The American Enterprise Institute’s Andrew Biggs and I are together urging Congress to adequately fund the Census Bureau as it prepares for the 2020 census. Although our organizations frequently disagree on policy matters, Andrew and I strongly agree that policymakers and businesses can’t make good decisions without good data, as we explained in a joint letter to key senators and House members.
The funding bills approved in the House and by the Senate Appropriations Committee don’t provide enough funds for the Bureau to gear up for the mammoth census operation. As I’ve written before, both bills provide a fraction of the spending increase that Congress has traditionally made available to the Bureau at this stage of census preparations in past decades.
In shortchanging the Bureau, Congress is following the lead of the Trump Administration, which sharply reduced its 2018 Census budget request relative to what Obama Administration budget documents projected the Bureau would need (see page 62 of this document.)
The stakes are high.
Our letter reflects our shared concern that the Bureau lacks the funding to conduct an accurate census. As we wrote:
No policy or philosophical outlook is well-served by a lack of accurate data. The alternative to accurate, detailed data on American households is policy-by-anecdote, in which lawmakers respond to perceived needs without data needed to determine how large or widespread a problem might be, where its impacts are most concentrated, and how it may be best addressed. Such a process would spend federal funds neither effectively nor wisely.
For these reasons, we urge you to provide adequate funding for the Census Bureau and the 2020 census.