Saturday, December 29, 2012

Census Dotmap

A friend just alerted me to this map, produced by someone using the Census 2010 data. Interesting!

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Current Population Survey: 2011
The tables include detailed statistics about five-year age groups by sex, the 55-and-older population, the Hispanic population, the black population and the Asian population. The tables provide a wide range of social, economic and housing characteristics, such as marital status, educational attainment, nativity, employment status, occupation, poverty and housing tenure. The Current Population Survey, which has been conducted since 1940, is sponsored jointly by the U.S. Census Bureau and the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Webinar on the American Community Survey Estimates: 12/3/12, 1 pm EDT

Media Advisory — Census Bureau to Host Web Conference on 2007-2011 American Community Survey Estimates that Provide Statistics for Every Community across the Nation
The U.S. Census Bureau will hold a web conference on Monday, Dec. 3, 2012, 1 p.m. (EST), to discuss the Dec. 6 release of the 2007-2011 American Community Survey estimates. The webinar will include guidance on how to access and use the upcoming five-year estimates and a question-and-answer session.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Census webinar: 11/20/2012

Media Advisory — Census Bureau Webinar to Discuss Equal Employment Opportunity Tabulation that Provides a Profile of America’s Workforce
The U.S. Census Bureau will hold a webinar to discuss the upcoming release of the Equal Employment Opportunity Tabulation. This tabulation is produced for the federal agencies responsible for monitoring employment practices and enforcing civil rights laws in the workforce, and for employers so they can measure their compliance with civil right laws and regulations. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, Department of Justice, Department of Labor and the Office of Personnel Management sponsored this tabulation.
Previous tabulations were made available every decennial census since 1970. However, this tabulation uses five years of data collected (2006-2010) from the American Community Survey. The latest tabulation highlights the diversity of the labor force (by sex, race, and ethnicity) across several variables, including detailed occupations, industry, earnings, education, citizenship, employment status, age, residence and worksite geographies for the nation, states, metropolitan areas, counties and places. Selected tables will also include county-to-county commuting flows.
Please dial in by phone to listen to a simultaneous audio conference while viewing the online presentation. A question-and-answer session will follow the presentation.
Wednesday, Nov. 28, 2012; 1 p.m. (EST)
Jennifer Cheeseman Day, assistant division chief for employment characteristics, Social, Economic and Housing Statistics Division
Audio conference-access information

U.S.: 800-857-4620
Participant passcode: CENSUS

Online presentation-access information
URL (caption link):
Conference number: PW7864526
Audience passcode: CENSUS

Please follow @uscensusbureau on Twitter, Facebook, Flickr, YouTube and Ustream.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

A few questions from CMRS 2012

At the 2012 Critical Mixed Race Studies conference at DePaul University in Chicago, IL, I gave two informal presentations about NAC matters. As with this blog, I intended to share information and to hear people’s questions and concerns. Here are a few of the questions people raised -- I offer them as food for thought and discussion.

1. Will the Census Bureau attempt to use Census 2010 data as the Third Party Record of first resort? (Census 2010 complies with OMB Directive 15. However, the racial categories between 2010 and 2020 will likely differ and have areas that don’t match. Further, young people may self-identify in 2020 differently than their parents identified them in 2010.)

2. If and when the Census Bureau uses Third Party Records, what algorithms will it use for tabulating people who have marked TOMR? And what about people who’ve marked TOMR when MOOM is available, but marked a single race when MOOM was not available? (Questions and potential responses will vary across different entities’ records -- and people’s responses to some questions may vary across contexts and over time.)

3. How might the Census Bureau use its position as a potential data-buyer to leverage Administrative Records data-sellers to comply with OMB Dir. 15?

4. Will there be a “Mark One Or More” option for the Hispanic ethnicity question, if that question is retained as a separate question? (For example, if someone identifies as Two Or More Races: White and Some Other Race might also want to identify as both “Non-Hispanic” and “Hispanic” -- however, the Hispanic ethnicity question currently only allows respondents to check only one.) Further, if a respondent were to be allowed to check more than one for that question, how would the responses then be tabulated?

