The writers of Article I Sec. 2 of the Constitution, which mandates a census every ten years, did not have satellite analysis and probabilistic sampling in mind. Neither did they imagine a United States with more than 325 million people spread across the fourth largest country on Earth. But having created a system that ties representation to population, certainly they understood that the seemingly simple question of how to count Americans would be a political battleground. The results of the U.S. census are far more important than most Americans realize. Census data are the starting point for redistricting and reapportionment – adding and removing House districts from states as population changes dictate – not to mention the distribution of billions of dollars in federal funding. Housing assistance, highway maintenance and Medicare/Medicaid are just three examples of programs that distribute federal dollars to states in the form of grants based on census results. Undercounting populations guarantees that over the next decade, states will be strapped for funding in these areas. And that is likely to happen if Republicans in Congress get their way. Under cover of the non-stop Trump circus, they are quietly working behind the scenes to ensure that the 2020 census fails – and fails to their advantage.
In its earliest years, census-taking was labor intensive. Census workers walked door-to-door counting heads. The relatively small size of the country and its limited population made this feasible into the 19th century. Explosive population growth after 1850 made this impractical, though, so the mail-and-return census form was added to supplement the work done on foot. As long as sending and receiving mail was part of daily life for most Americans, this worked well.
Which brings us to today. When was the last time you mailed a piece of paper? Your answer to that question might reveal why the census is now hampered by the low response rates on mailed forms. Given the sheer size and density of the population, door-to-door head counting is not a workable solution either. So the Census Bureau has added new tools to its arsenal. It now does Big Data analysis of U.S. Postal Service records, satellite analysis of housing blocks and statistical projection of population in dense areas where it is not practical to find every last resident. These are efforts to overcome a simple and obvious problem: It isn’t easy to count every person in a large and populous country.
Ahead of the 2010 census, Republicans expressed skepticism about the Census Bureau’s increasing use of statistical methods to estimate population in cities. Taking their usual approach of dismissing as voodoo all things scientific and data-driven, they labeled the bureau’s efforts a plot to fabricate liberals out of thin air. Their objections had little effect on that year’s census, though, since Democrats controlled Congress from 2006 to 2010 and, of course, the White House after 2008. You’ll no doubt be shocked to hear that their complaints died down when it became clear that the 2010 census produced favorable results for Republicans.
Full Article: Why Republicans Want the 2020 Census to Fail – Rolling Stone.