Dec. 23 (Bloomberg) -- Robert Groves, director of the U.S. Census, said in an interview on Bloomberg Television’s “Political Capital with Al Hunt,” airing this weekend, that the 2010 Census shows that the ethnic makeup of the world’s largest economy will be increasingly diverse, with more mixed-race Americans.
(This is not a legal transcript. Bloomberg LP cannot guarantee its accuracy.)
AL HUNT: We begin the show with Census Bureau Director Robert Groves, who joins us now in our studio. Thank you very much, Dr. Groves.
ROBERT GROVES: Great to be here.
HUNT: Your centennial census shows population growth of only 9.7 percent, which I think is the slowest since the 1940 census. Why?
GROVES: Well, it’s a long-term trend, first of all. If you took out the Depression decade and the Baby Boom decade, we have a steady decline in the rate of growth. Why is that happening? Well, it turns out it’s happening in most developed societies around the - around the world.
HUNT: Around the world, right.
GROVES: It has to do with lower fertility rates, first of all. All of these societies are getting in migrants. Immigrants are coming in.
GROVES: But the net effect is a slowing of the growth.
HUNT: And so this will probably continue, from what we can -
GROVES: Unless our fertility rates change, yeah.
HUNT: Right. You released the macro numbers. I’m a Census Bureau junkie, a census junkie. You’re going to have a lot more data that comes - that comes out. What more are you going to be telling us in the months ahead?
GROVES: Oh, this is just the beginning. So we - we made the deadline for the reapportionment data. These are just state population counts.
GROVES: Coming in February and through the end of March will be state-by-state, very fine-grain detail data, down to the block level. We’ll have population counts broken out by race and ethnicity. Those are the tools that every state will use for redistricting, which is a massive operation that will take place over the coming months.
HUNT: And what will the business community look to? What will be of value to the business community -
GROVES: The business community can really profit from this - this small geographical detail. And we have some - we have some tools that are new, software tools that allow a businessman - a small businessman, especially, to assemble data for the market area he or she is interested in attacking to make good decisions about what the market looks like. So we think our tools and the data will serve -
HUNT: And they can just go to the Census Bureau website to use the tools?
GROVES: That’s right. We call it the American Fact Finder, and you can jump in there - really user-friendly kind of stuff.
HUNT: You’ve got a very good response rate. You came in under budget. That makes you a very unique government agency. Government studies in the past have shown that subsequent to the 2000 Census that it missed about 4 million people. I think the ‘90 Census may have missed as many as 8 million people, largely in minority and immigrant communities. Did you get it right this time?
GROVES: We don’t know yet. No census is perfect; that’s the first thing to note. There’s never been a perfect one. The second thing to note is it takes a while to evaluate this.
And there are three ways we evaluate a census. One is we - we look at process indicators, performance indicators during data collection. Two, we compare the census results to estimates from vital registration, birth and death certificates. And, three, we have a large sample survey to measure the undercount.
We’re starting to get glimmers on the first two. The process indicators look really good this time. The operations went smoothly. People responded at a rate beyond our expectations.
The second indicator we’re starting to get signals on, we - we released on December 6th a range of population estimates based on different assumptions of immigration.
GROVES: The census comes sort of dead center on that range.
HUNT: So that’s encouraging?
GROVES: That’s - that’s a good sign for us.
HUNT: So do you think - you think you may have come in less than - with an undercount of less than 4 million?
GROVES: We’ll see. I’m a data geek.
HUNT: Are you optimistic?
GROVES: I am optimistic. So far, so good. But stay tuned.
HUNT: Do the better - you have better tools. You have better sampling tools. You have more technology, better research. Does that help you?
GROVES: Design changes we made this time - and I had nothing to do with it. I’m a - I’m a newbie here - were really good. It - it reduced the variation in response over geographical space. The areas that are traditionally hard to enumerate did better, so the variation in response is smaller. That’s a good property of a census.
HUNT: One thing we know is that Hispanics are the fastest growing ethnic group in America. Are there going to be any surprises here, you think, as we - as we evolve in this? And not so much the numbers, but the geography, anything else about the Hispanic population?
GROVES: Yeah, I think we’ve documented well through the American Community Survey, this large sample survey we have, about the growth of the Hispanic population. The fine-grain geographical detail of the census will do another thing, and that will tell us about geographical dispersion.
And all of the speculation is that we’ll be taught something about our society, and that is new ethnic groups are going all over the country.
HUNT: It’s not just New Mexico or Arizona or the Southwest?
GROVES: That’s right, and it’s not just the coasts and it’s not just urban areas. You know, our mindset of what immigration looks like is a coastal phenomenon, big cities.
GROVES: It doesn’t look that way now. And there are small villages with new immigrant groups in it.
HUNT: In north, south, east, west -
GROVES: All over the place. All over the place.
HUNT: You know, young people in America today are much less race-conscious. There are more Americans of mixed race. Are you going to have to change the way you report on and categorize race and ethnicity in the census?
GROVES: That’s another thing I can’t wait to see. All of us should look at this when it’s out, and this will be the February to March vintage data.
Remember that in the year 2000, for the first time, we could check multiple races.
GROVES: It turned out very few people did that. But also think back over this decade. This is the decade of Tiger Woods and Barack Obama, where we talked about race combinations, and I can’t wait to see the - the pattern of responses on multiple races. That’ll be a neat indicator to watch.
HUNT: That will really be interesting, considering - the headlines that came out from the census - understandably of this part of the census - was who wins and who loses House seats. But it is a rather familiar story. The Sun Belt expands; the Rust Belt contracts. There’s no reason to think this isn’t going to be a continuum, is there?
GROVES: Well, first of all, on the - on the political side, I must remind people that the Census Bureau is a nonpartisan agency. We supply the data -
HUNT: You just get the numbers.
GROVES: - for this political purpose. Now, that big trend is a massive, multi-decade trend from the Northeast to the Midwest growing at smaller rates than the South and the West. This is the first decade, I point out, that the Western region is larger than the Midwest region.
The West region, these states that came last into the union, sparsely settled, that’s filling up in a way that we’ve never seen before. Will that continue? Well, you have to diagnose the reasons why it’s happening now, and there are - there’s a complex set of reasons. We’ll see what happens.
HUNT: You know, the Census Bureau doesn’t simply shut down after this once-in-a-decade survey. You’re sampling all the time, and you’ve gotten so much better in the way you do it. You estimated this number almost - almost exactly. That raises the question, do we really need this once-every-10-year exercise that - that the founding fathers designed?
GROVES: Well, the need is - is a matter of interpretation. It is a constitutional requirement, Article I, Section II. So to drop a census would require a constitutional amendment, I believe, and I don’t see the taste for that.
It is, indeed, the case that with ongoing sample surveys we are keeping track of our society and economy much more carefully, and we’ve benefited from that information. We’re making smarter business decisions because of the data that we have in a more timely fashion.
HUNT: OK. Dr. Groves, thank you very much for being with us.
GROVES: Thank you.
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