COPAFS
 

COPAFS Newsletter: Spring 1999

In This Issue:

There'a Little News on the Budget Front

As we near the July 4th holiday, there is very little news on the FY 2000 budget front (see the latest budget table at the end of the newsletter). The National Agricultural Statistics Service and the Economic Research Service are the only two agencies to receive any budget numbers. Both are part of the Department of Agriculture, whose budget passed the House of Representatives. The only other agency to receive anything this year is the Census Bureau, receiving additional funds for FY 1999. Although Congress has stated a desire to finish all appropriations bills before leaving for the August break, this becomes less and less likely. One of the major problems is spending caps that put a ceiling on expenditures. For example, the Census Bureau is requesting about $2.0 billion more than they will spend in FY 1999. At the same time, the House appropriations subcommittee responsible for the Census Bureau has a cap that is $3.0 billion lower than FY 1999. This puts the committee in an approximate $5.0 billion "hole" even before they begin. On the Senate side, the appropriations committee for the Census Bureau did not include an additional $1.7 billion additional request in its recommendation. Moving on to other agencies, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) did not even have a hearing this year - most likely a well deserved sign of support for the BLS. Although the Bureau of Economic Analysis has requested a substantial increase, we're told that the Senate appropriations committee recommendation will be above the FY 1999 spending level, but not at the full request. Unless there's a last minute scramble, expect to see a continuing resolution to keep the government open in October along with another omnibus spending bill.

Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) Data Collection Language

Language has surfaced from the 1996 Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act which reads, "Notwithstanding any other provision of Federal, State, or local law, a Federal, State, or local government entity or official my not prohibit, or in any way restrict, any government entity or official from sending to, or receiving from, the Immigration and Naturalization Service information regarding the citizenship or immigration status, lawful or unlawful, of any individual." This was picked up in the New York media as meaning that any responses to a decennial census on the part of undocumented aliens could be sent to the INS. The Department of Justice has written that "notwithstanding" should be interpreted that it would be necessary to have specific legislation to allow a federal official to send information. Under this interpretation, the confidentiality language of Title 13 of the U.S. Code protects the decennial census. In a letter to the Department of Commerce, which houses the Census Bureau, the INS has stated its agreement to this interpretation. However, we are unaware of any other federal statistical agency that has been in contact with the INS. Hopefully, the confidentiality language in the entitling legislation for each of the agencies covers this issue.

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

In our last newsletter we reported that 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. The key language states that "after publication of the research findings used by the Federal government in developing policy or rules, the research results and underlying data would be available to the public in accordance with the FOIA." The proposed revision also requires federal agencies, in response to a FOIA request, to obtain the requested data from the recipient of the federal award. It is given "a reasonable time to do so." OMB received about 10,000 responses to the proposed new wording. The majority of the letters received (about 6,000) were in favor of the FY 1999 appropriation language. Those in favor support the idea that government supported research should be made available to other users in a timely manner. Those against the proposed new wording believe that the scope and process of what is intended is too broad and too vague. For example, what is meant by data? Will the proposed revision be limited only to data purposefully collected for federal policy making? What constitutes a publication and when would results or data need to be made accessible? Is FOIA the right framework for ensuring data disclosure under federal awards? Representative George Brown (D-CA) introduced H.R. 88 to repeal the original provision. To date this bill has not moved. There are other efforts to delay implementation of the revisions to the OMB circular for one year. New wording from OMB, in response to the letters received, is expected in the next few months.

Dr. Pascal Forgione Resigns as U.S. Commissioner of Education Statistics

Although it was expected that Dr. Forgione would serve a second term as Commissioner and head of the National Center for Education Statistics, he has resigned. This resignation followed the White House decision not to nominate him for a second term, even though the Department of Education favored his nomination and appealed the White House decision. By way of background, in February 1999, Vice President Gore released data from the National Assessment of Education Progress (NAEP) 1998 reading achievement test scores. The National Assessment Governing Board (NAGB), which designs the tests, criticized the Vice President for turning the public event into what they considered a political event. The data, according to the NAGB are supposed to be first released by the Commissioner. Dr. Forgione sided with the NAGB's criticism. In addition, he did not agree with the Vice President's interpretations of the data. We are concerned that the head of a federal statistical agency has been punished for taking a stand on the need for keeping the release of data out of the political arena. The Committee on National Statistics' report, Principles and Practices for a Federal Statistical Agency states that, "to be credible, a statistical agency must clearly be impartial. It must avoid even the appearance that its collection and reporting of data might be manipulated for political purposes." Dr. Forgione himself pointed this out in recent House testimony.

Recent Decennial Census Activities

Representative Mark Green (R-WI) introduced a bill (H.R. 1632) to require that state prisoners be counted as residents of the state that pays more than half of the cost of incarcerating them. Representative Green has testified that the change in counting policy, based upon resident rules established for the decennial census, is necessary to accommodate the growing "practice of states leasing prison space in other states." Put another way, even though the prisoners are represented by the states they reside in, they "belong" to the states that pay the most for them. We wonder if this is a variation on a theme of medieval ownership. It's not clear to where the prisoners would be reassigned. Also, the question arises as to why this should be limited to prisoners. Why not extend it to hospital patients residing for long periods of time in another state, where the home state pays the other state to furnish medical treatments that are not available in the home state?

The House Subcommittee on the Census recently held a hearing to review proposals to count all Americans living overseas in the decennial census. Currently, the Census Bureau counts members of the armed forces, civilian employees of federal agencies, and all of their dependents stationed abroad during the census, for congressional apportionment purposes. These counts are based on administrative records maintained by the Department of Defense and other agencies. Not counted are civilians such as business people who are working and living overseas. The Census Bureau has cited concerns about the accuracy of counting non-federal overseas residents, since they do not have reliable estimates of the overseas population or an address list. There is also concern that the voluntary nature of an overseas count might tempt some states to mount campaigns to boost their counts for apportionment purposes. States bordering Mexico and Canada would be in the best position to take advantage of such campaigns. The Bureau has said that it would need substantial additional funds for an actual overseas count, as well as considerable lead time to design and print questionnaires. There is general agreement that the issue requires further research.

