People News

Passing of Former Representative Tom Sawyer
CNSTAT is saddened to learn of the death of former Congressman Thomas (Tom) Sawyer (D-Ohio) at age 77. Rep. Sawyer was a dedicated public servant, holding various public office positions at the local, state, and national levels including serving as U.S. representative for Ohio (1987–2003), where he chaired the House Subcommittee on Census, Statistics, and Postal Personnel, from 1989–1994. He was a friend of the federal statistical system who did much to stimulate research and development to improve the decennial census, poverty measurement, and methods and applications for small-area estimates. After Census Director Barbara Bryant recommended an adjustment when the 1990 census was completed, Chairman Sawyer supported her decision and chastised the Commerce Secretary for overruling the director. Rep. Sawyer later sponsored the Census Address List Improvement Act of 1994 (Public Law 103-430), which established the Local Update of Census Addresses (LUCA) program for the decennial census. His subcommittee also held a series of seminal hearings in 1993 to examine the collection of federal data on race and ethnicity, launching a conversation that led to the Office of Management and Budget’s review and ultimate 1997 revisions to OMB Directive 15. Other notable policy influences on the census included urging the Census Bureau to pursue alternative methods to the traditional census “long form” for collecting more timely demographic and socio-economic data, which led to the transition to the American Community Survey, and sponsoring legislation (which passed the House) to require the inclusion of servicemembers stationed overseas in the state population totals used to reapportion seats in Congress, prompting the Bureau to change its residence rule even though the Senate never voted on the bill. More broadly, Rep. Sawyer had a deep interest in the intersection of data and policy, as well as protecting federal statistics from political interference. He attended and spoke at numerous professional association conferences, including the American Statistical Association and Population Association of America.

Hilary Hoynes Elected to the National Academy of Sciences
CNSTAT congratulates CNSTAT member Hilary Hoynes, professor of economics and public policy, Haas distinguished chair in economic disparities, and director of the Berkeley Opportunity Lab at the University of California, Berkeley, on her election to the National Academy of Sciences. Her research addresses poverty, inequality, food and nutrition programs, the impacts of government tax and transfer programs on low income families, and how access to the social safety net in early life affects children’s later life health and human capital outcomes. She is a member of the American Academy of Art and Sciences and the National Academy of Social Insurance, a fellow of the Society of Labor Economists, and serves on California Governor Newsom’s Council of Economic Advisors. She served on the joint Board on Children, Youth, and Families and CNSTAT committee that produced A Roadmap to Reducing Child Poverty (2019), the State of California Task Force on Lifting Children and Families out of Poverty, and the Federal Commission on Evidence-Based Policy Making. In 2014, she received the Carolyn Shaw Bell Award from the Committee on the Status of the Economics Profession of the American Economic Association. She has a Ph.D. in economics from Stanford University and an undergraduate degree in economics and mathematics from Colby College.

Special Resources

In case you missed it, we have a fantastic new video out about the value of objective national data and statistics. We’re certain you know someone who would like to see it—or better yet, some organization that would like to share it. Will you take 3 minutes to check it out and then send it to a colleague?

Also take a look at our interactive site on CNSTAT’s data infrastructure series.

Recent Events & Reports

CNSTAT Special Seminar Series—International Approaches to Conducting a Census in the 21st Century:
Office of National Statistics, United Kingdom, May 18, 2023
Statistics Canada, May 24, 2023
Australian Bureau of Statistics, May 31, 2023
Statistics New Zealand, June 7, 2023
Videos and other materials coming on this site.

Toward a Vision for a New Data Infrastructure for Federal Statistics and Social and Economic Research in the 21st Century Workshop 3: Approaches to Sharing Blended Data in a 21st Century Data Infrastructure, May 22, 23, and 25, 2023 Videos and other materials coming on this site.

Enhancing Survey Programs by Using Multiple Data Sources, April 24, 2023
Video and other materials available from this site.

Approaches to Improve the Measurement of Suicide in Law Enforcement in the United States: A Workshop, April 25-26, 2023
Video and other materials available from this site.

Workshop on Considerations for Returning Individual Genomic Results from Population-Based Surveys: Focus on the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, December 2, 7, and 8, 2022
Video and other materials available from this site.

Celebrating 50 Years of CNSTAT and Looking to the Future: Toward a 21st Century National Data Infrastructure, October 13, 2022 Video and other materials available from this site.

