Robert Santos was named the U.S. Census Bureau's next director on Thursday. This makes him the first person of color in the country to head the largest statistical agency.
Santos, a third generation Mexican American statistician, was approved by the Senate for the job of overseeing the bureau that conducts the once a decade census. This is often called the largest civilian mobilization in the country and surveys that build the data infrastructure of the country.
The Census Bureau's workforce is in recovery from the most challenging head count of U.S. citizens in recent memory. Last year's pandemic, natural catastrophes, delays, and attempts to interfere politically by the Trump administration hampered the 2020 census.
One of the Census Bureau's most valuable programs, the 1-year American Community Survey, was also interrupted by the pandemic. This survey provides an extensive picture of the U.S., including information on commute times and education levels. Bureau officials had earlier announced that the 2020 survey wouldn't be published in the usual format because it was not possible to collect data during the pandemic.
Santos, who is 66 years old, will assume the leadership of the agency in its preparations for the 2030 census. He will also oversee the final releases of data from the 2020 census.
Santos stated that statistics and helping people were his two passions during his confirmation hearing. He was a former president, American Statistical Association, and vice president and chief methodologist at Urban Institute.
Santos stated, "Those opportunities that were given to me allowed me to believe I should give back and have tried to do so every day of my adult life." "Census Bureau data helps us weave together to create a better union. This is a political position. However, I am not a politician.
Steven Dillingham was Santos' predecessor. He resigned in January as he was doing data crunching for 2020 census. However, there were criticisms that he was accepting President Donald Trump's request to produce citizenship information at cost of data quality.
Two Trump political appointees put significant pressure on bureau workers to find out who was illegally in the U.S. using federal and state administrative documents. Dillingham, another Trump appointee set a deadline for bureau statisticsians to give him a technical report, according to the Office to Inspector General. Soon after, the effort to collect citizenship information was stopped.
The Trump administration failed to include a citizenship question in the 2020 census questionnaire. It also named a few political appointees. This was because statisticians and Democratic lawmakers were concerned that they would politicize the once-a decade head count of all U.S. residents. Advocate groups claimed that the president issued two directives as part of his efforts to suppress participation of minorities or immigrants in the 2020 census.
Ron Jarmin, the chief operating officer of the agency, took over the duties of director after Dillingham left. Santos will take over the duties of Dillingham, who expires at year's end, and will then begin a new five-year term.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer praised Santos's performance after he was confirmed.
Schumer stated, "He is precisely the type of person our nation needs to oversee our Census -- an impartial and highly experienced professional from within politics."
During his confirmation hearing, Santos stated to senators that the Census Bureau needed more transparency and independence in order to build public trust and that the agency's career personnel needed nurturing after "a turbulent 2020."
Due to the pandemic coronavirus, wildfires in West Texas and hurricanes on the Gulf Coast, the 2020 census faced unprecedented challenges. The Pandemic caused the Census Bureau's delay in releasing state population data to help allocate congressional seats. This was due to the fact that the Census Bureau had to wait until April. Redistricting data for the drawing of congressional and legislative districts was delayed until August.
Santos stated that he was in favor of a proposal to combine the questions about Hispanic origin and race for the next census, which will be conducted in 2030. The Census Bureau has done a previous study that showed that Hispanics would respond more quickly to the question about race, as they are often of mixed race and ethnic backgrounds.
Although the Office of Budget and Management considered pairing the 2020 Census questions, the Trump administration decided to keep separate the race and ethnicity questions.
Santos stated, "I can use both my personal perspective as a Latino and my research experience, and I can use leadership to work with OMB in order to ensure that that particular issue is properly addressed."
Santos is the first person from color to be confirmed on a permanent basis as Census Bureau director. After Martha Riche's resignation, James Holmes, an African American, was appointed acting director.