Biden Administration Names DOD’s Karin Orvis as Chief Statistician

On April 29, it was announced that President Biden would name Karin Orvis as the permanent Chief Statistician of the United States at the White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB), a position that has been vacant for more than two years. Orvis comes to OMB with experience from the Department of Defense (DOD), having previously served as the director of DOD’s Defense Suicide Prevention Office, as acting principal director of military community and family policy, and as director of DOD’s Transition to Veterans Program Office. The role of Chief Statistician has not had a permanent director since Nancy…

ASA Task Force Releases Report on Quality of 2020 Census State Totals

The Task Force on 2020 Census Quality Indicators convened by the American Statistical Association (ASA), a COSSA governing member, released its final report on September 14. That task force, chaired by former U.S. Chief Statistician Nancy Potok, was formed in September 2020 to assess the quality of data from the 2020 Census, given the challenges of conducting the census during the pandemic and concerns about political interference from the Trump Administration. The task force evaluated a set of 10 state-level “process statistics” relevant for evaluating the quality of census state-level totals used for apportionment and concluded that it found “no…

OMB Seeks Feedback on Length of Executive Branch Comment Prohibition for Release of Economic Indicators

Statistical Policy Directive No. 3 recommends Executive Branch employees refrain from commenting on the release of principal federal economic indicators for 60 minutes after their release. The White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB) is seeking public comment on whether that 60-minute window is still appropriate given the many changes in the information landscape since the policy directive was issued in 1985. OMB is not considering changes to the embargo on the release of any information or comment about federal statistics before their official release by the statistical agencies, only whether policy officials should be allowed to comment earlier than 60…

Puerto Rico’s Statistical Agency Spared from Reorganization (For Now)

Legislators in Puerto Rico have backed away from a plan to dismantle Puerto Rico’s statistical agency, the Puerto Rico Institute of Statistics (PRIS). The proposal had been included in drafts of a government reorganization bill being considered by the commonwealth’s Legislative Assembly; it would have moved the independent agency to the Department of Economic Development and Commerce and outsourced many of its activities to the private sector. COSSA joined a letter led by the American Statistical Association (ASA), a COSSA governing member, to call for PRIS to maintain its independence. The provision was ultimately removed in the final conferenced version…

2020 Census to Ask About Citizenship; COSSA Releases Statement and Action Alert

On March 26, Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross directed the Census Bureau to include a question about respondents’ citizenship in the 2020 Decennial Census. The decision was made in response to a request by the Department of Justice to add the question in order to support its enforcement of the Voting Rights Act, although it is unclear why current data is inadequate. Citizenship was last asked as part of the decennial census in 1950; since then it has been included on the census “long form,” which later became the American Community Survey (these differ from the decennial census in that…

ASA Launches New “Count on Stats” Initiative

The American Statistical Association (ASA), a COSSA governing member, has launched a new initiative called Count on Stats to “enhance awareness about the importance, reliability, and trustworthiness of government data” and defend the federal statistical system against political attacks. ASA’s partners in the initiative include COSSA governing members the American Association for Public Opinion Research, the American Educational Research Association, and the American Sociological Association. More information about the program is available on ASA’s website. Back to this issue’s table of contents.

Chief Statistician Seeks Information on Combining Data

The Chief Statistician of the United States has issued a Request for Information on how best to integrate data from multiple sources to inform the development of standards for using combined data for federal purposes. Specifically, the request is seeking information on: “(1) Current and emerging techniques for linking and analyzing combined data; (2) on-going research on methods to describe the quality of statistical products that result from these techniques; (3) computational frameworks and systems for conducting such work; (4) privacy or confidentiality issues that may arise from combining such data; and (5) suggestions for additional research in those or…

CNSTAT Issues Report on Federal Statistics, Multiple Data Sources, and Privacy Protection

