Wednesday, November 15, 2006

The two highest-ranking officials in the U.S. Census Bureau quit yesterday,

Read "Top 2 Census Officials Resign: Departures Could Delay Preparations for Count in 2010" by Elizabeth Williamson, The Washington Post, November 15, 2006.

Census Bureau chief C. Louis Kincannon, a statistician appointed by President Bush to lead the Bureau of the Census in 2002, and Hermann Habermann, a career statistician who runs the census operation, both resigned yesterday.

Excerpts from the article:
Kincannon officially cited family responsibilities for his departure. But in an interview he mentioned "different views perhaps about priorities" at the agency.

"My perception is that I don't have the same level of trust that I did a year or so ago," said Kincannon, who began his career at the agency in 1963. "The relationship has changed, and that relationship I regard as essential." There was no official reason given for Habermann's departure and no letter was released. Habermann could not be reached to comment......

One person with knowledge of the situation suggested that the two officials -- especially Habermann, a career employee -- were targeted by Republicans who would want to install an official who could better protect against Democratic congressional efforts to reinvigorate adjustment efforts -- a move some think could favor Democrats.
Rep. Carolyn B. Maloney (N.Y.), a member of the Government Reform Committee and former ranking Democrat on the census subcommittee, said in a statement.
"It's disturbing that two world-class statisticians who have worked for years to make sure we will have an accurate count in 2010 left on the same day so soon before the beginning of the census.

"At this point, without knowing who's taking over, it fair to say that the accuracy of the 2010 census is absolutely in jeopardy."
U.S. House of Representatives Districts are to be apportioned according to population, and reapportionment normally occurs after each census. It turns out that more Democrats are missed by census takers than Republicans. The use of statistical means to estimate total population based on the census enumeration therefore can change the basis for the reapportion of Districts. There is no doubt that the statisticians can improve the accuracy of population estimates over the pure enumeration.

Comment: Republicans seem to fear that the more accurate estimates will reduce their political power, and feel that the loss of even one vote in the House is too high a price for improved accuracy in population estimates. Democrats of course are happy to come down on the side of science since they feel doing so will strengthen them in the House. I just want the most accurate numbers on principle, and due to the fact that those numbers are the basis of a huge amount of planning in our society. JAD

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