2020 Census Data Products: Demographic and Housing Characteristics File: Proceedings of a Workshop was released May 2, 2023. Free PDFs are available to download from here.
The U.S. Census Bureau’s Demographic and Housing Characteristics (DHC) file is an important source of data for local governments – particularly those with small populations – as well as many other data users in the federal, state, academic, and business sectors. Importantly, DHC data have ramifications for measuring diversity because it provides age, sex, race, ethnicity, and household characteristics.
To assist the Census Bureau with its new disclosure avoidance system for 2020 Census data products, the Committee on National Statistics convened a public workshop on June 21-22, 2022 focusing specifically on the DHC. The disclosure avoidance system implements a new approach to protect the confidentiality and privacy of respondents. The workshop garnered feedback from users on the usability of the privacy-protected data by evaluating DHC demonstration files produced with the TopDown Algorithm for 2010 Census data. Participants included demographers; academics; and local, state, and federal government officials, who provided feedback on the parameters of the TopDown Algorithm for the 2020 DHC.

Behavioral Economics—Policy Impact and Future Directions, a consensus report, co-chaired by Alison Buttenheim (University of Pennsylvania) and Robert Moffitt (Johns Hopkins University), and sponsored by the National Institutes of Health, the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, and the W.W. Kellogg Foundations, was released April 25, 2023. Free PDFs are available here.
Behavioral economics—a field based in collaborations among economists and psychologists—focuses on integrating a nuanced understanding of behavior into models of decision-making. Since the mid-20th century, this growing field has produced research in numerous domains and has influenced policymaking, research, and marketing. However, little has been done to assess these contributions and review evidence of their use in the policy arena. Behavioral Economics: Policy Impact and Future Directions examines the evidence for behavioral economics and its application in six public policy domains: health, retirement benefits, climate change, social safety net benefits, climate change, education, and criminal justice. The report concludes that the principles of behavioral economics are indispensable for the design of policy and recommends integrating behavioral specialists into policy development within government units. In addition, the report calls for strengthening research methodology and identifies research priorities for building on the accomplishments of the field to date.

Toward a 21st Century National Data Infrastructure: Enhancing Survey Programs by Using Multiple Data Sources, a consensus report, chaired by Sharon Lohr (Arizona State University, emerita) and sponsored by the National Science Foundation, was released March 31, 2023. Free PDFs are available here. Also, check out our interactive site on data infrastructure series.
Much of the statistical information currently produced by federal statistical agencies—information about economic, social, and physical well-being that is essential for the functioning of modern society— comes from sample surveys. In recent years, there has been a proliferation of data from other sources, including data collected by government agencies while administering programs, satellite and sensor data, private-sector data such as electronic health records and credit card transaction data, and massive amounts of data available on the internet. How can these data sources be used to enhance the information currently collected on surveys, and to provide new frontiers for producing information and statistics to benefit American society?
Toward a 21st Century National Data Infrastructure: Enhancing Survey Programs by Using Multiple Data Sources, the second report in a series funded by the National Science Foundation, discusses how use of multiple data sources can improve the quality of national and subnational statistics while promoting data equity. This report explores implications of combining survey data with other data sources through examples relating to the areas of income, health, crime, and agriculture.

An Updated Measure of Poverty: (Re)Drawing the Line, a consensus report, chaired by James Ziliak (University of Kentucky) and sponsored by the U.S. Census Bureau, was released March 29, 2023. Free PDFs are available here.
An accurate measure of poverty is essential for determining the size and composition of the population whose basic needs are going unmet and to help society target resources to address those needs. Poverty statistics are also necessary to fully understand how the economy is performing across all segments of the population and to assess the effects of government policies on the wellbeing of communities and families. An Updated Measure of Poverty: (Re)Drawing the Line recommends updating the methodology used by the Census Bureau to calculate the Supplemental Poverty Measure (SPM) to more accurately reflect households’ basic needs and estimate their resources available to meet those needs. This report recommends that the more comprehensive SPM replace the current Official Poverty Measure as the primary statistical measure of poverty produced by the Census Bureau. The report assesses the strengths and weaknesses of the SPM and provides recommendations for updating its approach to handling key basic needs—such as medical care, childcare, and housing—of American families.

An Assessment of the Need for Native Seeds and the Capacity for their Supply: Final Report, a consensus report, chaired by Susan Harrison (University of California, Davis) and sponsored by the Bureau of Land Management, was released January 26, 2023. Free PDFs are available here.
Extreme weather and wildfires, intensified by climate change, are damaging the native plant communities of landscapes across the United States. Native plant communities are foundational to thriving ecosystems, delivering goods and services that regulate the environment and support life, provide food and shelter for a wide range of native animals, and embody a wealth of genetic information with many beneficial applications. Restoring impaired ecosystems requires a supply of diverse native plant seeds that are well suited to the climates, soils, and other living species of the system. This report examines the needs for native plant restoration and other activities, provides recommendations for improving the reliability, predictability, and performance of the native seed supply, and presents an ambitious agenda for action.