The 2020 Census faced no shortage of challenges to counting everyone in the country, from executive interference to chronic underfunding to the Covid-19 pandemic. These and other challenges produced significant undercounts of communities of color that perpetuated the census’s multi-decade struggle to count everyone with equal accuracy. Existing law leaves too much room for political actors to override the best statistical science and manipulate the census, making future censuses vulnerable to similar or worse outcomes. Historical data and recent quality checks suggest that major overhauls to census design and operations are in order.
The country needs a Census Bureau that is empowered and equipped to follow the best science in pursuit of counts that are accurate, equitable, and legitimate for all their many uses. It must be able to do this free from executive interference but subject to meaningful democratic accountability.
To that end, the Brennan Center has set forth a blueprint for reforming the law and policy of the decennial population count. These reforms will free the bureau from recurrent problems it has never squarely addressed and set it up to respond to future problems more effectively.