Detailed 2020 Census Data Coming in 2023

Writing in Poynter, Mike Schneider cautions journalists not to forget about the 2020 Census, whose results continue to roll in, providing valuable insight into the nation’s changing demographics.

“Even though the census was conducted two years ago, the U.S. Census Bureau has yet to release its most detailed data about families, household relationships and comprehensive breakdowns of the U.S. population by age, race, ethnicity and tribal affiliation,” Schneider explains, noting that the first release of this data will come in the spring, with more releases throughout the year. 

The delay comes in part due to a new privacy policy, which uses a tool known as ‘differential privacy’ that “injects random errors into the data so that information about households can’t be traced back to individuals.” For example, “Under the Census Bureau plan, sex and age breakdowns will be limited for detailed racial, ethnic and tribal groups based on the size of those groups in each state, county or place.”

Schneider outlines the tool’s use and its potential drawbacks. “Disagreements over whether differential privacy causes more harm than good have created a rift among some demographers, statisticians and researchers who use census data.” While critics argue that the tool will distort and limit data at the most local level, proponents say the Bureau is simply being more transparent about a practice that has always existed to protect the privacy of survey participants.

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