Minutes of the Quarterly Meeting
Friday, March 8, 2002
9:00am to 3:00pm
Bureau of Labor Statistics Conference Center

Report from the Board of Directors & Update on Recent Developments and Council Activities.
COPAFS chair Maurine Haver started the meeting, and we went right to Ed Spar's Executive Director's report.

  • Ed started by welcoming two new COPAFS affiliates-Fenestra Technologies and SRC.
  • Moving to the budgets, Ed noted the increase in the Census Bureau FY03 request, due largely to the money needed for the American Community Survey. BEA also shows a ramp up-a reflection of the President and Congress recognizing the need for more current statistics on the economy.
  • Ed explained that "BT" (bio-terrorism) has become key to understanding the budget for NCHS, which is part of the Centers for Disease Control. Bio-terrorism has become a major priority at CDC-to the point where budgets for agencies not involved in BT (such as NCHS) are taking hits to help fund BT priorities.
  • Among the agency head positions currently open are BLS, Energy Statistics and BJS. Of course, the Census Bureau position is still open, but the hearing for nominee Louis Kincannon was held February 28, and Ed described it as a "love fest." (Kincannon was confirmed the week of March 15th, 2002.)
  • Ed also noted that acting director Bill Barron will be retiring this summer, and taking a teaching position at the Wilson School at Princeton. Ed wrapped up with mention of the Census Bureau's 100th anniversary, and the March 6 ceremony to commemorate it.
  • In other COPAFS notes: COPAFS is on a National Academy review panel, and will be part of an international tutoring project, and with the Populations Council in New York. We will also contribute a chapter on demographic databases, due in June 2003, to be published by the National Academy Press.
  • - H.R. 3801 is likely to go through with support. (The bill's full title is: To provide for improvement of Federal education research, statistics, evaluation, information, and dissemination, and for other purposes.) For full text see:
  • Ed noted that NCES is going for re-authorization this year, and that there is legislation (HR 3801) that would make NCES part of an "education academy." BTS is up for re-authorization next year, and the ramp up in its budget reflects priorities related to airline security.
  • The Roger Herriot Award seeks nominations for this year.
  • Still need Chairs for BLS Commission, Energy Information Service, NCES Commissioner, and BJS- Director.
  • Note of interest: There is a new county, 'Broomfield County, Colorado' which has just been announced. It is unclear if census data has accommodated it yet. It was carved out from Bolder, Adams, Jefferson, and Wells Counties.
  • This week was the official 101st Anniversary of the Census! Till 1902, there was no permanent Census Bureau.
  • The next COPAFS meetings will be held on June 7th, September 20th, and December 13th, 2002.
Planning the 2002 Economic Censuses

Frederick Knickerbocker, U.S. Census Bureau

Fred started with an overview of the economic census, and its three primary goals: 1) to provide basic and comprehensive information on the U.S. economy (down to the county and place level), 2) to establish and maintain a statistical foundation for continuing economic analysis by governments and business, and 3) to extend the economic census to areas of special national interest.

The Census Bureau is currently preparing for the 2002 economic census which, because it needs to create a profile of the US economy for 2002, must wait until after 2002 to collect data. Response to the economic census is required by law, and data are collected from five million business locations, covering about 22 million business locations, and 96 percent of economic activity (if one includes the census of governments). Fred noted that people are often surprised to learn that 15 million of the covered business locations have no paid employees-many of these being sole proprietorships. Content is developed in cooperation between business and government, and includes detailed information on business inputs (labor, capital, and purchased materials), what businesses produce, who they sell to, and where they are located. Information also is collected on business owners. The data are used by BEA, BLS, the Federal Reserve Board, and by many businesses for planning purposes.

Data are collected in three ways. First is the direct collection of data from five million business locations-including a sample of small businesses. Fred explained that the economic census uses 650 different questionnaires, tailored by industry group. Second is electronic data collection-a relatively new option described as rudimentary in 1997, but now providing all 650 questionnaires in electronic form. The third source is administrative records. For example, IRS data are the source of payroll and receipts data for the Business Owners sample, and for editing employment, payroll, and receipts data.

Fred described the 2002 economic census cycle as follows. FY01 included planning, content determination, and processing system development. FY02 is devoted to content clearance and finalization, the printing of forms, mail list development, acquisition of hardware, and outreach and promotion. During FY03, the Bureau will assemble and mail forms to the five million direct collection business locations, and initiate data collection and processing. Data processing shifts to the Suitland headquarters in FY04, and the Survey of Business Owners is mailed out. The cycle winds up in FY05 with the release of data products from the core census, and data collection for the Business Owners Survey.

