The U.S. Census Bureau announced that it will not go ahead with proposed test plans in Puerto Rico, citing uncertainty about funding and effectiveness.
“The proposed funding levels in both the House and Senate from the spring of 2016 require us to prioritize other activities in 2017 rather than expend the resources necessary to conduct two planned 2020 Census field tests in FY 2017,” the Bureau’s decision memo explained. “Given the current uncertainty about FY 2017 funding, the Census Bureau will not continue expending resources to prepare for the FY 2017 field tests, only to receive insufficient resources to conduct them.”
The Census Bureau had originally planned to test new technologies being considered for the 2020 census in the municipios of Carolina, Loíza and Trujillo Alto in an area that included roughly 123,000 housing units.
According to Census materials, the Puerto Rico Census Test had three goals: (1) evaluate the process of updating Puerto Rico addresses to ensure a complete and accurate address list for the 2020 survey, (2) assess how internet testing options will work with traditional door to door census taking to produce accurate results, and (3) test Spanish-language data collection to ensure efficient and effective non-English data collection operations.
The address validation function is especailly timely for the 2020 census in recognition of the mass migration from Puerto Rico to the states over the past decade, when the last census was taken.
“[W]e don’t have clarity about our funding for the year,” a blog post by Census Bureau director John H. Thompson explained. “Based on what we know now, the proposed funding levels require us to prioritize other activities in 2017 rather than expend the resources necessary to conduct the two field tests we had planned for 2017. Given the current uncertainty about FY 2017 funding, the Census Bureau will not continue expending resources to prepare for the 2017 field tests. Continuing amid such uncertainty would all but guarantee wasted efforts and resources.”
The Census Bureau also noted that job recruitment for census takers in Puerto Rico has stopped. Hiring for temporary, full-time and part-time positions was to commentce in October 2016.
The Census Bureau noted that although its decision to eliminate these field operations in 2017 is final, the Bureau will consider for potential inclusion in 2018 tests. For now, it is only certain is that Puerto Rico is once again losing out on federal funding and federal attention, a frequent consequence of the U.S. territory’s lack of proportional representation in Washington.