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Economy

Is the Census Still Necessary?

Of course it is. I was just trying to get your attention.  But is it necessary to have such an extensive census?

The U.S. Constitution requires it, in order to apportion representatives to Congress among the several states.  So long as we had a 3/5 clause, it was necessary to count slaves separately.  Is anything other than a headcount (perhaps a count of citizens--we can argue about who is supposed to count) necessary?  Beyond that, may the government require it? Or is the degree of the mandate that the constitution imposes upon the citizen limited by its purpose.  To be sure the Court has ruled otherwise. But was it correct?

Beyond that, my friends who use census data to study U.S. history and public policy say that the census is an invaluable resource in helping them to understand the U.S.  In that sense, the longer form may be a "necessary" tool for policy in the sense that Hamilton argued that the Bank of the U.S. was "necessary."  That brings me to my real question.   Is that still true?  Is the statistical account of the U.S. given by the census still much better than that which is available elsewhere?  Or has the proliferation of survey research and other such endeavors rendered it less essential?

I suppose one could say the same thing about varous economic forecasting bureaus.  Given the proliferation of economists in the private sector, the Fed, and our Universities doing the same thing, do we need to have so many economists working for the U.S. government.

In short, might these jobs be one place where we can look to save some money in the future.  If the need for the job no longer exists, perhaps the job should no longer exist.  Change happens, sometimes leaving government behind the times.

Categories > Economy

Discussions - 1 Comment

In theory, it is possible to get a more accurate count via statistical analysis. In practice you, a statistical analysis will grant the statistician(s) the ability to allocate a number of the house seats based only the presuppositions of the statisticians(s). It doesn’t even require actual malice. Just an honest but mistaken belief that certain states or groups are underrepresented and an honest effort to correct this by changing the weight of the variables. Imagine the affect once the process became politicized or for sale.

To put it another way. Why count the vote when you could just use the result of the exit polls?

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