2020 Census Results Data Not Impacted by Political Interference, Task Force Finds

A task force established by the American Statistical Association found no evidence of political interference in the 2020 Census, despite the difficulties obtaining the headcount.

According to the report, state-by-state population totals were accurate, although the data supplied to the task force did not include demographic information on race and Hispanic origin or places smaller than states. The task force encountered no irregularities, indicating the 2020 figures were accurate for use in the apportionment of congressional seats.

Nancy Potok, a former chief statistician of the U.S. who chaired the task force told the Associated Press, "We didn't find any anomalies that were immediate causes of concern that you couldn't use the data."

The 2020 Census faced difficulties in gathering data due to the COVID-19 pandemic, several natural disasters and a political battle involving former President Donald Trump's administration wanting to include a citizenship question on the questionnaire.

The Census Bureau delayed the release of the apportionment data until April to allow for more time to review the count.

For more reporting from the Associated Press, see below.

Census 2020
NEW YORK, NEW YORK - SEPTEMBER 24: US Census workers stand outside Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts as the city continues Phase 4 of re-opening following restrictions imposed to slow the spread of coronavirus on September 24, 2020 in New York City. The fourth phase allows outdoor arts and entertainment, sporting events without fans and media production. The results of the latest count suggest that many Black and Hispanic populations were undercounted. Noam Galai/Getty Images

The task force was created last year to examine the quality of the initial data, because of concerns raised by the obstacles the census faced until a more in-depth study could be conducted. The association's president, Robert Santos, was a task force co-chair until he was nominated by President Joe Biden to be the next Census Bureau director.

As part of the task force's review, the Census Bureau allowed three outside statisticians to look for potential opportunities for errors in the census numbers that were greater in 2020 than they were in 2010. The statisticians assigned a ranking for those potential error risks by each state using 10 measurements.

The statisticians found that the states with the highest potential risks for more errors in 2020 than 2010 were Alaska, New Jersey, Utah, New York and Texas, Montana and New Mexico. The states with the lowest risks were Nebraska, Indiana, Tennessee, Kentucky, Idaho, Delaware, South Dakota and South Carolina.

"These states have very different populations and range from mostly urban to mostly rural ... which indicates that the error risks apply to very diverse populations and not only to either densely or sparsely populated areas of the country," the statisticians wrote.

The statisticians also found out that data were collected using the most accurate methods — either from households filling out the questionnaire on their own or having a household member answer questions from a census taker — in 90 percent of households in 2020, a decrease from 93 percent in 2010.

Two other panels of outside experts also are reviewing the quality of census data, and the Census Bureau plans to release its own study of how good a job it did early next year.

One of the panels of outside experts, overseen by The National Academy of Sciences Committee on National Statistics, is expected to provide a much more detailed assessment of the data quality.

That group should also look at why so many people didn't answer questions on the form in 2020, whether there were increases in undercounts of Blacks, Hispanics and children in 2020 and how administrative information like records from the IRS and Social Security Administration were used to fill in gaps about households that didn't answer their census forms, the task force said.