Minutes of the Quarterly Meeting
Friday, September 21, 2001
9:00am to 3:00pm
Bureau of Labor Statistics Conference Center

Report from the Board of Directors & Update on Recent Developments and Council Activities

Ed Spar, Executive Director called the meeting to order as Maurine was unable to attend due to recent events in New York.

  • Upcoming there will be a Conference on Confidentiality from January 7th-9th. Subscriptions are limited so it is better to sign up now rather than later. (A brochure was distributed. (Attachment1)
  • FYI: The Census Bureau lost two people in the New York Terrorist Attack. COPAFS offers our condolences. (Attachment 2)
  • New affiliate member welcomed: Marshall Turner, Ret. Census.
  • The 'to-date' federal statistical agency budget sheet was passed around. (Attachment 3)
  • Not one of the bills reaffirming funding for the agencies for next year has gone through yet. In light of recent events, every one of the agency budgets could change.
  • Several other bills have been introduced. H.R. 2136, and 2135 were discussed in the last meeting also. These bills are going nowhere right now. (Attachment 4)
  • Agency Head situation: There are lots of Active directors, and there exists lots of potential for change. NCES, Census, Transportation, BLS, Energy and Justice may all have some staffing movement soon.
  • The Chair requested an updated delivery schedule for the ACS.
    • ACS: In mid to late November we expect sub-state data releases.
    • Embargoed releases before public releases have been proposed. They want to avoid ESCAP.
    • The web address for finding out the status of ESCAP (estimates, survey controls, and long form weighting controls) is:
  • The Census 2000 Supplementary Survey (C2000-SS) and the PUMS releases are due in Winter for the state level only, according to Ken Bryson.
  • The disclosure review board is restricting releases to state level, on 1/3 to ¼ of observations. Issues raised by COPAFS members: we need to know empirical evidence about probability of disclosures. Right now a large degree of restraint is being advocated by Census. We need to keep this debate as public as possible.
  • Comment by Ed Spar: "Let's get openness in the debate."
  • Bill S803 - concerns the establishment of a Federal Chief Information Officer. This shows awareness and desire for a centralized process for locating information. Perhaps one positive outcome could be a Chief Statistician who could move over to the CIO office.
  • Attachment 5: Charles Louis Kincannon has had a fabulous career to date and is to be sent forward as new director of Census.
  • Attachment 6: OMB Guidelines on Information Dissemination. There still needs to be a mechanism on reporting of how conflicts are handled. Agencies are working on a reporting process.
  • Attachment 7: An advance abstract of the "Redundancy" paper was distributed to members. This paper will be presented at the Nov. 15th conference.
  • The next COPAFS meeting will be held on Dec. 14th.
Initiatives in Education Statistics.

Gary Phillips, National Center for Education Statistics.

Phillips discussed two main issues; Growth Area: Use of the WWW/Datanet, and the Revision of statistical standards, setting of performance standards.When he became acting commissioner, he wanted to work on infrastructure of NCES. The agency committed lots of resources to the web. 1) Archiving- everything ever produced by the agency will be available on the WWW.

NCES also plans to put all released data files on the web site, and use the web for future releases and dissemination of all reports.

In future they'd like to use the web to collect data, which would reduce collection times for secondary institutions from 3 years to 3 months. Currently they have 3 to 4 surveys collecting over the web.

Also added: capability for on-line data analysis. They just went public in August with the Nation's Assessment of Education progress. They'll also soon have graphics capability.

Issues on the Web:

  • Confidentiality
  • Review of web reports, and the development of editorial procedures
  • GPO wants to print the reports.
  • Revision of Statistical Standards
  • This effort will go public soon
  • -hen there is the question of "what do you do with missing data?" The national assessment rule is- states must have a 70% response rate.

Other Issues

  • Imputation method standardization
  • Multiple comparisons - adjust the alphas depending on geographic resolution of reporting area.
  • Power comparisons - determining sample sizes.

