More Bad News From the U.S. Census: Economic Census Delayed Six Months

A budget shortfall for Census 2020 has already claimed one victim: the timely delivery of the five-year Economic Census.

October 14, 2017, 1:00 PM PDT

By James Brasuell @CasualBrasuell

U.S. Census

U.S. Census workers in 1940. | Everett Historical / Shutterstock

The Economic Census has been postponed for six months, according to reports, meaning the government will not produce important data about economic activity, jobs, revenue, and more five years after the previous Economic Census.

According to an article by Danny Vinik, "the Census Bureau quietly changed its deadline, pushing it back at least six months," earlier this year. "The agency told POLITICO that it has not publicly announced the delay but confirmed that aspects of the Economic Census were "re-planned," and the results would be out six months late."

The reason for the delay has been blamed on a shortfall of funding. Money that should have gone to the Economic Census instead went to the 2020 Decennial Census. The larger, more famous effort of the Census Bureau is so short of money, in fact, that Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross went before a House panel to inform them of an "urgent need" for more funding. New estimates place the cost of the 2020 Census at $15.6 billion, or a 27 percent increase from estimates produced by the Obama Administration.

Back to the Economic Census, Vinki writes that the delayed report could have negative effects down the line: "it leaves outdated baseline numbers in place for policymakers, and creates problems for companies that need to comply. Said another census-watcher of the 2017 survey: 'It will always have this asterisk.'"

Vinik also expands the discussion about the threats to the Census beyond congressional budgets and White House neglect, namely, that people don't answer surveys the way they used to. For more information about the preparation process leading up to the 2020 Census, see Planetizen's previous coverage.

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