A Once-Every-Ten-Year Day

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Written by: Director Robert Groves

Although a little more intimate than I’m comfortable with, I thought people might like to know how I spent my day yesterday. At the outset, I confess it is hard to describe the scale and intensity of a day when so much of the nation’s attention is focused upon us.

It began early (didn’t get my exercise in). By 7 or so, I was in my office at the Commerce Department, one block from the White House. I had seen the 2010 Census counts and the reapportionment figures for only a few days, and I needed to make sure I was reasonably familiar with them. We had been setting up the press conference program with our communications staff for several days, but I wanted to go over small details.

At about 8:15AM, I visited the Undersecretary of Commerce, Rebecca Blank, and briefed her on the overview of the 2010 Census state counts. We reviewed how the counts compared to the demographic analysis figures released two weeks earlier and how the apportionment counts compared to prior census changes.

Groves with Blank At exactly 8:30AM the Census team arrived with the official document certifying the state population counts and the reapportionment results. I signed the transmittal to Dr. Blank. She signed the transmittal from her to Commerce Secretary Gary Locke. We walked down the hall to the Secretary’s office together.

Groves with locke

We briefed the Secretary on the findings, the rate of change in the national population count, major demographic shifts reflected in the state counts, and the identity of the states that gained and lost seats. He then signed a transmittal letter to the President.

The Secretary left to hand-deliver the documents to the President.


I went to the National Press Club to prepare for the 11AM press conference.
All was in great shape – the giant plasma screen for the graphics, the dynamic graphic software application. We reviewed the setup and went over various details.

Groves remarks NPC

At 11AM sharp the Secretary, the Undersecretary and I entered a packed room with a full row of 30 television cameras at the back. The press conference began.

Beginning at 12:45PM, I was rushed from TV studio to TV studio for short interviews with national TV networks, ending about 7PM. Today began at 5:30AM with television and radio interviews with stations throughout the country.

Groves with reporters

I am very proud to be able to represent the thousands of Census Bureau staff in this endeavor. They have worked very hard for several years to make this possible, and I am humbled that I happen to be the individual currently at the helm when we give back to the country the results of this collective achievement.

Yesterday’s data release is just the start of the returns on that investment. We at the Census Bureau look forward to years of data releases and new insights to our changing nation as measured by the 2010 Census.

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32 Responses to A Once-Every-Ten-Year Day

  1. Please tell us how to drill down to be able to find specific CITY data and information??

  2. Sharon Postel says:

    I watched the presentation and thought it was well-done. Likewise your answers in the Q & A session – especially illegal immigrants and other lesser known items in the Census table footnotes – were an education. Interesting that the decennial census has been done only 23 times! Looking forward to the rest of the data in the next 2 years.
    Likewise – I like the ACS 5 year data just released. Especially on health insurance. Very helpful.
    Census itself and Census Bureau is a great investment of our tax dollars. Incredible return on investment!

  3. The local area data from the 2010 Census are released on a flow basis as part of the redistricting file, beginning in February 2011. Tract-level data is available through the 5 year 2005 – 2009 American Community Survey just released – http://factfinder.census.gov/servlet/DatasetMainPageServlet?_program=ACS&_submenuId=datasets_2&_lang=en