Thorny Issue

  • Setting of performance standards! E.g. literacy levels of adults.
  • NCES developed literacy levels which were not meant to be used as "standards" but they became that. Now the department needs to separate measuring levels of literacy from setting appropriate standards (the latter of which is a public policy decision.) The role of the NECS is to MEASURE literacy. It is the job of someone else to decide how much is enough. Phillips believes strongly that it is NOT the role of NCES to set standards like that.

Gary Phillips then requested comments about the role of federal statistical agencies in setting standards? He sees this as the role of the departments.

[Comments: "This situation is reminiscent of the issue about "poverty" which is a judgment call, vs. the setting of a federal poverty level.]

Comment: [It would be good to disentangle "alpha level of confidence" from the policy definition of 'confidence'.

Ed Spar asked: What does it mean that the achieves should only be on the web? He trusts that the web won't effect distribution of restricted use files."

The speaker was thanked.

All meeting attendees introduced themselves.

"An Update from Capitol Hill".

Chip Walker, House Subcommittee on the Census, Government Reform Committee, David McMillen, House Government Reform Committee, and TerriAnn Lowenthal, Consultant.

Chip Walker: The house subcommittee on the Census will cease to exist. It will be merged with another subcommittee to be chaired by Dave Weldon. At the end of the month the census monitoring board will go out of business as planned.

There are 3 main issues:

  1. October 15th: Awaiting the decision re: use of adjusted numbers. (Note: That decision was to not use adjusted numbers fro non-apportionment uses.)
  2. Counting Americans Abroad. - There is a desire for a supplement on this, but it might be too costly.
  3. ACS: a) Privacy issues. B) ACS wants a 62 million appropriation. Problem: Congress has not approved the switch over from the Long Form of the Census to the ACS. There is a desire for an up or down vote from Congress to implement the ACS. This will assure further appropriation support. But the ACS folks still really need to address confidentiality issues. Also, they need to decide whether the survey should be voluntary or mandatory, and they need to guarantee that the ACS is the shortest form possible.
  4. The committee sees this as a decennial product. Congressional members want to get rid of the annual calls about intrusive surveys. (!)
  5. Members also object to the mandatory nature of the survey. They think it needs to be voluntary and annual OR mandatory and decennial.

David McMillen

Re: the ACS, there is a sense that there is a need for authorizing legislation. The Census needed to work more closely with Congress, as having the surveys just showing up in the Congressional Districts was surprising. McMillen wants to see more questions asked about pensions and savings. He also feels there needs to be an explicitly stated process to review and consider updates to the questions.

  • The Census Bureau is facing a crisis of credibility within the Congress. The paper about adjustments didn't explain why the Census felt the way they did. There is another change to explain to the public, mainly why they are making the decisions they are: e.g. the Census was asked for a description of the people who were missed. Apparently the Census was not responsive in providing the information in an appropriate form.

Update: Census 2000: The focus now is on upcoming decision re: use of adjustments for non-apportionment numbers. The biggest concern is that the Census Bureau has not adequately prepared congress for the consequences of this decision.

  1. Questions about data quality, primarily about smaller Hispanic subgroups are being raised. Major Hispanic advocacy groups are distressed about question wording change and they don't yet believe that the Census Bureau has taken their concerns into account.
  2. The ACS and 2000 Initiatives: The Census Bureau's external stakeholders generally support the concept of the ACS. Their issues concern:
  • Adequacy of outreach and promotional efforts.
  • At the community level, partners do not have the resources to energize participation.
  • Ethnic advocacy leaders are concerned about the effect of removing the long form on their ability to impact the Census.
  • Concern about non-response rates in rural and other sub-populations. They want non-response sample rate increased in those areas.
  • Will the sample size be increased as the number of housing units increase?
  • There is concern about sustained long range funding.
  • Concern about the content review process.

