COPAFS Newsletter: Fall 1999

In This Issue:

The Office of Management and Budget (OMB) Requests Comments on the Proposed Changes to Standards for Defining Metropolitan and Nonmetropolitan Areas

On October 20, OMB released the recommendations from the Metropolitan Area Standards Review Committee (MASRC) for changes to OMB's standards for defining metropolitan and nonmetropolitan areas. This is the first major revision of these concepts since 1980, when OMB developed new areas such as Primary Metropolitan Statistical Areas (PMSA's) and Metropolitan Statistical Areas (MSA's). MASRC has recommended a Core-Based Statistical Areas (CBSAs) classification to replace the current Metropolitan Area (MA) classification. The cores (densely settled concentrations of population) for this classification would be Census Bureau defined urbanized areas and smaller densely settled "settlement clusters." The settlement clusters are new areas to be identified for the 2000 Census. CBSAs would be defined around these cores. This CBSA classification has three types of areas based on the total population of all cores in the CBSA: 1) Megapolitan Areas defined around cores of at least 1,000,000 population; 2) Macropolitan Areas defined around cores of 50,000 to 999,999 population; and 3) Micropolitan Areas defined around cores of 10,000 to 49,999 population. Those counties containing the cores, should become the central counties of the CBSA's. Territory outside of Megapolitan, Macropolitan and Micropolitan Areas would be termed "Outside CBSAs." The MASRC has recommended the use of counties and equivalent entities as the building blocks for statistical areas throughout the United States and Puerto Rico, including the use of counties as the primary building blocks for statistical areas in New England. MASRC also recommended that Minor Civil Divisions (MCDs) be used as building blocks for an alternative set of statistical areas for the New England States only. A single threshold of 25 percent to establish qualifying linkages between outlying counties and counties containing the CBSA cores has also been recommended.

OMB has allowed sixty (60) days for comments. To ensure consideration during the final decision making process, written comments must be received no later than December 20, 1999. The Comments should be sent to James D. Fitzsimmons, U.S. Bureau of the Census, IPC-Population Division, Washington, DC 20233-8860. The final standards will be announced by April 1, 2000. The actual areas, based upon 2000 Census commuting information will probably be available in 2003. The full text of the release is available from the COPAFS home page at:, and also at the OMB home page at:

Federal Statistical Budgets Still Awaiting Final Numbers

The federal statistical agencies (along with the most of the rest of the government) are still operating under stop-gap measures, and as we write, Congress is still attempting to find a way to pay for FY 2000 spending. As you can see from the table at the back of the newsletter, agencies including the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the National Centers for Health and Education Statistics among others, may find themselves far short of their requested expenditures. Perhaps the only expenditure immune to the variations being considered on the Hill is the Decennial Census. However, if the final budget compromise calls for an across the board percentage decrease, even the funds for the 2000 Census could be reduced. Given that the President has threatened to veto any significant reductions in spending for education and health related areas, the budget process may go on for quite some time. As the process drags on there is more likelihood of our seeing another omnibus spending bill.

Office of Management and Budget (OMB) Releases Final Wording on Circular A-110 Data Sharing Revision

In our last newsletter we reported on the FY 1999 Omnibus Appropriations Bill language "to require federal awarding agencies to ensure that all data produced under an award will be made available to the public through the procedures established under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA)." On February 4, OMB issued proposed new guidelines in response and on August 11, issued clarifying changes to the proposed revisions. On October 8th, OMB released its final wording to take into account the over 13,000 comments received about the two proposed sets of guidelines along with comments from Senators Shelby (who initiated the original language), Lott, Campbell and Gramm. The new rule states that, " response to a Freedom of Information Act request for research data relating to published research findings produced under an award that were used by the Federal Government in developing an action that has the force and effect of law, the Federal awarding agency shall request, and the recipient shall provide, within a reasonable time, the research data so that they can be made available to the public through the procedures established under the FOIA." In the final language research data is defined as the recorded factual material commonly accepted in the scientific community as necessary to validate research findings, but not any of the following: preliminary analyses, drafts of scientific papers, plans for future research, peer reviews, or communications with colleagues. This "recorded" material excludes physical objects. Research data also do not include trade secrets, commercial information, materials necessary to be held confidential by a researcher until they are published, or similar information which is protected under law. Also not included are personnel and medical information and similar information the disclosure of which would constitute a clearly unwarranted invasion of personal privacy, such as information that could be used to identify a particular person in a research study. Published is defined as either when research findings are published in a peer-reviewed scientific or technical journal; or when a federal agency publicly and officially cites the research findings in support of an agency action that has the force of law. The full document is available from the Federal Register Z( October 8, 1999, Pages 54926-30) at the GPO site: .

