NEWS19 January 2021

US Census Bureau director resigns

News North America Public Sector

US – Steven Dillingham, director of the US Census Bureau, has resigned from the post early, effective 20th January 2021, when the presidential transition occurs.

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Dillingham was appointed by Donald Trump in early 2019 ahead of the decennial 2020 census and confirmed by a voice vote in the Senate. His term was set to expire at the end of 2021.

In a letter to Bureau staff dated 18th January, posted on the agency’s website, Dillingham said: “Effective January 20, 2021, I will be retiring from my position as director of the U.S. Census Bureau. I have a smile on my face and gratitude in my heart for all you have done for our Nation.”

Last week, the US Commerce Department’s Office of Inspector General sent a memo, addressed to Dillingham, raising questions that the Bureau put employees under pressure to complete a technical report including data on undocumented immigrants prior to Joe Biden taking office.

Several congressional Democrats called for Dillingham’s resignation last week. 

Dillingham said in a statement posted on the Bureau website, dated 18th January: “This past week, strongly worded questions were submitted to me by the Inspector General (IG) regarding a data request to career Census Bureau analysts by one or two Administration appointees assigned to the Census Bureau. The request was for certain administrative data to improve estimates of population categories. Contrary to published comments and reports, the data recently requested was not an attempt to release 2020 census data results for apportionment early.”

He said he had not heard any suggestions that the work in question broke any laws, rules or regulations.

Dillingham also said in the statement that he intended to suggest to Congress that in future, decennial census data collection should begin a year earlier, “with time to adjust for contingencies like pandemics and natural disasters, to leave more time for data processing, and to prevent trust and goodwill ... to be permeated or diminished by politics during an overlapping election cycle while data is being finalised”.  

Data collection for the 2020 census was completed last year but data has not yet been released. Census data is used to determine how congressional seats are apportioned and how federal funding is allocated.

Dillingham’s resignation was first reported by Talking Points Memo.