A Future Without Key Social and Economic Statistics for the Country

Robert Groves, director of the U.S. Census Bureau, on the Appropriations Bill:

The Appropriations Bill eliminates the Economic Census, which measures the health of our economy. It terminates the American Community Survey, which produces the social and demographic information that monitors the impact of economic trends on communities throughout the country. It halts crucial development of ways to save money on the next decennial census. In the last three years the Census Bureau has reacted to budget and technological challenges by mounting aggressive operational efficiency programs to make these key statistical cornerstones of the country more cost efficient. Eliminating them halts all the progress to build 21st century statistical tools through those innovations. This bill thus devastates the nation’s statistical information about the status of the economy and the larger society.

A lot of the negative comments following the post are from people who have never used Census data, or any substantial amount of data for that matter, and have no clue how a dataset can feed into a model to make other estimates. Then there’s the people who don’t want to answer questions about their toilets. I wonder what their Facebook profiles look like.


  • It’s not unreasonable to ask bureaucracies to justify themselves, both in terms of costs vs. benefit and constitutional role. I think the Economic Census and the ACS easily pass both tests, so I am disappointed in the Congress for this. At the same time, the level of discourse in the comments section is equally disappointing. Name-calling, ad hominem attacks, groundless accusations of bad faith aren’t helpful.

    Both Congress and the executive branch need this or similar data to effectively perform their constitutionally mandated responsibilities; without it government will be less efficient, not more. (The fact that academics, businesses and visualization blogs benefit as well is a nice side effect, but not central to the argument.)

  • Its nice that most of the comments are positive and the few negative ones are met with detailed and measured responses explaining the usefulness of the data.

  • I remember in the 1980s here in Australia when some politicians went thru everything our bureau of statistics collected. “chicken hatchings” sounded so trivial to them and they said they were not to be collected. Thus we had no idea about how much chicken meat was on the way. A huge agricultural industry just completely ignored. Needless to say the decision didn’t last long as agricultural and retial interests fought for the dat ato be collected. Back data was collected and the series was collected again.