The Census Bureau has developed a New Construction Program to insure that all housing unit addresses resulting from new construction are included in the 2000 Census. The goal of the program is to supplement the 1998 Local Update of Census Addresses (LUCA) program and account for new housing units constructed in addition to those identified by the Fall 1999 and January 2000 updates from the U.S. Postal Service. All new construction addresses identified as a result of this program will be matched against the Master Address File (MAF) to avoid duplicating addresses that are already included on the file. The definition of new construction consists of all housing units that have been built and occupied between January 2000 and Census Day (April 1, 2000), plus all housing units being built, for which enough work has been completed to close the structure from the elements, even if not occupied. The Census Bureau will offer the New Construction Program to all local and tribal governments that were eligible to participate in the 1998 LUCA program.

This Spring, the Census in the Schools Project targeted 40 percent of the nation's schools (public, private, parochial) by sending invitations to receive a teaching kit directly to teachers (all elementary teachers and secondary social studies and math teachers). This accounts for 42,525 schools, or 870,854 teachers. The teaching kit is sent to teachers who return a business reply card. Schools were selected based upon criteria including 40 states where students in schools were eligible for free lunch is 40 percent or greater; in eleven states where 31 percent or more of the families of students are living below the poverty level and where household income for the zip code is under $35,000; and all the schools in major large cities. If requested funds are available from the FY 2000, the program will be expanded to the remaining 60 percent of schools.

Annie E. Casey Foundation Releases Kids Count Data Book 1999 State Profiles of Child Well-Being

Ten indicators that are measured for every state have been developed to highlight and assess trends in the well-being of children. The indicators possess three important attributes: 1) they reflect a wide range of factors affecting the well-being of children (such as health, adequacy of income, and educational attainment; 2) they reflect experiences across a range of developmental stages - from birth through early adulthood; and 3) they permit legitimate comparisons because they are consistent across states and over time. The indicators are: percent low birth-weight babies; infant mortality rate; child death rate; rate of teen deaths by accident, homicide, and suicide; teen birth rate; percent of teens who are high school dropouts; percent of teens not attending school and not working; percent of children living with parents who do not have full-time, year-round employment; percent of children in poverty; and percent of families with children heJune 29, 1999aded by a single parent. For each state data are also shown for demographic changes in race and child health; social and economic characteristics; juvenile justice; and family risk index. The appendices include historical data on the indices going back to 1987 for each state. For more information, the email address is: http://www.kidscount.org

National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) Releases Education Statistics Quarterly

NCES has released the first issue of the Education Statistics Quarterly, designed to be a "user-friendly" and useful publication for the education statistics and policy communities. Each issue will include a large number of important reports on a variety of topics related to education. The reports will be organized by subject matter, and an annual index will be provided to facilitate using the publication as a reference. The Quarterly will be timely, each issue containing reports and publications that will have been released in the most recent quarter. The featured topic for this first edition is teacher quality. There are also articles on early childhood education, elementary-secondary education, and post-secondary education. While supplies last free copies are available by calling 1-877-4ED-PUBS. You can print copies from the NCHS web site at: http://nces.ed.gov

The Urban Institute Releases Snapshots of America's Families

The Snapshots of America's Families offer a look at the well-being of children and adults based upon the 1997 National Survey of America's Families (NSAF). The NSAF, which pays particular attention to low-income families, and shows aspects of their lives and how they differ from the lives of children and adults in families with higher incomes. The data are organized into four subject areas: income and hardship; health; children's environment and behavior; and adults' environment and behavior. Thirteen states are surveyed which represent more than half the nation's population. Detailed information was collected from 75,437 adults and 34,439 children in 44,461 households. Two conclusions are clear from the Snapshots. First, the circumstances of the 43 percent of children living in households with low incomes are very different from those of children in higher income households. Second the status of children and adults differ greatly around the country. The survey will be repeated in 1999. For further information contact the Urban Institute at: 202/261-5709.

Federal Committee on Statistical Methodology (FCSM) Releases Statistical Policy Working Paper 28 - Seminar on Interagency Coordination and Cooperation

On November 4-5, 1998, COPAFS hosted a "Seminar on Interagency Coordination and Cooperation. Developed to capitalize on work undertaken during the past twenty years by FCSM and its subcommittees, the seminar focused on a variety of topics that have been explored in the Statistical Policy Working Paper series and on work on statistical standards done by the Statistical Policy Office of OMB. The subjects covered at the seminar included: Fostering Intergovernmental Cooperation: Challenges of Federal-State Cooperative Data Systems; Training for the Future: Addressing Tomorrow's Survey Tasks; Integrating Administrative Records into Federal Statistics: Issues and Challenges; Applying Cognitive Methods: Uses in Establishment Surveys; Integrating Surveys: Achieving Efficiencies and Improving Quality Data; Providing Public Use Microdata Files: Records Linkage, Confidentiality, and the Future ; Measuring performance: How Well Are We Doing?; Response Rates in Household and Establishment Surveys; Estimating and Defining Household Income; Alternative Measures; Measuring and Reporting Sources of Error in Federal Data Collection programs: Recommendations from the FCSM Data Quality Subcommittee; Sharing Methodology; and Changing Core Classification Systems. Copies of the Working Paper can be ordered from NTIS Document Sales, telephone number: 1-800/553-6847.