5. Where do lusophones (Portuguese speakers) fit in the Hispanic category? In governmental parlance, Hispanic refers to people who are “of Spanish speaking descent.” (This also creates the complication that Spaniards are Hispanic and Mexicans are Hispanic, but the US racializes those two groups in very different ways -- they’re treated differently, but are counted as the same.) But Portuguese is not Spanish; it’s Portuguese. For governmental purposes, are lusophones “Hispanic” or not? In the US, lusophone Brazilians would likely be racialized in ways very similar to Hispanics -- yet they are not Hispanic, they’re lusophone. And, as with Spaniards and Mexicans, the US racializes Portuguese and Brazilians differently. Further, where might lusophones fit if the Race & Hispanic ethnicity questions are combined and a Latino category is added?

6. Will the Census 2020 have a way to recognize Creoles? And if Creole recognition is included, in what format should it be included? (Currently, Census recognition for Creoles might be limited to using the “Some Other Race” category or to using one of the five racial categories, depending on how one positions Creoles relative to the US’s prevailing system of racialization.)

Saturday, November 17, 2012

NAC Meetings: Dates

For folks interested in making a public comment prior to or at one of the NAC meetings, I'm posting the dates for the meetings, below.

I'm not yet sure how the public comment period works.  At the first NAC meeting, one person presented a brief position in-person -- I imagine there's a process for signing up to speak during the public comment period.  I also imagine that there's a process for submitting public comments via letter or email (or at least webform?).  However, I also don't yet know what that process is.  (If folks out there know, please post what you know in the comments section and cite your sources.)

March 13-14, 2013: In-person meeting #2, Washington, DC.

June 27, 2013: Virtual meeting #1

October 31-November 1, 2013: In-person meeting #3, Washington, DC.

March 20-21, 2014: In-person meeting #4, Washington, DC.

June 19, 2014: Virtual meeting #2

October 9-10, 2014: In-person meeting #4, Washington, DC.

Combining the Race and "Hispanic ethnicity" questions?

After each decennial Census, the Census Bureau produces reports about the data -- but it also reflects on the process and technical aspects of the Census survey and methods.  To test out possible changes to future Censuses, the Census Bureau conducts "Alternative Questionnaire Experiments (AQEs)."  The AQEs are small-scale experiments and research projects that ask, "What might happen if we changed X about the Census?"  

Some of the AQEs explore potential changes to survey questions about race and ethnicity.  The questions about race and ethnicity change pretty much every Census.  Take a look at the questions from the 1790 Census, the 1890 Census, the 1990 Census, and the 2010 Census and you'll see that the questions about race are different each time.  Why?  That's a big question, but one short answer is the questions about race on the surveys change because the questions about race in larger society change.  So, the Census Bureau conducts some AQEs to explore the possible effects of various potential changes to the questions.  The Census Bureau has recently released a lengthy report detailing what they learned from a set of AQEs about race and ethnicity questions.  This press release provides a brief summary.  

Today, I want to draw attention to one AQE and possible option, in particular: a combined race and Hispanic ethnicity question.  Historically, the Census has long asked questions about race on its decennial surveys.  But, the separate "Hispanic ethnicity" question is relatively new; it was first introduced in 1970.  Since then, the Census has asked about "race" and "ethnicity" as two separate questions.  But, the Census Bureau is now testing what might happen if it combined the two questions. One reason to do this is that the Census has found that having two separate questions confuses many people and that leads to less accurate data.  For example, the Census Bureau has found that most people who check the "Some Other Race" box for the race question, if you ask them, will say they're Latin@ or Chican@ -- but because those aren't options in the race question, they check "Other."  When the Census introduced the "Some Other Race" category, they figured their race options were broad enough that very few people would check "Some Other Race."  Clearly, they were mistaken.  The population of people who check "Some Other Race" is significant and growing.  So, a change is needed.  But what change?  Well, one possibility is to include a "Latino" category in the race question and phase out the separate question "Are you Hispanic: yes or no?"  

What might happen if the Census combined the race and ethnicity questions?  The AQE suggests a few possible consequences.  First, it would likely increase the accuracy of counts of Latinos.  Second, it might reveal that the White population is actually smaller than we thought, by maybe 6-8 percentage points (because some of them are actually Latinos being miscounted, given the way the questions are asked).  And third, it might increase the number of people who check Latino AND another race -- that could mean that the number of people who identify as Two Or More Races could increase and it could also mean that, among the TOMR population, there could be an increase in the number of people who identify as Latino-and-another-race.  