    The Census: An official set of practices whereby the USA Government Reifies “Race”.
    Since its beginnings as a nation in the 18th century, the United States has conducted a census every ten years. While it has always, since 1790, asked about “race” it has never done it the same way twice. Never. In recent decades, the committee that constructs the census decides on a new list of “races” every time.
    Flailing about by the Census for appropriate group labels to apply to the diverse population of the United States has gone on for years, with census categories changing with every successive census. Let’s consider the 2000 census to see some interesting consequences of the way the questions were asked that year.
    When data from the 2000 census became available, newspapers began routinely citing Hispanic as a “racial” category, noting that, as the Census itself had said “some of whom are white and some of whom are black”. (Shades of the “Great Divide” appear once more!)
    By the way, who is a “Hispanic”? ….. A person who lives or was born in Spain? Nope…in English, those people are called Spaniards. Is a “Hispanic” a person whose parents or grandparents were born in Spain? Again, we have to point out, probably not. Their parents were more likely to have been immigrants from Mexico, Cuba, Puerto Rico, or elsewhere in the Americas. Is it then simply someone who speaks Spanish? Not necessarily; many so-called Hispanics in the USA speak English and Spanish and some speak English and Portuguese. Should we therefore call them all Latino or Latina?
    But then, what does that mean….someone who speaks Latin?
    In 2000, for the first time, people were instructed that they could, if they wished, claim to belong to more than one “race”. And so they did, in great numbers. Then many newspapers headlined the “fact” that there were now more bi-racial people in the USA than ever before. Surprise, surprise!
    Most recently, in 2010, the Census announced proudly that its form is “one of the shortest forms in history – 10 questions in 10 minutes” Of the 10 questions, one inquires about “origin”, a second asks about “race”. That’s 20% of the form! Let’s look at it in some detail.
    Question # 8 asks Is Person 1 of Hispanic, Latino, or Spanish origin?
    The first box is for No. The other boxes, all yeses, allow specifying Mexican, Mexican Amer., Chicano, Puerto Rican, Cuban, or Another , with room to print what the other is, with examples given, e.g., Argentinean, Spaniard, etc.
    Question # 9 asks What is person 1’s race? The respondent is then instructed to mark an x in one or more boxes.
    The first three boxes are labeled
    Black, African Am, or Negro
    American Indian or Alaska Native
    And if the third box is checked, the respondent is asked to print the tribal name.
    The next set of boxes are labeled Asian Indian, Japanese, native Hawaiian, Chinese, Korean, Guamanian or Chamorro, Filipino, Vietnamese, Samoan, Other Asian and Other Pacific Islander
    And if either of the last two are checked, the respondent is asked to “Print race” (and examples are given, e.g., Hmong, Fijian, etc.)
    And, just in case the respondent hasn’t found the term she would like applied to herself, there is one more box. It is called “Some other race” and the instruction is “Print race”
    Authors note: All the terminology used here pertaining to the questions and instructions for 2010 is cited verbatim from the official 2010 census form.
    What Does the Government Need to Know; Why Does it Need to Know It?
    The government needs to know how many people there are in various places, like the separate states, in order to distribute resources fairly and equitably to them. Census results determine the size of each state’s delegation to the U.S. House of Representatives, and within each state, the voting district represented by each seat. If federal funds are to be distributed to the states, those distributions usually have to be proportional to the state’s population. So, no city or state should be under-counted if it is to get its fair share.
    On the 2010 form, the request for “origin”, Hispanic or not, is explained as needed “to monitor compliance with anti-discrimination provisions” of federal laws.
    The same reason is provided for asking about “race”, with the following addition ….“Race data are also used to assess fairness of employment practices, to monitor racial disparities in characteristics such as health and education and to plan and obtain funds for public services.”
    Is that really true?
    If it is true, to what extent is it true?
    When it is said, as it often is, that the census needs to find out how many people live “in every community”, we need to understand that the word “community” means a geographic unit, like the state of Maine or the city of Iowa City, Iowa. However, many people think that “community” refers to a particular ethnic group, or, as the US Census still insists on calling them, “races”, and that is not the case. Community does not equal “race”.
    This is not as clear to everyone as perhaps it ought to be.
    What Does the Government Not Need to Know and Why Not?
    It doesn’t need to know whether you think that you are white, green, or purple.
    But the government created the impression that it was to everyone’s advantage to reveal that.
    In February 2010, the president and CEO of the NAACP sent a letter to that organization’s membership, under the heading YES WE COUNT. In it he said, “Filling out the Census is crucial, particularly for communities of color.” He reiterated in closing that if “communities of color” don’t participate, “it will mean less for your community in terms of funds, political representation, public infrastructure, and private investment.” He did not explain how that might come about.
    Perhaps the directors of the Census and the CEO of the NAACP were trying to beef up the count of the usually under-counted segments of state and city populations (poorer and less well-educated people, recent immigrants–legal and illegal –, non-English speakers, traditionally discriminated-against minorities, etc.) by creating the impression that if they come forward to be counted, their own particular groups will somehow be more fairly assisted. If they do get counted, that’s a good thing, of course, because they add to the total number assigned to the community (city or state) in which they live. But for a person to be counted as, say, a Hispanic, White person serves no purpose whatsoever for so-called Hispanics or so-called Whites per se.
    What’s So Bad About Asking people to Assign Themselves to “Races”?
    There is, of course, merit in advocating that traditionally undercounted persons participate in the census. And, to collect information about groups to which people say they belong may be useful for agencies who would design social policies to right prior social wrongs. But to get that information the way the census gets it — by asking people what their “race” is … our society pays an inexcusably heavy price, reinforcing our most awful social wrong, racialist thinking and the racism which it helps to breed.
    And we all know about the furor that has erupted nationwide over the presence of some labels that appear (e.g. Negro) and words that do not (e.g Italian-American) in those questions. But it would be much more to the point if people objected not to particular terminology, but to the archaic practice of asking about “race” at all. So what to do? How about, when you get to question like #9, go directly to the bottom, check “Some other race”, and then print HUMAN. It’s the only correct answer.
    How does the census really impact American society
    When the results of the 2010 US Census were released in December of this year, they revealed that 308.7 million of us had been counted. Our total population was bigger than the total determined by the 2000 Census . . Our rate of growth has slowed, but growth nevertheless was there.
    The most significant result, however, is not the total population size, or its growth rate, but the distribution of the total across the 50 states. The decade beginning in 2000 saw a decided shift in population both southward and westward, with some western and southern states gaining population, while some north-eastern states (in the so-called “rust-belt” of the United States) actually losing population. The very important impact of this is that the distribution of the 435 seats in the U.S. House of Representatives had to be adjusted, with the seats reapportioned so that states which gained more population received more seats, taking them, in effect, from the less fortunate states.
    Among the losers were New York and Ohio, each of which lost 2 congressional seats, and Massachusetts, which lost 1 of its 10 seats. Conversely, Florida gained 2 seats in its congressional delegation and Texas actually gained 4.
    So, while earlier I asserted that urging people to be sure that their particular ethnic “communities” were represented (and this request was justified as if it would result in benefits to them) did not directly serve that purpose, I am now prepared to acknowledge that it did matter by leading to a reapportionment of congressional seats…clearly a consequence that is not socially and politically insignificant.
    And what are some of thepolitical implications of this consequence? Well, that’s not so clear. The states which gained seats (and, thus, political clout in the US House of Representatives) have tended for many years to vote Republican, while the losing states tended to vote Democratic. This suggests that Republicans could have benefited most from the re-apportionment brought about by the Census results. On the other hand, political scientists have often found that people tend to maintain their political identities over a lifetime, whether they stay put or move, so as “rust-belters” moved recently to the sunshine states, they may have taken their Democratic leanings with them, thus making the heretofore right-leaning states, more left-leaning, thereby benefiting the Democratic party. One can’t be sure which of those outcomes will occur (if either).
    In any event, while it was important to encourage people in every one of the fifty states to complete the census form so that they would be assured of representation in Congress, it remains, in my view, inappropriate for the Census officials to have led members of under-represented ethnic groups to believe that their ethnicity or, worse, “race” had to be revealed and, if it were, their own group would then be more likely to receive its just due.
    And worst of it all, that practice contributes to the reification of “race”, thereby perpetuating one of the most pernicious myths of American society. It is a practice that should be discontinued immediately!

