Back to School – Introducing the Statistics in Schools Program

Bookmark and Share

By John H. Thompson

A lot of our work at the Census Bureau looks toward the future – next year’s American Community Survey, or the decennial Census in 2020, for example. One exciting forward-looking initiative is our Statistics in Schools (SIS) program.  Research shows that jobs related to statistics are expected to increase by more than 25 percent over the next decade, and SIS is part of our efforts to help make sure students are prepared for them.

Statistics in Schools supports statistics education by providing grade-appropriate classroom activities in math and history, and many resources – such as maps, news articles, videos, infographics, and games – for K-12 teachers to use. Staff from all areas of the Census Bureau worked together to create these activities, which are available online at no charge.  Some examples of the activities teachers can find are:

  • Tools for identifying the demographics of specific states and metro areas.
  • Activities to analyze information correlating income to educational attainment.
  • Specific data, such as the number of single-father households, vehicles per household, and salary based on industry sector.
  • Worksheets to graph state population demographics.
  • Activities for estimating how many people in the U.S. walk to work.


The activities are aligned to national standards, including Common Core State Standards and the UCLA National Standards for History. They aren’t intended to replace existing curricula, but rather complement existing lesson plans.

We have teamed up with subject matter experts from the American Statistical Association, the National Geographic Society, the National Council of Supervisors of Mathematics, the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics, and many others to vet and evaluate SIS materials.

This summer, we are receiving feedback on the SIS website and activities from 350 teachers nationwide. Starting this fall, more than 135 teachers have volunteered to participate in the SIS Early Adopter program; they will use SIS activities in their classrooms in their upcoming school year to collect feedback and improve the program. Early adopters will report on how they used SIS materials and which materials were effective.  Based on what we learn from early adopters and their students, we’ll make improvements before we introduce the program nationwide.

Thank you to these forward-thinking educators and partners, as well as the Census Bureau staff who made Statistics in Schools possible. They are committed to making sure that students master the skills required to thrive in an increasingly data-driven world, and we are thrilled to support them.

Posted in About the Agency | 2 Comments

Measuring Health Insurance Coverage

Bookmark and Share

Written By John H. Thompson

Yesterday, I participated in an event hosted by the Census Bureau and the National Center for Health Statistics on federal statistics on health insurance coverage. One of the key topics we discussed at the event was methodological changes to the 2014 Current Population Survey (CPS) Annual Social and Economic Supplement (ASEC) and the statistics from that survey, which will be released in September.

I am committed to engaging the public on the methodology and the results of our surveys, so I’m glad we had the opportunity to co-host yesterday’s discussion and answer questions on our health insurance coverage statistics. If you weren’t able to attend the event in person or via live streaming, let me update you on what we discussed.

At the Census Bureau, we are constantly working to ensure our data are relevant, and accurately measure major changes in society. With this in mind, we designed the recent changes to the CPS to better measure health insurance coverage. The changes will provide a good baseline for coverage before the Affordable Care Act (ACA) went into effect, so that we can assess the impact of the law after it is in effect. Research shows that some CPS respondents who had health insurance coverage did not report it during the survey interview. This resulted in higher estimates of uninsured than from other sources. I believe the new questions will improve our measurement of health insurance coverage.

We administer the CPS every year in the early spring, and ask respondents about the prior calendar year. The new questions provide more accurate, precise, and detailed measurement by asking the questions in a manner that is easier for the respondents to answer. We begin by asking respondents about their current coverage, and whether it started before or after January of the prior year. Follow-up questions determine if the coverage was continuous; if not, whether there was any other kind of coverage during the gaps; and whether there was any additional coverage during that time. The CPS now includes additional questions to provide information on health insurance exchanges and marketplaces.

By instituting these changes now, the Census Bureau will have one year of data (2013) as a baseline. Next year, we can compare this baseline with the data about coverage in 2014, the first year of implementation of the ACA, to see what effects the Act has had.

