Last week Robert Santos was confirmed by the Senate to take over the Census Bureau. Santos, who was born in San Antonio, will be the first Latino census director and only the second person of color to oversee the census.
Santos brings a wide range of statistical expertise to this new role. He is currently the Vice President and Chief Methodologist of the Urban Institute in Washington DC when President Biden appointed Santos in the post, he boasted that he had more than forty years of experience in “survey sampling, survey design and more generally in social science and policy research.”
Prior to the 2020 count, the census was under intense scrutiny for a myriad of reasons, many of which were self-inflicted by the Trump administration. The problems started when the Commerce Department, which oversees the constitutionally mandated decennial count, announced there would be a citizenship question on the census. Ultimately, the Supreme Court ruled in a 5-4 ruled against this effort.
Then came the COVID-19 pandemic. The Census Bureau announced a new revised version calendar, with a count until October 2020 (normally the count stops in July). However, in September 2020, the Census Bureau revealed that it would stop the survey at the end of the month, a month earlier than expected. The Congressional Tri-Caucus, which includes the Congressional Black Caucus, the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, and the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus, released a joint letter to the Census Bureau blasting this change, which they warned would underestimate communities of color.
Robert Santos, in his capacity as President-elect of the American Statistical Association, also critical leaving the Census Bureau in 2020. “There is no scientific justification for reducing the period of data collection for this constitutionally mandated activity, and premature termination of the census count will produce erroneous counts,” a- he wrote in a letter to members of Congress. .
When the census revealed its results as of 2020, Texas secured two seats in Congress. However, many population experts believed Texas should have been given a third seat in Congress.
In fact, several Texas Democrats in the House have warned of the impact of a possible undercoverage. After the Census Bureau announced that the investigation would end a month earlier, 54 state officials signed a letter to Governor Abbott urging him to create a full enumeration committee to ensure an accurate estimate of the population of Texas. Abbott did not allocate any resources to the census.
Now a new report from the Urban Institute shows that Texas likely suffered a population undercoverage from the 2020 census. According to the report, across the country, black and Latino communities have been underestimated “at a rate of over 2.45 and 2.17%, respectively ”. The Urban Institute report also shows that due to undercoverage, Texas likely missed more than $ 240 million in federal funding.
Although Texas grapples with the ramifications of the 2020 census for years, Santos is committed to moving the office forward and moving away from the chaos that has plagued the Trump administration. To his confirmation of charges hearing in July, Santos seemed attached to his roots as a statistician. “Although this is a political appointment, I am not a politician,” he told senators during his confirmation hearing. “I am a scientist, senior executive, researcher and longtime supporter of the Census Bureau. “
Santos probably won’t be sworn in until January. His term will last until 2026. The acting director of the Census Bureau is Ron Jarmin, who took over when Trump-appointed director Stephen Dillingham abruptly left earlier this year after a whistleblower complaint about attempts to add a citizenship question to the census was made public.
After his confirmation, Santos received congratulations from several members of the Texan Congress, including Representative Lloyd Doggett and Rep. Sylvia Garcia. San Antonio Mayor Ron Nirenberg also offered his congratulations to a native of the city.
Photo: Tom Williams / CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images