On a final note, TerriAnn expressed out loud her concerns about the role of federal statistical agencies in Post-9/11environment. She said that after the terrorist attacks she questioned whether the contributions of stat. Agencies are meaningful and her answer was 'Yes.'

Federal statistical agencies can plan a valuable and unique role in recovery. Consider the ways in which statistical activities can support short and long term recovery. Help document economic and demographic shifts, especially at the local level, and provide this to private users. She stressed she doesn't want to exploit this tragedy, but she does feel that there is a chance for us now to demonstrate how the work we do supports the many decisions that need to be made.


Q1: We're loosing some statistics savvy members of Congress (e.g. Dick Army, Pat Moynihan, etc.) Is there a group of law makers now interested in the federal statistics systems, and is there now a cadre of relatively statistically literate lawmakers?

A (Spar): Sarbanes in interested, but general awareness is low. We: COPAFS need to find congress members who are open to us, meet with them, and be proactive. (FYI: Moynihan will want a diet C-O-L-A - to reduce the annual increases by 1%)

A: TerriAnn: Congress will consider every budget in light of recent events, and what they can do. We need to make a case for our usefulness. We need to make clear what the agencies are doing, and what else they can do.

Budget caps are now busted and the Social Security lock box is now unlocked.

David McMillen: Congress wants to be as non-confrontational as possible right now. Next year may be different.

Afternoon Session:

Update on the Federal Interagency Forum on Child and Family

Susan Schechter, Statistical Policy Office, OMB & Sharon Vandivere, Child Trends, Inc.

Main activities include launching of which is the web site of the Federal interagency Forum on Child and Family Statistics. It is a great website. Check it out.

Material from the Population Reference Bureau, and the Census will be added in January 2002. (See link for additional details.)

(See Attachment 8 for list of contacts.)

Environmental Protection Agency. Environmental Statistics: How well do we measure the Environment.

Phillip Ross, Environmental Protection Agency.

(Ed Spar should have slides from this presentation.)

  • $700 million was spent on Data Collection in the states, and this resulted in the TRI explorer, and the "window on my environment' website.
  • See link: for full demonstration.
Concerns of COPAFS Constituencies


The meeting adjourned at 3:00 pm.

Sarah Zapolsky, AARP, Secretary COPAFS

  • Sarah Zapolsky AARP
  • Jerry Fletcher AAEA
  • William Pate APA
  • Judie Mopsik ABT Associates
  • Colleen Flannery Census Bureau
  • Stephen Tordella Decision Demographics
  • Pat Doyle Census Bureau
  • Ed. Goldfield CNSTAT
  • Deborah Mitchell NEA
  • Howard Leathers AAEA
  • Ed Spar COPAFS
  • Larry Cox nchs
  • Kelvin Pollard Pop Reference Bureau
  • Wendy Alvey ASA
  • Murray Aitkin ESSI
  • Marilyn McMillen NCES
  • Dan Levine Westat
  • Dick Kulka RTI
  • Marshall Turner COSSA
  • Tim Jones Census Bureau
  • Chuck Waite NABE
  • Bill Lidington Beyond 20/20
  • Fred Cavanaugh Sabre Systems, Inc
  • Margaret Martin COPAFS
  • Harold Beebout Mathematica
  • Richard Forestall Ass. American Geographers
  • Ken Bryson ACS Census Bureau
  • Ken Hodges PAA
  • Linda Jacobsen Claritas
  • Don Muff Database Content & Operations Consultant
  • Bill Evans American Economic Association
  • Chris Ryan COSSA
  • Mark Rod RSS
  • Delton Atkinson NAPHSIS
  • Michael L. Cohen CN Stat
  • Sharon Vandivere ChildTrends
  • Robert McGuctin AEA
  • Ya-Jiun Brower MayaTech Corporation
  • Robert Parker GAO
  • Rick Ayers ESRI
  • Susan Schecter OMB
  • Chip Weeker U.S. House
  • David McMillan "
  • TerriAnn Lowenthal Consultant.