The Census Bureau implements changes in questions to improve accuracy, and we base all changes on research, testing, and peer review. The Census Bureau implemented these changes based on more than a decade of research, which indicated that respondents often had difficulty recalling whether they had health insurance coverage and the type of coverage for a calendar-year period.

There is rarely an ideal time to make changes in the CPS, because they usually result in difficulties with year-to-year comparisons. We timed these changes to provide an accurate baseline of coverage before the effective date of key provisions of ACA. If we had waited another year – collecting this data for the first time in 2014 – the data would not show the effect of the ACA. Next year, once we have collected the CPS data about 2014, we will be able to provide estimates of year-to-year change in coverage using a consistent methodology.

Posted in Measuring America | Tagged , , | 1 Comment

Learn More about Federal Statistics on Health Insurance Coverage

Bookmark and Share

By John Thompson

On Monday, August 18 at 10 a.m. EDT, please tune in to the Census Bureau’s Ustream channel to learn more about how we collect information on health insurance coverage. I will be participating in an event hosted by the Census Bureau and the National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS) on federal statistics on health insurance, and I encourage you to watch it live.

My Census Bureau colleagues Jennifer Cheeseman Day and Victoria Velkoff will speak about methodological changes to the 2014 Current Population Survey and the statistics from that survey which will be released publicly in September. They will be joined by NCHS Director Charles Rothwell and two experts from NCHS, Jennifer Madans and Stephen Blumberg. In addition, Gary Claxton of the Kaiser Family Foundation and Michael O’Grady of O’Grady Health Policy, LLC, will discuss how these changes will improve health insurance coverage statistics.

August 18, 10 a.m. – noon EDT
Ask questions by dialing in: 800-857-4620, participant passcode: CENCHS
(Note: Stay on the line until operator asks for the passcode. Do not key in passcode.)

More information

Stay tuned to my blog for an update following Monday’s event.

Posted in Measuring America | Tagged | 1 Comment

Introducing Census PoP Quiz, the Census Bureau’s Latest Mobile App

Bookmark and Share

I’m pleased to announce that the Census Bureau’s newest app is now available. Census PoP Quiz is an interactive mobile application powered by the American Community Survey (ACS), which provides information on over 40 topics for every neighborhood in the U.S., from education to commuting.

I recently recorded a video interview explaining what Census PoP Quiz is, why it’s a great learning tool, and how it differs from our other mobile apps. Census PoP Quiz is available for free on Android and iOS. I encourage you to download it today and test your knowledge of the states!

Posted in About the Agency, Digital Transformation | Tagged , | 1 Comment

Census Advisory Committees Add Value

Bookmark and Share

Written by: John H. Thompson

Twice a year, during the spring and fall, something special happens at Census Headquarters. This is when Census Advisory Committees meet in Suitland, Maryland to discuss issues and provide real-world perspectives on how our work impacts some of our most critical needs.

I believe that the Census Bureau’s core mission of providing the highest-quality statistics about our nation’s people, places, and economy must involve public input and include a wide variety of perspectives. America’s diversity and constantly-changing landscape makes these advisory committees more important than ever to the Census Bureau.

For over 50 years, the Census Bureau has sought counsel from a wide variety of people. Their perspectives shape how we conduct our business. Census Advisory Committees provide real-time advice about 2020 Census priorities and innovations, including the use of administrative records, Internet response options, American Community Survey content, and race and ethnicity.

I greatly value the expertise from our partners on the Census Scientific Advisory Committee and the National Advisory Committee on Racial, Ethnic, and Other Populations (NAC). Their members volunteer significant time to helping the Census Bureau find cost-effective solutions to our challenges. Their assessments shape how we interact with the American public, from survey design to implementation and help us provide quality data on hard-to-count populations. We make better decisions because of them.

The Census Bureau tells America’s story through statistics. Between now and July 17, the Census Bureau is requesting nominations for people to serve on the NAC. If you or someone you know would be a good addition to our advisory committee, please see our Federal Register notice for more information on how to apply. We look forward to hearing from you.


Posted in About the Agency | Leave a comment