-What do you think of a possible combined race-and-ethnicity question?  What questions do you have?
-Who do you think might _oppose_ a combined question?  Why might they oppose it?  And, knowing that people may not always be forthright about their real motives, what arguments might people pose for opposing a combined question?

I'd like to give a shout-out to Thomas Lopez putting this issue on my radar, well before I joined the NAC.  Thomas is a leader with Multiethnic Americans of Southern California (MASC) and founder of MASC's Latinas and Latinos of Mixed Ancestry (LOMA) project.

Cost-cutting and "Third-Party Records"

On October 25-26, 2012, I attended the first in-person meeting of the NAC in Washington, DC.  At the meeting, I met members of the Census Bureau staff and most of the NAC members.  During the meeting, we received presentations on various topics relevant to the NAC's work.  In this post, I'll say a bit about one of the topics I think is most relevant to issues of racial justice and to people who mark Two Or More Races (TOMR):  the use of Third-Party Records as a cost-efficiency strategy.

The Census Bureau is responsible for producing the Constitutionally-mandated decennial (every 10-year) census, but it is also responsible for a variety of other services, including the annual American Community Survey (ACS) and other surveys.  The decennial Census and other surveys provide data that's important for a number of reasons.  Among their many uses, the data is used for apportioning Congressional seats for political representation, for allocating tax dollars for programs, and for providing a baseline against which claims of civil rights violations can be evaluated.  To provide one simplified example, if we know that a particular racial group is X% of the total U.S. population, but that they're more than three times X% of the people stopped-and-frisked by police, then we can use that information as part of an argument that that racial group is being discriminated against.  Without the baseline data, we don't have a point of comparison.  The decennial Census is one such survey that provides some of those baseline data.

Congressional budget cuts are putting pressure on the Census Bureau to be more efficient.  For example, Congress has directed the Census Bureau to deliver Census 2020 at approximately the same cost as Census 2000 -- that's a major budget cut, particularly given that each decade, the Census costs more to conduct, not less.  At the same time, people are less responsive to survey efforts and are more wary of participating; this is, I'm told, a global trend.  So, the Census is looking at various ways to increase accuracy while cutting costs.

One notable strategy being considered is the use of what is being called, variously, "administrative records" or "third-party records" (TPR).  Imagine this: You're the Census Bureau and you're conducting a survey.  You want to survey as many of the people relevant to the survey as you can; you want to be accurate; and you want to be as efficient as possible.  Perhaps you start by sending people a paper survey; that's relatively inexpensive and many people will respond right away.  However, to reach the people who don't respond right away via the paper survey, you might want to follow-up with them via a phone call or, if that doesn't work, to talk to them in-person -- and that's expensive.  That's where third-party records might start to look appealing.

Say you haven't been able to get Jane X to respond to your survey.  You've sent her a survey.  You've send her a follow-up note.  You've called her three times.  This is getting expensive.  Remember, there's millions of non-respondents like Jane X; it adds up.  You could send someone to Jane X's house -- maybe she's there, maybe she isn't and each visit is expensive.  Or, you could decide that, at some point in the cost-curve, you're just going to ask someone else about Jane X -- someone who HAS been able to successfully gather information from Jane X.  That "someone" is a "third party."  Third parties might include other governmental agencies (e.g., the Department of Education) and private entities (e.g., businesses who gather, track, and analyze data -- aka "Big Data" -- but also other businesses that you might know, like  So, instead of visiting Jane X for a first, second, or third time, maybe you buy access to the databases of the Department of Education or some "Big Data" company.  Jane X has probably filled out some Department of Education form at some point -- and, if you can't reach Jane X, well, maybe you could just take some of that data and use it to fill in what you don't already know about Jane X.  Sound like a technically sensible strategy?