  5. Steven Robinson says:

    I was really amazed at the HUGE variance for Arizona from the July 2009 estimates versus the “actual” April 2010 figures. When compared with other states figures, the difference was astronomical. Certainly the actual count continued far into the summer, I know. Since however, SB1070 did not even pass until three weeks after the census figure, one wonders just HOW much this could have affected the figures. The difference is a HUGE outlier!
    Also, please explain just HOW there could be such a significant difference in state population totals between the population page figures and the Apportionment page figures. Since you provide the “Actual” population per Congressional House seat, it’s really easy to calculate the difference! I would GREATLY appreciate an explanation!

  6. Steve Smith says:

    I, like Jamie, am interested in city specific data. I was co-chair of the Complete Count Committee in Indianapolis, IN and the media is assuming that we have the city data now. Let me ask the question a different way: When will the list of cities by population be available? Indy was 13th and lots of people – the Mayor, Convention Bureau, etc. – would like to know how that ranking has changed.

  7. Steven, you might want to check out this blog entry on our three recent data releases – ACS, DA and the 2010 Census – and how they differ http://blogs.census.gov/2010census/2010/09/a-data-filled-fall.html
    We also release population estimates annually: http://www.census.gov/popest/overview.html

  8. The first product to provide place-level population and housing unit counts is the Redistricting Data (Public Law 94-171) Summary File, which is to be released on a state-by-state, flow basis in February and March 2011. Using this product, the data user can obtain totals not just for places, but also for county subdivisions, counties, school districts, Congressional districts (111th Congress), state legislative districts, and the state portions of American Indian areas.

  9. pex pipe says:

    I saw that press conference. Excellent presentation.

