Date: Tue, 18 Jul 2000 12:15:38 -0700 (PDT)

Census Director on Politics of Census 2000

Irvine -- Subversity, a public affairs program on KUCI, this afternoon features a talk on "The Politics of Census 2000" by U.S. Bureau of the Census director Kenneth Prewitt. His keynote address was given last month at the annual conference of the International Association for Social Science, Information, Service and Technology (IASSIST), a data archivists and data providers group. The conference was held at Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois.

Dr. Prewitt, an academic appointed by President Clinton, gives the historical background for why the U.S. conducts a census every ten years. He speaks frankly of being a political appointee at the head of a sprawling bureaucracy facing political pressure from Congress as it conducted the decennial census. For example, there are six bills in Congress to do away with the long form, and another proposal to do away with the census bureau. Privacy concerns also have impacted on the bureau. He believes the long-form will be around in some form.

Prewitt also talks about what the bureau did in World War II when it offered the military "small geographic area" data on Japanese Americans. The military used that information to "make it easier" to round up Japanese Americans into "internment" camps. It was a "very bad moment" for the bureau. He talks realistically about the pressures on the bureau to do the same thing in the current period of anxiety about "terrorism" and "rogue" states. "If the contry is at risk, serious security risk, we will be under pressure" to find "where are there people in this country congregated, concentrated who come from that rogue state" It's not a farfetched scenario, he says, if there is another terrorist bombing. "Will we be able to resist it? I hope so, I hope we will be able to do it better than 1940." Prewitt is a former head of the Social Science Research Council. He says he can't wait to get back to academia.

He is introduced by Judith S. Rowe, the longtime data librarian (now retired) at Princeton University and advocate of public access to government data.

Subversity airs this afternoon from 4-5 p.m. on KUCI, 88.9 fm in Orange County, Calif., and on the Web via

IASSIST can be reached at:

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