One of the University’s very own may soon leave campus to join the new administration in Washington, according to a report from The Associated Press.
President Barack Obama nominated Dr. Robert M. Groves, a University professor of sociology, to be the next director of the Census Bureau yesterday afternoon. In his 34 years of work at the University, Groves has focused on methods for improving survey response and accuracy. With the 2010 census approaching this could lead to changes in how the U.S. population is counted — a controversial topic on Capitol Hill.
A University staff member since 1975 and Institute for Social Research Survey Research Center Director since 2001, Groves has made his career in survey research and sociology.
James Jackson, director of the University’s Institute for Social Research, wrote in a statement released yesterday that Groves’s nomination reflects well on the University as a whole.
“The intended nomination is an honor to the University and to ISR,” he wrote.
Jackson noted that Groves’s possible appointment to the Census Bureau, however, would be bittersweet.
“Groves is an excellent choice for this important job,” Jackson wrote in the statement, “and he will be sorely missed at ISR if confirmed for the job at Census.”
With an extensive background in survey research, Groves, who served as associate director of the Census Bureau from 1990 to 1992, will take up his new position amid some political concern about possible statistical adjustments to the 2010 census.
To some, Groves is a controversial pick for the position. As the Census Bureau’s associate director during the 1990 census, Groves proposed a statistical adjustment that would make up for an estimated 5 million undercounted people, made up mainly of urban minorities who typically support the Democratic Party.
Congress denied the statistical readjustment in 1990, after critics of the change claimed it was politically motivated. Members of the Republican Party feared that such readjustment would factor into reapportionment of seats in the House of Representatives.
Despite the renewal of such concerns, Commerce Secretary Gary Locke — who oversees the census — said there are no current plans for district reapportionment, and that sampling adjustments would be more geared toward measuring the accuracy of the current census, according to The Associated Press.
Vincent Hutchings, a Political Science professor and research associate professor for the Center for Political Studies, said in an interview yesterday that he believes Groves is likely to include the statistical adjustments that he has proposed in the past if appointed.
“I know that as a survey researcher, he is very familiar with and is very sensitive to undercounts,” Hutchings said. “At the end of the day, the census is just a survey and it doesn’t count everyone, it has its flaws.”
Hutchings said that although “the people who are typically undercounted are racial minorities, and these are often considered voters for the Democratic Party,” he doesn’t think that is the sole motive for the appointment.
After being nominated, Groves awaits approval from the Senate. If appointed, Groves will oversee the distribution and collection of the 2010 census. The Census Bureau has not yet notified the public of any plans to change the methods of statistical collection for next year.
— The Associated Press contributed to this report.