Improvements and innovations in the works for 2002 include expanded coverage and content (such as e-commerce information), the conversion from SIC to NAICS, numerous measures to maintain response rates and facilitate reporting, and re-engineered processing systems. Fred also noted the need to collect data on "leased employees"-otherwise companies where all HR is now contracted out would show zero employees.

Fred walked us through one of the lengthy economic census forms, and finished by introducing Rick Rogers from Fenestra Technologies. Rick described his company's work in producing all of the complicated questionnaires in electronic form, complete with some sophisticated automated capabilities

Children at Risk: State Trends. A First Look at Census 2000 Supplementary Survey Data

Bill O'Hare, Annie E. Casey Foundation; Mark Mather, Population Reference Bureau.

Bill provided background on the Annie E. Casey Foundation, Child Trends, the ACS and the Census 2000 Supplementary Survey (C2SS). He noted that to his knowledge, the Children at Risk report (released the day before our meeting) is the first publication based on the C2SS.

Mark noted that the report (or "book") looks much like its predecessors, but is different in that it focuses on 1990-2000 trends (1990 PUMS is the major source for 1990 data). The C2SS is timely, but the published tables have little detail on kids, so Mark explained that his PRB colleague Kerri Rivers was sworn it at the Census Bureau to enable her to create custom tabulations (related to child well-being) from the C2SS microdata. Even though they were reporting only at the state level, all of their tabulations had to be approved by the Disclosure Review Board.

Comparability of the 2000 C2SS and 1990 census data was a natural concern, but apparently the Census Bureau indicated that the data should be comparable enough. Still, Mark commented that the true test will come with the release of 2000 census long form data. Mark then presented data illustrating some differences between SF1 and C2SS data (the biggest difference was in male householders). He also presented graphs comparing 1990 PUMS and C2SS confidence intervals (C2SS intervals were much wider).

Bill resumed the presentation, and was peppered with questions on the various imperfections in the poverty definition, and the collection of C2SS data. He then described some of their experiences in presenting these data to state officials. The strongest reactions came from officials in states where the C2SS results were different from, and even contrary to, the figures they have been reporting based on single year CPS data. One source might suggest increasing poverty, while another suggests a marked decrease. Bill stressed that he is a Census Bureau advocate, but said he had an "issue" with the Bureau's response to such discrepancies. When pressed by a newspaper to comment on contradictory CPS and C2SS results, a Census Bureau official was quoted as saying he could not say which source would be the most accurate. Bill complained that this response not only made the Annie Casey Foundation look bad, but does nothing to help the Census Bureau's efforts to promote the ACS at this critical time in its development.

One attendee commented that such CPS and C2SS differences are what one gets when one uses these sources as point estimates. Another noted that the CPS and C2SS are quite different questionnaires, and that we currently know a lot less about the C2SS income data. Bill acknowledged that such points are valid, but said you cannot get into that kind of detail when reporting data to state officials.

Developing the Census Atlas: The Geography of U.S. Diversity

Trudy Suchan, U.S. Census Bureau

Trudy had intended to provide copies of the Census Atlas, but there was a mix up in getting them delivered to the meeting site. She prefaced her presentation by noting that she is a cartographer, rather than a data person, and gave Jim Fitsimmons much of the credit for getting the publication underway.

The publication is a collection of county level maps illustrating the spatial distribution of data from the PL 94-171 redistricting files. PL 94 data were used because the objective was to release the publication as soon as possible. Diversity is the theme of the publication.

The first section of the book focuses on total population, and Trudy illustrated some of the ways to map population distributions (expressing enthusiasm for presenting to a group that is "so interested in this stuff"). Maps of race and ethnicity follow-showing both prevalence and a diversity index. In response to a question, Trudy confirmed that the data behind the maps are available in spreadsheet form. She then described the 2000 census race question, and how they handled the new definitions. They mapped both race alone and all-inclusive race, as well as the "two ore more" race totals. Trudy also described how they dealt with the "small numbers problem"-especially as it related to dramatic rates of 1990-2000 change. Noting that there is no explanatory text with the maps, she explained that it was easier to get the maps approved that way-an important consideration since time was of the essence.