  10. Jon says:

    Ever since I first heard of the Census as a child, I’ve always been fascinated by the process. And having met with a census representative “in the field” this past year, I really appreciate you detailing how the results get passed along to the upper areas of our government.

  11. Colleen says:

    You have said that the Redistricting data PL-94 data will not be released until starting Feb. 1, 2011. Can you give me an estimated time when the release for the data at the block level for the State of California will be released. We need to know when we are going to start having to do our redistricting. Thanks

  12. Kenneth D. McClintock says:

    What is the non-apportionment national total for the whole nation, including DC and the territories?

  13. The total resident population including Puerto Rico is 312,471,327. The various tables can be found here: http://2010.census.gov/news/press-kits/apportionment/apport.html

  14. You can check out this website as we announce about a week in advance which states’ data will be released: http://www.census.gov/rdo/data/2010_census_redistricting_pl_94-171_tigerlinetm_shapefiles.html
    For additional info, please call our Redistricting Data Office at 301-763-4039.

  15. Gary Spirer says:

    Such a great way to get informed from your post. Thanks for sharing your experience.

  16. Kristin says:

    When can we expect to see urbanized area boundaries and data?

  17. Jay says:

    The interactive graphic is excellent. It was easy to embed, and downloads quickly.

  18. Urban area data will be released in 2012. Please see the full release schedule at this link.

  19. Doodle's says:

    I was just wondering if you can be Panelized if you don’t want to be in the census? I had a field agent tell me you can? !

  20. Because of the importance of the Census and American Community Survey, they are mandatory by law, with a fine of up to $5,000 possible for refusing to participate. However, the Census Bureau is not in the business of prosecuting noncompliance, but facilitating participation. Rather than rely on criminal charges, the Census Bureau prefers, and has been very successful in getting participation by instead explaining the importance of the questions we ask and how the information benefits our communities.

  21. Is there a way urban areas will be set/sort out in the next census?
    I admit I am not really into this, I am just worried for the penalty you’ve mention. Is it really an obligation to us to participate?

  22. Harley. McLean says:

    I want to know when 2010 city & town data for North Carolina will be available. I’m not interested in how any of you spend your day. I would like to assume that it’s spent earning your pay. All of these “comments” seem to be apple polishing &/or fishing for a “guvment” job. Just the facts, please.

  23. Rashmi says:

    Would the demographics (Age, Population, Income, Diversity etc) be available for download on a zip-code basis?

  24. Rashmi,
    Zip code is a geography filter option on American Fact Finder – http://factfinder2.census.gov/main.html

  25. The Census Bureau will issue an advisory about a week in advance regarding each week’s planned data shipments.
    For more information please visit: http://2010.census.gov/news/releases/operations/cb11-cn07.html

  26. Jim says:

    The Census Bureau used to print wonderful little reports for each state after the census called “Number of Inhabitants” reports, changed in 1990 and 2000 to “Population and Housing Unit Counts”. Through 1990, each of those state reports had an excellent set of maps for the large ‘urbanized’ areas that showed in detail the city boundaries, locations of suburbs and census-designated places (CDPs), etc. But in 2000, those helpful maps were not included! Will you publish these reports for 2010, and will you please ask them to include the urbanized area maps again? Thank you!

  27. Jim,
    We have not yet decided if we will revive that map type.

  28. Areles says:

    I am interested in finding out how many residents of Maryland are federal employees. I know there are reports of the number of federal employees by state and smaller subdivisions, but they seem to be based on the place of employment not the location of the residence. In many states there probably is not much difference between the number of residents who are federal employees and the number of federal employees but it makes a difference in the case of DC, MD, VA and probably NY and NJ.

  29. Patrix says:

    Does this timeline apply to all Summary Files or just Summary File 1?

  30. You can find federal government employment and payroll data at the following link: http://www.census.gov/govs/apes/. The latest data are for 2009; however, these data are national totals only. The most recent data available by state is for 2002. You can find summary data by choosing 2002 from the drop down menu on the left-hand side of the webpage under “Select a different year:”.

  31. When we’re talking about the advisory a week ahead, we’re specifically talking about the 2010 Census Redistricting Data (P.L. 94-171) Summary File that’s flowing out state-by-state.

  32. Harley says:

    Yeah Jim. That would just be way toooooo simple. How can the Census folks wow you with their infinite dicing of the data if all you want is a simple map. Remember, Celebrate Confusion!

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