NEWS21 July 2021

US census director nominee says Bureau needs to build trust

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US – The US Census Bureau needs more transparency and independence to build public trust, president Biden’s nominee to lead the agency, Robert Santos, has told Congress.

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During a confirmation hearing held by the Senate Homeland Security Committee on 15th July, Santos said: “I understand the importance of data quality and the Census Bureau’s role in providing data that nurtures our democracy, informs our people and promotes our great economy.

“Census Bureau data helped weave us together to form a more perfect union. Although this is a political appointment, I am no politician. I'm a scientist, executive level manager, researcher and long-time supporter of the Census Bureau.”

The White House announced president Biden’s intention to nominate Santos for director of the Census Bureau in April.

Santos is vice-president and chief methodologist at the Urban Institute, Washington, DC, current president of the American Statistical Association and past president of the American Association for Public Opinion Research.

If confirmed by the Senate, Santos would be the first person of colour to hold the position of census director on a permanent basis. 

During the hearing, Santos said: “The Census Bureau needs a director who understands the critical role of providing quality data to our country. Society is in the midst of a technological renaissance and the Census Bureau should leverage technological advances and innovate to create efficiency and effectiveness. If confirmed, I can set priorities and directions in this area.

“The bureau also needs more transparency and independence to build public trust as it continues planning for the 2030 census and completes delivering the 2020 census products.”

The director should also recognise the difficulties faced by census staff in 2020 and “cultivate lines of communication with stakeholders and Congress,” he added.

Last year’s decennial US census was disrupted as a result of Covid-19 and interference from the Trump administration.

The Census Bureau has said it plans to start releasing the full redistricting data from the census by 16th August. The data is used to draw new state legislative and congressional district lines based on population.