new political appointees were named to the Census Bureau. AEA Committees issued a Statement on the Need for Accurate and Reliable Data from the 2020 Decennial Census, in which the rationale for first two appointments, and the responsibilities of the appointees were questioned (https://www.aeaweb.org/content/file?id=12542). The third appointee, designated as “Deputy Director for Data” was appointed on August 17 (https://www.census.gov/newsroom/press-releases/2020/statement-from-census-bureau-on-deputy-director-for-data.html), a remarkably late time to expect someone who had not previously been involved with Census operations to be up for the job implied by the title.

    In related news, President Trump released an executive order barring Illegal aliens from the Apportionment Base following the 2020 Census (https://www.whitehouse.gov/presidential-actions/memorandum-excluding-illegal-aliens-apportionment-base-following-2020-census/). This action is being challenged in the court system by a large number of States and public interest organizations. AND Several States are sharing driver's license and state ID records with the Census Bureau in response to the Trump administration’s (unenforceable) request to determine the U.S. citizenship status of every adult living in the country.

    For up-to-date syntheses of the 2020 Census situation and what these actions and events imply for the accuracy of the Census and for other Federal statistics based on the Census, see: https://www.sciencemag.org/news/2020/08/will-2020-census-numbers-be-good-enough-and-how-soon-will-we-know  and  https://www.tampabay.com/florida-politics/buzz/2020/08/27/politifact-could-an-undercounted-2020-census-afflict-a-range-of-federal-statistics/
  2. “Efforts to Save the Census,” a voluntary action item: https://thecensusproject.org/2020/08/27/efforts-to-savethecensus/ The Census Project notes that there is a brief window to push Congress to include an extension of the statutory 2020 Census data reporting deadlines in upcoming legislation and to encourage Senators to support that effort. It outlines ways that organizations and individuals can take actions to encourage that. It also offers talking points for use in communicating with law makers and grassroots, as well as helpful resources, including a one-pager on 2020 Census extension (https://www.insightsassociation.org/legal-article/don%E2%80%99t-rush-2020-census) and a letter from the business community on the importance of an accurate Census (https://censusproject.files.wordpress.com/2020/08/biz-letter-2020-census-deadlines-8-11-20.pdf).  This opportunity for individuals/institutions has been posted on EconSpark and noted via #EconTwitter.
  3. The members of the Advisory Committee on Data for Policymaking have been announced. The Advisory Committee is a key element of OMB’s Data Strategy. Its duties include “assisting the Director of OMB on issues of access to data and providing recommendations on how to facilitate data sharing, data linkage, and privacy enhancing techniques.” In so doing, one of its responsibilities is to propose how to establish a National Secure Data Service. OMB delegated responsibility for the Advisory Committee to the Commerce Department’s Office of the Under Secretary for Economic Affairs. See https://www.bea.gov/evidence for Committee members and future meetings. The Committee includes three statistical agency heads – Brian Moyer, Barry Johnson, and Emilda Rivers, and 3 other economists – Julia Lane, Amy O’Hara, and Ken Troske. 
  4. Data Foundation Report on Strengthening the Federal Statistical System. This report by Nick Hart and Nancy Potok report proposes a strategy for developing a National Secure Data Service that would revolutionize the federal government’s data analysis capabilities, while promoting and expanding privacy protections available today. The authors propose that a public-private Federally Funded Research and Development Center partnership be the vehicle for a National Secure Data Service. https://www.datafoundation.org/modernizing-us-data-infrastructure-2020 . See a recorded summary and synthesis of the report by Nick Hart and Nancy Potok:  https://vimeo.com/448667923
  5. Health Data Reporting Changes. In July, HHS announced that hospitals would be required to report data on Covid-19 patients and deaths directly to HHS via a new reporting system, rather than to both HHS and the CDC, as they had been doing. Public health experts decry the reporting change because of how it could disrupt public access to the data https://www.npr.org/sections/health-shots/2020/07/15/891351706/white-house-strips-cdc-of-data-collection-role-for-covid-19-hospitalizations
  6. Contingent Workers Survey. To better measure the changing nature of employment, independent contracting, freelance work, & jobs with unstable hours, a new report from NAS' Committee on National Statistics recommends that BLS add new questions to the Contingent Worker Survey: https://www.nap.edu/catalog/25822/measuring-alternative-work-arrangements-for-research-and-policy
  7. The 2020 Federal Committee on Statistical Methodology Fall Research and Policy Conference will take place on Sept 21 and will be 100% virtual. The program is excellent and delivers a great way to catch up on innovative research and policy applications of federal statistics. Register at https://www.fcsm2020.org/

March 29, 2019

1. The deadline for submissions in response to the AEAStat solicitation for sessions at the 2020 AEA meetings has been extended to April 15. The notice is posted at https://www.aeaweb.org/about-aea/committees/economic-statistics/annual-meeting

2. The President’s Proposed FY2020 Budget

The consensus is that the President’s 2020 budget is dead on arrival to the Congress. However, its major inclinations give powerful signals about the Administration’s priorities, and details released this week are interesting. The budget proposal addresses both funding and reorganization.