National Technical Information Service to Close Down

Commerce Secretary William Daley announced that the National Technical Information Service (NTIS) will be closed down. Established in 1950, NTIS' business was the sale of government documents in paper and machine readable form for a fee. With the widespread use of the Internet, many of these documents can be downloaded either for free or at reduced cost. Consequently NTIS's sales have dramatically declined over the past few years, and for the past few years the clearinghouse has not operated at a profit. Since the agency's mission calls for it to be self-supporting, the Commerce Department has decided it must close the operation. The Secretary also indicated that the machine readable archives would be transferred to the Library of Congress. A number of data users have suggested that these files should be sent to the National Archives and Records Administration, given the lack of equipment available at the Library of Congress to maintain and retrieve the data.

Statistical Efficiency Act of 1999 Introduced in the House of Representatives

Congressman Steve Horn (R-CA) and Henry Waxman (D-CA) have introduced the Statistical Efficiency Act. This is essentially the second part (Title II) of an earlier bill to establish a Federal Commission on Statistical Policy to study the reorganization of the federal statistical system and at the same time provide safeguards for confidentiality in data sharing. The current bill, which no longer addresses the issue of federal statistical agency consolidation, would establish Statistical Data Centers for the purpose of sharing of information under strict confidentiality. These would include the Bureau of Economic Analysis, Bureau of the Census, Bureau of Labor Statistics, National Agricultural Statistical Service, National Centers for Education and Health Statistics, the Energy End Use and Integrated Statistical Division of the Energy Information Administration, and the Division of Science Resources Studies in the National Science Foundation. Under the strict confidentiality rules, the Centers could enter into joint statistical projects to improve the quality and reduce the cost of statistical programs, and identify opportunities to eliminate duplication and other costs by sharing information for exclusively statistical purposes. For analysts in the areas of health, education and labor, for example, this bill could yield substantial benefits through the development of more detailed data series.

Recent Decennial Census Activities

The Census Bureau has developed ZIP Code Tabulating Areas (ZCTAs), a new statistical entity for tabulating summary statistics form the Census 2000. ZCTAs are generalized area representations of U.S. Postal Service ZIP Code areas, and follow census block boundaries. The ZCTA code for each census bock represents the majority ZIP Code for addresses within that block. They are assigned to all land and water areas, but exclude unique single delivery point ZIP Codes for firms and organizations. They do include dedicated post office box ZIP Codes, where a main post office has only post office box deliveries. ZCTAs are distinct from other census statistical areas, such as census tracts, because they are not stable over time and are computer delineated based on addresses at the time of the census rather than manually delineated by local program participants or Census Bureau staff before the census. Data for ZCTAs will be available for all summary levels in both the 100 percent and sample data files. The data for ZCTAs should be available at the same time as the data for the other summary levels, between June 2001 and December 2002.

The House Subcommittee on the Census recently held a hearing on including the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, whose population in 1990 was 3,522,037, as part of the U.S. Total in all Census tabulations. This would treat Puerto Rico on the same basis as a state or the District of Columbia when calculating total or means and medians. This inclusion would have a major effect on historical comparability. For example, it could have the effect of lowering the median income for Hispanics when comparing 1990 to 2000. Including Puerto Rico might also have the effect of distorting the data for Hispanics by making them a significantly larger part of the U.S. population than they are in the general understanding of "the United States." Representatives of other territories also testified at the hearing. The representative from American Samoa pointed out that given their concepts of home ownership, which are more communal, it would not make sense to also include them in the U.S. Total. Other territories that are part of the United States include Guam, Northern Marianas, Palau, Virgin Islands. Other U.S. possession include Baker, Howland, Navassa, Jarvis Islands, Midway and Wake Islands; Johnston and Palmyra Atoll, and Kingman Reef. The 1990 population for all outlying areas was 3,862,431

The Census Bureau has discussed with the Department of Justice and other stakeholders and advisors how best to provide required data for redistricting (Voting Rights Data provided by the Census Bureau under P.L. 94-171 by April 1, 2001). The Bureau has decided to meet the needs for redistricting by providing sixty-three categories of race in combination with Hispanic/Latino categories tabulated for both total population and people eighteen years of age and over. This is a major change from the original plan to produce a set of tables with less detail. However, it was determined that the original approach could lead to inconsistencies in the data. The sixty three categories will account for all combinations based upon the ability to "mark one or more races" on the census form.

Dr. Conrad Taeuber Passed Away On September 11, 1999

We are saddened to note the loss of Dr. Conrad Taeuber, former Assistant Director of Demographic Fields at the Census Bureau. During his tenure at the Census Bureau, Dr. Taeuber had overall responsibility for taking the 1960 and 1970 Decennial Censuses and supervised the expansion of the demographic survey program, the racial and ethnic statistics program, and demographic analysis. Upon retiring from the Census Bureau, he taught demography at Georgetown University for a number of years and wrote or coauthored numerous articles on demographic topics. Dr. Taeuber was a strong supporter and honorary lifetime member of COPAFS. So many of us will miss him.