But, there are some problems with using Third-Party Records.  One set of problems has to do with privacy and data security.  That set of problems is outside my area of expertise and there's a few people on the NAC who're experts and advocates on such issues.  Another set of problems more directly relates to my own areas of interest: racial justice.  The Census Bureau runs small-scale experiments to test out possible strategies -- and the results from tests of using Third-Party Records seems to indicate that there are racial disparities in the accuracy of TPR data.

TPR data is worse at filling in information about People of Color than it is about White people.  And TPR data is particularly bad at filling in information about People of Color who identify as Two Or More Races (TOMR).  And when I say particularly bad, I mean that TPR data on Whites might be 90+% accurate -- but for Monoracial People of Color, it might be somewhere in the 70% to 90% range -- and for TOMR People of Color, it's somewhere between 4%-36% accurate.  And that's a really marked racial disparity in accuracy.  This disparity for TOMR respondents might be created, in part, because many third parties don't allow people to "Mark One or More" races -- this, despite the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) Directive 15, which instructs Federal agencies and those entities that receive Federal funding to use formats that allow people to "Mark One or More" races.  With data that're inaccurate in racially skewed ways, it becomes more difficult to use data to make claims and cases about racial discrimination -- we're back to the baseline data idea.

Currently, it's my sense that the Census Bureau is seriously considering the use of Third-Party Records as a cost-efficiency strategy, given the deep financial cuts.  So, while people might consider advocating against use of TPR data, I'm not sure how strategic or winnable that might be.  I think we should, at least, be considering and discussing ways to reduce the racial disparities created by the use of TPR data.

I have many questions about the use of Third-Party Records.  What creates these racial disparities in accuracy?  What would the consequences of these racial disparities be?  How might we reduce those racial disparities and improve the accuracy of TPR data use?  I, along with some of my fellow NAC members, have proposed convening a Working Group to explore questions about Third Party Record use.

QUESTIONS FOR YOU:  What're your thoughts about Third Party Record use?  What're your questions and concerns?  And do you know people who might be important to include in discussions about such issues?  Maybe people who'd be available to participate in an NAC Working Group?

Please discuss in the comments section, below -- and/or email me at

An introduction

In 2012, the U.S. Census Bureau put out a call for volunteers to serve on their newly forming National Advisory Committee (NAC) on Racial, Ethnic, and Other Populations*.  The NAC's purpose is,

"[to] advise the Census Bureau on a wide range of variables that affect the cost, accuracy and implementation of the Census Bureau“s programs and surveys, including the once-a-decade census. The committee, which is comprised of 32 members from multiple disciplines, will advise the Census Bureau on topics such as housing, children, youth, poverty, privacy, race and ethnicity, as well as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and other populations." (from the 2012 press release)

The NAC is enabled by the 1972 Federal Advisory Committee Act (FACA), which allows Federal agencies to organize Advisory Committees to provide non-binding advice to those agencies.  The NAC is a new configuration that draws on the Census Bureau's previous set of Racial & Ethnic Advisory Committees (REACs).  Of the 32 people who serve on the NAC, 15 are former members of the REACs, with three members of each REAC grandparented onto the NAC.

My name is Eric Hamako.  In 2012, a coalition of Mixed-Race organizations' leaders nominated me for one of the positions on the NAC.  The Census Bureau selected me as one of the NAC's 32 members.  My term began in October 2012 and will run for two years, until 2014.  The NAC met in-person for the first time in late-October 2012 and will meet several more times between 2012 and 2014 (three more in-person meetings and two virtual meetings).  The NAC is also empowered to convene Working Groups on topics it chooses to explore; Working Groups are allowed to recruit participants from outside the NAC.  (If you'd like to see some of the documents related to the NAC and its first in-person meeting, please see the GoogleDocs folder accessible in the Resources tab of this blog.)

I've created this blog to share information I learn through working with the NAC, to share my own thoughts, and to provide a platform for gathering people's thoughts and fostering discussion about NAC-related matters.  In my position on the NAC, I am not formally a representative of any organization or group.  However, it's my hope that I'll be in communication with other people who care about the issues and populations related to the NAC and the Census Bureau's work.  


*Note: Currently, the Census Bureau has several National Advisory Committees; however, for the purposes of this blog, when I refer to the NAC, I'm referring to the National Advisory Committee on Racial, Ethnic, and Other Populations.