Science agency funding would be slashed:

  • NIH’s budget would drop from $39.1 billion to $34.4 billion (12 percent cut).
  • NSF’s budget would drop from $8.1 billion to $7.1 billion (12 percent cut).
    • Social, Behavioral and Economic Science would be cut by $19 million, about 8-percent
  • The Department of Energy’s Office of Science’s budget would drop from $6.6 billion to $5.5 billion (17 percent cut).
  • The Environmental Protection Agency’s budget would drop from $8.8 billion to $6.1 billion (31 percent cut).
  • The budget of the National Institute of Standards and Technology would drop from $986 million to $688 million (30 percent cut).

Statistical agency funding would remain more or less flat, with some exceptions (see: https://www.whitehouse.gov/wp-content/uploads/2019/03/ap_18_statistics-fy2020.pdf)

  • The Census Bureau would receive $7.2 billion, a multi-billion dollar increase, some of which is an anticipated rollover from FY 2019 funding, that would be devoted to implementation of the 2020 Census.
  • BLS would receive a $40 million increase, some if not all of which would go to moving costs and a new lease.
  • The Economic Research Service budget would be cut by 30-percent, and 15.5 million of its total budget of $61 million is designated for staff relocation costs.

Reorganizations of interest:

  • The President’s 2020 budget proposal reiterates the move of BLS from the Labor Department to the Commerce Department to improve coordination and collaboration of economic statistics.
  • The Economic Research Service would be taken out of USDA’s Research, Education and Economics Under Secretary and placed, instead, in the Secretary’s office under direction of a Chief Economist. The bulk of ERS staff (all but 75 positions) would be relocated outside of the DC Metro area. The agency’s research programs in food assistance, food safety, and rural economic development would be defunded.

3. Kitty Smith Evans was one of 4 former USDA Senior Executives who gave testimony March 27 before the House Agricultural Appropriations Subcommittee on USDA’s Proposed Relocation of the Economic Research Service and the National Institute of Food and Agriculture. The hearing can be viewed at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mkKH7XiAmwE

4. Wilbur Ross testified for nearly 7 hours before the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee on the 2020 Census citizenship question. Fascinating and frustrating to watch. It is recorded on YouTube at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0EncbVI7srU

5. The Department of Labor has created a new Chief Data Officer position, as required of all Departments under the Foundations for Evidence Based Policymaking Act. It is the first Department to do so. https://www.dol.gov/newsroom/releases/osec/osec20190313

6. The National Institutes of Health (NIH) has issued a request for stakeholder input to gauge interest in NIH expending funds to develop, host, and maintain a secure environment (data enclave) that would allow approved research organizations controlled access to structured, de-identifiable NIH administrative and scientific information not made available to the public. Comments are due no later than May 30, 2019. https://grants.nih.gov/grants/guide/notice-files/NOT-OD-19-085.html

7. Public comments on the proposed reinstatement of BJS’s 2019 Supplemental Victimization Survey (SVS) to the National Crime Victimization Survey (NCVS) are due by April 8, 2019 https://www.federalregister.gov/documents/2019/02/07/2019-01497/agency-information-collection-activities-proposed-ecollection-ecomments-requested-reinstatement

8. The Economic Report of the President was released on March 19, 2019. https://www.whitehouse.gov/wp-content/uploads/2019/03/ERP-2019.pdf

9. Papers and slides from NBER’s CRIW Conference, “Big Data for 21st Century Economic Statistics,” are available at: https://papers.nber.org/sched/CRIWs19

10. The first meeting of the CNSTAT Panel on Measuring Contingent Work and Alternative Work Arrangements will be held March 29 in Washington, DC. This session is open to the public. http://sites.nationalacademies.org/cs/groups/dbassesite/documents/webpage/dbasse_191861.pdf

11. The 2019 American Community Survey Data Users Conference will be held in Washington, DC May 14-15, 2019. To register: https://acsdatacommunity.prb.org/p/conferences

12. The Federal Reserve System’s Community Development Research Conference, “Renewing the Promise of the Middle Class,” will be held in Washington, DC May 9-10, 2019. For conference information, agenda, and registration, see: https://web.cvent.com/event/e5c9d5b6-c4d5-4535-b4f5-975eb8434cb9/summary