The Committee on National Statistics (CNSTAT) of the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine recently issued a consensus report entitled Federal Statistics, Multiple Data Sources, and Privacy Protection: Next Steps. The report was produced by the Panel on Improving Federal Statistics for Policy and Social Science Research Using Multiple Data Sources and State-of-the-Art Estimation Methods, chaired by Robert Groves of Georgetown University. The Panel’s first report, Innovations in Federal Statistics: Combining Data Sources While Protecting Privacy, was published in January 2017, and described some of the challenges currently facing the federal statistical system’s current paradigm of heavy reliance on…

Former Census Director to Lead Statistics Group

John Thompson, who resigned as Director of the Census Bureau last month, has been appointed Executive Director of the Council of Professional Associations on Federal Statistics (COPAFS), effective July 24. Before being appointed to lead Census in 2013, Thompson was the President and CEO of NORC at the University of Chicago. He succeeds Katherine Smith Evans, who served as Executive Director since October 2012 and has been named the Washington Area Representative for the American Economic Association. COSSA looks forward to continuing to work closely with COPAFS on issues affecting federal statistical agencies and welcomes Thompson in his new role….

National Academies Releases Sixth Edition of Principles and Practices for a Federal Statistical Agency

The Committee on National Statistics (CNSTAT) of the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine recently published the sixth edition of its report, Principles and Practices for a Federal Statistical Agency, which is released every four years to coincide with presidential terms. The consensus study report provides an explanation of the federal statistical system and offers guiding principles and best practices for federal statistical agencies. According to the report, in order to disseminate relevant, timely, accurate and credible information to the public and policymakers, federal statistical agencies follow four guiding principles: (1) produce objective and relevant information, (2) maintain a…

IRS Statistical Agency Accepting Research Proposals

The Statistics of Income program (SOI) within the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) is accepting proposals for its Joint Statistical Research Program. The program, which is generally offered every two years, matches researchers outside the federal government with IRS researchers to work on projects that will deepen our understanding of taxpayer behavior and of how tax policies affect individuals, businesses, and the economy. The IRS hopes that such projects will also lead to the development of new datasets to enhance future tax research. SOI is particularly interested in proposals addressing the following topics: “Tax administration in a global economy; taxpayer needs…

Committee on National Statistics Releases Report on Reducing Burden in the American Community Survey

The Committee on National Statistics of the Division of Behavioral and Social Science and Education (DBASSE) at the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine has published a report on their March workshop dedicated to improving the American Community Survey (ACS). The workshop examined different approaches to reducing the burden on respondents, including reducing the number of questions asked to individual respondents though matrix sampling, eliminating the need for some questions by using administrative records, increasing cooperation with the survey, reducing the length of the survey. The full report is available here. Back to this issue’s table of contents. 

BEA Releases State-Level Consumer Spending Data

For the first time, the Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA) will begin regularly releasing official statistics detailing consumer spending by state. The data will include total consumer spending in each state, breakouts of consumer spending in specific categories and sectors, and per-capita consumer spending from 1997 through 2014. BEA began releasing prototype estimates in 2014; previously, only national consumer-spending data was available. Back to this issue’s table of contents.

Census Bureau Marks World Statistics Day

The United Nations has designated October 20 World Statistics Day. To commemorate the day, the Census Bureau has released a new infographic to highlight the many ways Census data helps fulfill the 2015 Statistics Day theme, “Better Data. Better Lives.” Back to this issue’s table of contents.

OMB Finalizes New Statistical Policy Directive

On December 2, the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) issued Statistical Policy Directive No. 1, “Fundamental Responsibilities of Federal Statistical Agencies and Recognized Statistical Units.” The Directive provides “a unified articulation of Federal statistical agency responsibilities.” In order to implement the Directive, federal statistical agencies will report to OMB on their progress toward fulfilling four key responsibilities: (1) Produce and disseminate relevant and timely information, (2) Conduct credible and accurate statistical activities, (3) Conduct objective statistical activities, and (4) Protect the trust of information providers by ensuring the confidentiality and exclusive statistical use of their responses. A draft version…


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