All Things Census


Iraq Postpones Its Census, Again

Iraq was supposed to conduct a census in 2007, but it has been put off repeatedly. The latest census date was supposed to be Oct. 24, but the government announced the count has been postponed until December because of tensions over control of land in the northern region. The last census, in 1987, tallied 16 million people, but the current total is believed to be 30 million, by some accounts.


Using Census Data to Document Economic Distress

The Census Bureau just released its 2009 American Community Survey statistics, and included some additional analysis to address public interest in using the data to document the impact of the economic downturn. The agency released seven data briefs that used estimates from the ACS to address topics including poverty, household income, health insurance coverage and use of food stamps or other nutrition benefits.

Much of the media coverage of the 2009 survey estimates focused on the theme of economic distress, including this Washington Post story about child poverty, this New York Times account of the recession’s impact on marriage rates, and this USA Today article about the recession “affecting every aspect of American life.”


New Unauthorized Immigration Estimates for the U.S.

The average annual inflow of unauthorized immigrants to the United States was nearly two-thirds smaller in the March 2007 to March 2009 period than it had been from March 2000 to March 2005, according to a report released today by the Pew Hispanic Center, a project of the Pew Research Center. The estimates are based mainly on data from the Census Bureau’s Current Population Survey.

The U.S. unauthorized immigrant population declined by 8%–or about a million people–from 2007 to 2009, according to the new estimates. There were an estimated 11.1 million unauthorized immigrants living in the U.S. in March 2009, compared with 12 million in March 2007.

According to the report, the decline has been especially notable in states along the nation’s Southeast coast and in its Mountain West. By country of origin, the most marked decline has been in unauthorized immigrants from Latin American nations other than Mexico.

The new set of national estimates comes on the heels of a report released last month by the Pew Hispanic Center that provided estimates about the children of unauthorized immigrants.


Recent Reading about Census Topics

The Wall Street Journal’s Numbers Guy columnist, Carl Bialik, recently wrote a print column and blog posting about the limited amount of information available on the size of religious populations in the U.S. The Census Bureau is barred from asking about religious affiliation, but dozens of other countries do so in their own headcounts.

The BBC has an article stating that officials have given approval to including a question about caste on India’s 2011 census, a topic that was last asked about in 1931. For more background, see this posting on All Things Census, which includes links to earlier news stories about this controversial issue.

The Census Bureau’s recent announcement that it will return $1.6 billion to the U.S. Treasury in 2010 Census operational savings was widely covered, with stories by The New York Times, The Washington Post, USA Today and NPR, among others. Here is the transcript of the news conference with Commerce Secretary Gary Locke and Census Bureau Director Robert M. Groves that includes an update on the status of the 2010 Census budget and operations.


New York Prisoners and the Census

New York legislators have passed a bill that would count prisoners at their home addresses, not those where they are incarcerated, for purposes of redrawing state and local legislative districts using data from the 2010 Census next year. The provision was included in a budget bill sent to Gov. David A. Paterson for his signature.

The Census Bureau announced in February that it would release detailed numbers earlier than usual so that states would be able to use 2010 Census data to exclude prisoners from being counted at their prison locations for redistricting purposes. Some state officials and legislators contend that the current practice of counting prisoners where they are incarcerated gives disproportionate power to communities with large prisons, which are often located in sparsely populated rural areas.

Maryland enacted similar legislation earlier this year. Delaware legislators have passed a similar bill, and sent it to the state’s governor, according to the Prison Policy Initiative, a group that advocates for counting prisoners in their home communities.


Text-Messaging Plays Big Role in Indonesian Census

Indonesia, the world’s fourth-largest country, is taking a census this year, as it does each decade. Conducted in May, it relied heavily on text-messaging to convey data from enumerators in the field to their supervisors at central headquarters. According to a report on the Population Reference Bureau website, these day-by-day reports helped census officials monitor how well the count was going.

Also on the PRB website is a link to a video interview with the report’s author, Terence H. Hull, a consultant to the Indonesian census who is professor of demography in the Australian Demographic and Social Research Institute. Because of improvements in Indonesia’s census-taking this year, he forecasts that more than 240 million people will be counted, higher than the official prediction of 235 million.


Other Ways to Conduct a Census

The Wall Street Journal’s “The Numbers Guy” columnist, Carl Bialik, has weighed in on the debate over whether Americans should be required by law to fill in their census forms, and whether there are other ways to take the census. In an online column, he expanded on the challenges of conducting a mandatory census.

His print column includes comments from Tom Rickenbacker, son of the late William F. Rickenbacker, a National Review staff member who was fined $100 for refusing to fill in his 1960 Census form. The Rickenbacker case was one of the few times the government has prosecuted someone for violating the law that requires Americans to complete the form.

The Bialik column ends on this note: “So instead, the Census Bureau walks a fine line, calling participation mandatory but avoiding potential negative publicity from enforcing the law. This has worked on Tom Rickenbacker, who said, ‘I kind of believe somewhat in my father’s standpoint. I don’t believe they need to know that stuff.’ But, he added, ‘I fill it out and respond anyway.’”


Divergent World Population Trends

The Population Reference Bureau released its 2010 World Population Data Sheet today, focusing on the theme of divergent demographics in developed and developing nations. Population is barely growing in developed nations, where birth rates tend to be low and the number of elderly is increasing rapidly. Developing nations, where birth rates are higher, are projected to account for virtually all world population growth in coming decades.

The data sheet includes a chart showing nations with the world’s oldest populations, all of which are developed countries. At the top is Japan, where 22.6% of the population is 65 and older (in the U.S., the equivalent share is 13%). Another chart shows nations with the youngest populations, all of which are developing countries. At the top is Niger, where 50.1% of the population is under 15 (in the U.S., 20% of the population is under 15).

The data sheet includes 19 population, health and environment measures for more than 200 countries.


Federal Funding and the American Community Survey

Data from the Census Bureau’s American Community Survey help guide the distribution of 29% of federal domestic assistance spending and 69% of federal grant spending, according to a new Brookings Institution report. In dollar figures, that was $416 billion in assistance spending and $389.2 billion in grant funding during the 2008 fiscal year.

The report explains how the ACS, a monthly household survey that replaced the once-a-decade census long form, guides the distribution of funds. It argues that the nation receives a substantial return from taxpayer investment in the ACS because of its function in equitable distribution of federal money. The report is accompanied by a slide presentation from a Capitol Hill briefing that summarizes its main points. The report web site also includes a table listing the federal programs whose funds are guided by the ACS data, and a list of funding received in each state as well as large counties and metropolitan areas.

In March, Brookings released a report documenting the range of federal programs whose funding distribution is guided by census data.


United Kingdom May Drop Traditional Census

The United Kingdom will conduct a traditional census next year, but it may be the last of its kind, according to the British Cabinet minister in charge of the count. Francis Maude told the Daily Telegraph newspaper that there are ways to “provide better, quicker information, more frequently and cheaper.”

Britain has conducted a census each decade since 1801, with the exception of 1941 during World War II. But Maude said the count is out of date by the time its results are published the following year. He noted that 1.5 million households did not fill out census forms during the 2001 census, making the count incomplete. Maude suggested that one alternative would be to use administrative data in government records or from private databases to assemble a population count, and that it might be done more frequently than once each decade.

The government’s Office of National Statistics has issued a statement that changes to the traditional census are being considered as part of a project called Beyond 2011, whose missions is to “develop a range of options for the production of population statistics beyond the 2011 Census. It is considering how a number of different data sources could be used to produce the key information needed to support effective decision-making.” Read more