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Public Affairs Update

  • Supreme Court: Census Imputation Is Allowed . . . . The U.S. Supreme Court ruled on June 20, in a close (5-4) decision, to uphold the Census Bureau’s use of the 40-year-old imputation statistical estimating technique to count some people whom census takers cannot contact through direct enumeration. Believing the estimating method resulted in the undercounting of its population, the state of Utah had filed a lawsuit arguing that the method violated both the Census Act and the Census Clause of the U.S. Constitution and deprived the state of a fourth congressional seat that North Carolina snatched, giving the latter state 13 seats after the 2000 census. The Court ruled that imputation does not violate either the Census Act or the Constitution’s requirement for an enumeration of the population every ten years for the purpose of congressional apportionment. Justice Stephen Breyer authored the majority opinion in Utah et al. v. Evans, Secretary of Commerce, et al. After six unsuccessful attempts to physically count people in residences from which mailed census questionnaires were not returned, census takers utilize “hot-deck imputation,” using scientific models to assign occupants (or “vacant” status) to these housing units. The Census Bureau assigns the number of occupants based on information collected from similar nearby housing units. Imputation added approximately 1.2 million people in 620,000 housing units (i.e., less than one-half of one percent of the national population of 286 million) to state population totals used for congressional apportionment. For some households, imputation is used to fill in missing characteristics, such as race, or to add occupants who are not listed on a census form but for whom there is some evidence of residency. A National Academy of Sciences panel reported last fall that Census 2000 included 5.8 million imputations, a disproportionate number of which involved racial minorities, renters, and children. In 1999, the Court had struck down the use of “sampling” (Department of Commerce v. U.S. House of Representatives), but in the latest ruling, the Court noted that imputation differs from sampling in key ways. The Court concluded that sampling involves extrapolating characteristics of a large group from a small one, while imputation does not depend on random sampling. The distinguishing methodological differences place imputation “outside the scope” of Section 195 of the Census Act, which refers only to “sampling,” the majority stated. Read the actual Court opinions at

  • Speaking of the Census . . . . The U.S. Census Bureau’s release of 2000 Census long-form data began in June, and data is now available on all state and sub-area demographic profiles, including income, education, employment, fertility, marital status, language, housing costs, commuting, housing, and other topics. The geographic areas included are counties, places, minor civil divisions, metro areas, congressional districts, American Indian and Alaska Native areas, and Hawaiian Home Lands. The profiles and technical documentation are available as downloadable compressed PDF files (some formats require purchase) at and as print-on-demand reports from the Customer Services Center at (301) 763-4636. County and congressional profiles are available at More detailed Census 2000 summary files are also available on CD-ROM. Information on available data formats is at

  • The American Community Survey Alert (ACS) . . . . is the U.S. Census Bureau’s new approach for collecting accurate and timely socioeconomic and housing information about our nation, the states, cities, and communities. As part of the plan to reengineer the decennial census, the ACS will replace the census long form in 2010, pending congressional funding. It will provide data every year to evaluate programs and chart the future. The ACS Alert is an electronic newsletter designed to inform users about news, events, data released, congressional actions, and other developments associated with the ACS. General information about subscription to the mailing list is available at For general and technical questions regarding Census Bureau data products, contact or the Customer Service Center (M-F, 8:30 am - 4:30 pm EST) at 301-763-4636, fax 301-457-4714.

  • New Director of NAS Division of Behavioral and Social Sciences and Education . . . . In June, organizational and management policy specialist Michael Feuer replaced Barbara Torrey, who after a long tenure, has retired as Executive Director of the Division of Behavioral and Social Sciences and Education (DBASSE) at the National Academy of Sciences (NAS). Feuer has been at the NAS since 1993, when he was recruited to run the Board on Testing and Assessment (BOTA), which became a key player in the intricate world of educational, employment, and psychological testing. In 1999 this Board merged with the Center for Science, Mathematics, and Engineering Education, which was renamed the Center for Education. Recently, Feuer has been the Deputy Executive Director for DBASSE. Before coming to NAS, Michael was a Senior Analyst and Project Director at the Office of Technology Assessment, and before that a tenured professor of management and organizational sciences at Drexel University. He holds a PhD in public policy from the University of Pennsylvania, as well as an MA from The Wharton School. He has taught public policy, organization theory, education, and calculus for social scientists. His undergraduate degree is in English and journalism from the City University of New York-Queens College. He has also studied at the Sorbonne and at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, and speaks French and Hebrew. Michael has published in economics, business, management, and education journals, and has had dozens of reviews and essays in the New York Times, Philadelphia Inquirer, and other popular media. Feuer brings a broad range of intellectual interests, experience, and analytic skills to DBASSE. ASA looks forward to working with him in his new role to advance the purposes of the social sciences at the Academies. Barbara Torrey remains in Washington, DC, and is at the Population Reference Bureau.