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Robert Groves Nominated to Head Census

Topics: AAPOR , Census , Robert Groves , Sampling

In the survey world, this is very big news (from AP via The Page):

President Barack Obama is tapping Robert M. Groves, a University of Michigan professor who has pushed the use of statistical sampling, to be the next census director.

A Commerce Department official who demanded anonymity said the White House will make the announcement later Thursday.

Groves is an expert in survey methodology and statistics who served as an associate director of the Census Bureau from 1990 to 1992. He and others recommended that the 1990 census be statistically adjusted to make up for an undercount, only to be overruled by then Republican Commerce Secretary Robert Mosbacher, who called it political tampering.

It is something of an understatement to describe Robert Groves as "an expert in survey methodology." He is one of our nations' most respected survey methodologists and arguably the leading authority on the subject of non-response in surveys. He has served as the president of the American Association for Public Opinion Research (AAPOR), and won many of its awards including the career award for exceptionally distinguished achievement. Interests disclosed: I had the good fortune to study under Groves in classes I took at the University of Maryland's Joint Program in Survey Methodology (JPSM), a program that Groves helped found.

As the first three three paragraphs of the AP make clear, some see nothing but "political tampering" in any reference to "statistical sampling" regarding the census. For those tempted to label Groves as the pawn of partisans in the White House or the Democratic party, I have a warning: The notion of Bob Groves yielding to partisanship is laughable. As in rolling on the floor laughing out loud laughable. Groves is well known and universally respected among survey researchers and Census Bureau professionals alike. He is an ideal choice for this appointment.

I conducted the interview with Groves below, on the topic of non-response, at last year's AAPOR conference. The Bob Groves in this interview is the scientist and professional his students and peers know well:


Update:  AP has updated their story with initial reactions to the appointment (via @AAPOR).  This didn't take long:

House Republicans quickly expressed dismay Thursday over the selection of Groves, saying Obama's choice raised serious questions about an "ulterior political agenda."

"The fight to protect the accuracy and independence of the 2010 census has just begun," said Rep. Patrick McHenry of North Carolina, the top Republican on a House subcommittee overseeing the census. "President Obama has made clear that he intends to employ the political manipulation of census data for partisan gain."

Also, the Washington Post has more background on Groves and the sampling controversy, including this:

Groves served as the bureau's associate director from 1990 to 1992 and currently is director of the university's Survey Research Center. He has researched why people participate in statistical surveys, worked to develop surveys with lower non-response errors and studied how data is collected for surveys.

A congressional aide familiar with Census matters said Groves has "bulletproof scientific credentials" and is "really highly regarded by his peers as a low-key, determined guy who's been really focused on reducing error in survey research for his whole career."

Update 2Time's Amy Sullivan, who kindly linked to this post, reviewed the census sampling controversy when it came up in connection with Judd Gregg's withdrawl as Commerce Secretary nominee. 

 

Comments
GregAllman:

Maybe the Republicans are afraid that, as an expert in reducing non-response, Mr. Groves will find a way to reduce the census' historic issues in undercounting blacks and hispanics. No doubt, though if Grove is successful in reducing non-response in these populations he will be met with howls from these same Republicans of "doing the Democratic bidding". So much for a reward for a job well done

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This site doesn't appear to have discussed the various statements from Dem politicians and Dem-linked groups supporting keeping as many illegal aliens in the U.S. as possible in order to affect the count:

http://24ahead.com/s/immigration-census

Tip for next time: reveal the backstory to complaints about the latest move by the BHO admin.

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sjt22:

@NoMore

What, exactly, is the problem with wanting an accurate count of all residents, including non-citizens and illegals, in the next census? Doesn't having good data help us to make better public policy choices?

And how does the appointment of Professor Groves serve a partisan purpose?

THe "backstory" here is pretty typical: Obama acts, Republicans whine.

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Next time, read the link and the individual posts it links to. For instance, the Clay one involves the Rep. who heads the subcommittee that oversees the census wanting a stop to raids. With raids, some of those who shouldn't be here in the first place would go home. Without the raids, they'd stay here. Do I need to get out the crayons, or do you understand now that some Dems and Dem-linked groups want those who shouldn't be here in the first place to remain here in order to obtain race-based power.

That's the backstory to some worries about today's announcement. It might not be justified, or Mark Blumenthal might just be putting Dem spin on this issue. But, worries are justified due to things that Dems and Dem-linked groups have already said.

I'll get the crayons ready just in case that wasn't clear.

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sjt22:

Oh I read your link, and yet I'm still amazed you think that stopping raids is some grand Dem conspiracy to wildly inflate numbers.

The number of immigrants picked up and deported in any raids is small beans compared to the numbers of residents, legal and illegal, who are likely to be intimidated into not responding to a census taker for fear of government harassment.

Furthermore, in only the weakest way does your supposed "backstory" link to today's announcement of the appointment of Professor Groves. Republicans don't like him because of his expressed views on census sampling in the past. They know that he is dedicated to accuracy, an accuracy which would deteriorate their own overrepresented electoral base.

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