The Forum on Child and Family Statistics Releases: America's Children: Key National Indicators of Well Being

America's Children: Key National Indicators of Well Being is the third report in an annual series prepared by the federal Interagency Forum on Child and Family Statistics - a collaborative effort by 18 federal agencies. The report updates the information presented last year, maintaining comparability with previous volumes. Included are 23 indicators of well-being in the areas of economic security, health behavior and social environment, and education. Data are shown for population and family characteristics; economic security indicators such as poverty rates and dietary conditions of children; health indicators including birth weight, and mortality data; behavioral and social environmental indicators such as smoking and crime statistics; education indicators including enrollment percentages, and data about learning difficulties. Copies are available through the National Maternal and Child Health Clearinghouse, tel: (703) 356-1964.

The Federal Interagency Forum on Aging-Related Statistics Releases: Data Base News In Aging

The Data Base News In Aging describes the contents of government-sponsored survey and products containing statistical information about the older population. For each survey, the data base provides information about the sponsoring agency, the purpose and description of the study, current activities and future plans, the public use data files and reports associated with the study, and the contact person for the study. The Data Base covers information from the Departments of Agriculture, Commerce Health and Human Services, Housing and Urban Development, Labor, and Veterans Affairs. Also included is information about studies conducted for the Federal Reserve, the Social Security Administration, and the United Nations. Copies can be obtained from the Aging Studies Branch at the U.S. Census Bureau, tel: (301) 457-1371.

National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) Releases: The Condition of Education 1999

The Condition of Education is an indicator report, analyzing data that measure the health of education, monitor important developments, and shows trends in major aspects of education. The report first presents the reader with an overview of the information in order to create links between the numerous topics discussed and also construct a statistical picture of the condition of education. Each year, about 60 indicators are selected using data from various studies carried out by NCES, as well as surveys conducted elsewhere, both within and outside of the federal government. The indicators are organized into five sections: 1) Learner Outcomes; 2) Quality of Education Environments (Elementary/Secondary); 3) Quality of Education Environments (Post Secondary); 4) Social Support for Education; and 5) Education Participation and Progress. Additional tables and supplemental notes that support the indicators follow the five indicator sections. For those interested in delving deeper into the supporting data, further supplemental tables are available on-line at the NCES Internet site at: Copies of the report are available from the Government Printing Office, tel: (202) 512-1800.

M.E. Sharpe Company Publishes: The Job-Generation Controversy by David Hirschberg

Hirschberg uses his professional experience with employment data derived from state and federal payroll reporting systems to examine the issue of job-creation by business size. Using federal statistical data sources, he demonstrates that while small businesses have created new jobs, big business, those with more than 500 employees, remains the primary source of job creation in the United States. For information on obtaining a copy of the book, contact M.E. Sharpe at: 1-800-541-6563.

Russell Sage Foundation Publishes: Who Counts? The Politics of Census-Taking in Contemporary America by Margo Anderson and Stephen Fienberg

Who Counts? presents a detailed review of the preparation, implementation, and aftermath of the last three censuses. It recounts the criticisms of inaccuracy and undercounting, and the work to develop new enumeration strategies. The book tracks the legal course that began in 1988 when a coalition led by New York City first sued to institute new statistical procedures in response to population undercounts. The book also discusses the difficulties of collecting unambiguous measures of race and ethnicity. Who Counts? concludes with a discussion of the proposed census design for the 2000 Decennial Census, as well as the implications of population counts on the composition of Congress. Who Counts? can be obtained at a cost of $32.50 from the Russell Sage Foundation, tel: (212) 750-6037.

Association of Public Data Users (APDU) Launches New Publication: Of Significance

APDU has launched its new journal "Of Significance," that represents an effort to bring together a variety of perspectives on specific issues important to collectors, disseminators and users of public data. Each issue will focus on a single theme. The first volume is devoted to Statistical Literacy, with ten articles devoted to this subject. As defined by Katherine K. Wallman, Chief Statistician at the Office of Management and Budget, statistical literacy is: "The ability to understand and critically evaluate statistical results that permeate our daily lives - coupled with the ability to appreciate the contributions that statistical thinking can make in public and private, professional and personal decisions." The articles cover a wide range of issues including among others, the role of research organization in promoting statistical literacy, the role of the archivist, common errors in forming arithmetic comparisons, and initiatives in the promotion of statistical literacy on the part of the federal statistical agencies. Of Significance is published twice a year at an annual cost of $80.00. Single issues are available at a cost of $45.00. For further information contact the APDU Administrative Headquarters, tel: (703)807-2327.

The articles cover a wide range of issues including among others, the role of research organization in promoting statistical literacy, the role of the archivist, common errors in forming arithmetic comparisons, and initiatives in the promotion of statistical literacy on the part of federal statistical agencies. Of Significance is published twice a year at an annual cost of $80.00. Single issues are available at a cost of $45.00. For further information contact the APDU Administrative Headquarters, tel: (703) 807-2327.