Despite the emphasis on an early release, considerable care was taken with the maps-such as developing a color scheme for the maps that could be distinguished by the color blind (no "real reds" or "real greens"). And the Atlas was designed to reflect the agency's ethos of equitable representation for all groups. Trudy noted that this is among the first publications to deal with the wording of the new race categories, and "how to talk about them."

The Atlas was published in July, and is available on the web at Future plans call for a statistical atlas of the 2000 census-something one attendee noted has not been done since 1920. A big coffee table type book is envisioned, complete with historical data, profiles of selected small areas, and more explanatory text. They hope for a fall 2003 release.

Internet Mapping at the Bureau of Transportation Statistics

Carol Brandt and Steve Lewis, Bureau of Transportation Statistics

After a few COPAFS technical volunteers re-established a live Internet connection for a system demo, Steve explained that the Bureau of Transportation Statistics is the lead GIS agency within the Department of Transportation. With the department's largest GIS staff, the program's function is to provide spatial transportation data, lead a DOT GIS working group, develop standards for spatial transportation data, and represent DOT on interagency groups on federal spatial data.

The National Transportation Atlas Database (NTAD)-the program's cornerstone product-produces maps and provides spatial data that are all available for download on the Internet. The North American Transportation Atlas Databases (NORTAD) is a North American equivalent product, and Steve indicated that new databases are being developed.

Steve then described the Inter-modal Transportation Database, which is being renamed TranStats. Established as part of 1998 legislation, TranStats' objective is to bring all kinds of transportation data together in spatial form. Steve described Internet mapping as the "best part" of TranStats, and stressed that the system is not just calling up previously prepared maps (or JPGs). The system creates maps-even PDF maps-on the fly right on the Internet-drawing from a variety of transportation databases.

Steve gave us a demo of the system, showing some of the options for geographic levels and filters, and some of the display options. He explained that processing is a bit slow now (they had to use HTML, and the system is sorting through massive databases), but noted that the system is being re-written, and will soon be faster. Steve's example drew from the Highway Performance Monitoring System database, focusing on Wisconsin, and then Milwaukee, and showing how one could map the correspondence between measures such as the International Roughness Index (pavement condition) and traffic per lane (a measure of congestion).

The system can be accessed through the BTS web site at

Concerns of COPAFS Constituencies

No concerns were raised.

The meeting adjourned at 3:00 pm.

Submitted by Sarah Zapolsky, AARP, Secretary COPAFS with gratitude to Ken Hodges for providing significant input and content.

  • Sarah Zapolsky AARP
  • Ken Hodges PAA
  • Linda Jacobsen Claritas
  • Howard Leathers AAEA
  • Nadine Hamilton USDOT/BTS
  • Dick Kulka RTI
  • Ron Bosecker NASS
  • Joe Garrett Mathematica
  • Dorothy Harshbarger NAPHSIS
  • Kent Hargesheimer SRC
  • Fred Cavanaugh Sabre Systems, Inc
  • Ken Bryson ACS Census Bureau
  • John Knapp AUBER
  • Tim Tang NEA
  • John Kiely NCHS
  • Mark Mather PRB
  • Chris Ryan COSSA
  • Carolie Bush AAPOR
  • Pat Doyle ASA
  • Ralph Rector The Heritage Foundation
  • Lu Jeppesen SeekData, Inc.
  • Dan Estersohn Arbitron, Inc.
  • Stephen Tordella Decision Demographics
  • Chuck Waite NABE
  • Don Muff Muff Consulting Svcs.
  • Ed Godfield CNSTAT, Census
  • Rick Ayers ESRI
  • Bob McGuckin American Economic Association
  • Maurine Haver NABE
  • Nancy Torrieri U.S. Census Bureau
  • F.T. Knickerbocker Bureau o f the Census
  • Jerry Fletcher AAEA
  • Michael L. Cohen Committee on National Stats
  • Margaret Martin COPAFS
  • Rick Rogers Fenestra Technologies
  • Nicholas Zill AAPOR
  • Patricia Becker APDU/SEMCC
  • Richard L. Forestall Assn. Of Amer Geographers
  • Murray Atkin AIR
  • Kerry Sutten DOC/BEA
  • D. McCronahan RSS
  • Cynthia Etkin Library Programs, GPO
  • Christa D. Jones ESA/Commerce
  • Melissa Krzywicki House Subcommittee on CS & Census