ASA Members Host ‘Ask Me Anything’ Sessions on Reddit
In November, the ASA’s new president-elect and seven other ASA members joined the ranks of Barack Obama, Jerry Seinfeld, and Bill Gates when they hosted two live “Ask Me Anything” ses-sions about the US Census on Reddit, engaging with hundreds of commenters and garnering thou-sands of “upvotes.”
At the November 15 discussion, titled “Why the Census Matters,” Rob Santos, the ASA’s new president-elect and chief methodologist at the Urban Institute, was joined by three other census ex-perts—Tom Louis, professor emeritus at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health; Mark Mather, associate vice president at Population Reference Bureau; and William O’Hare, de-mographer and adviser at Count All Kids Census 2020—to field more than 450 questions in real-time exchanges with the public.
The experts discussed topics such as the constitutional mandate for the census, how its results guide more than a trillion dollars of allocations and research, why the census asks certain questions about identity and demographics, and how the Census Bureau uses differential privacy and other methods to ensure confidentiality. The session received more than 5,600 upvotes of approval from visitors.
The November 19 discussion, “Threats to the US Census,” was again hosted by Rob Santos and joined by the following four census experts:
- Constance Citro, senior scholar in the Committee on National Statistics at the National Academy of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine
- Amy O’Hara, executive director of the Federal Statistical Research Data Center at Georgetown University
- Andrew Reamer, research professor at The George Washington University Institute of Public Policy
- John Thompson, director of the US Census Bureau
With more than 1,100 upvotes and 181 comments, the experts discussed the problems and benefits of adding a citizenship question to the census (and why the Census Bureau opposed it), problems that could arise from the first online decennial census in 2020, how the Census Bureau guards against political interference, and how citizens can trust that their census data is safe.
Reddit, the fifth-most visited website in the US and 13th worldwide, is a network of communities and home to around 330 million members. Ask Me Anything sessions—“AMAs” in Reddit ver-nacular—debuted in 2009. Called a form of “genuinely new media” by The Atlantic magazine, these crowd-sourced Q&As allow experts to interact directly with the public. Commenters from across the internet leave questions for the experts and “upvote” questions and discussions that sub-stantially contribute to the conversation.
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