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Georgetown's Gain Is Census Bureau's Loss

Peter Wagner

On Friday, the Census Bureau lost its director when Robert Groves stepped down to be Provost of Georgetown University.

Director Groves was appointed to run the Census Bureau in 2009, with the 2010 Census rapidly approaching. Director Groves quickly put his stamp on the agency, working to cut costs and increase quality, while also working a tireless national travel schedule to promote participation in the Census. The 2010 Census was widely considered a success, and Dr. Groves deserves much of the credit.Dr. Robert Groves (left) at a February 2010 Congressional hearing, “2010 Census: Enumerating People Living in Group Quarters.” Source: Our Time Press

Here at the Prison Policy Initiative, we wanted to highlight one of the less talked-about good news stories about the Census Bureau under Dr. Groves’s leadership. For the first time, the Census Bureau agreed to identify which census blocks contained group quarters, such as correctional facilities, early enough that state and local redistricting bodies can choose to use this data to draw fair districts.

As Dr. Groves explained on his blog: “This decade we are releasing early counts of prisoners (and counts of other group quarters), so that states can leave the prisoners counted where the prisons are, delete them from the redistricting formulas, or assign them to some other locale.”

Of course, we here at the Prison Policy Initiative have long urged the Census Bureau to count incarcerated people as residents of their home addresses; but this change was a big one. It didn’t require state or local governments to do anything differently, but it did give those government bodies more choices.