Co-Chairs Share Insights Gleaned from 2020 Census Data Products Workshop

The co-chairs of a December workshop sponsored by the National Academies Committee on National Statistics (CNSTAT), Joseph Hotz and Joseph Salvo, have released a summary of the insights gleaned from the workshop.

The December workshop, 2020 Census Data Products: Data Needs and Privacy Considerations, was funded by the US Census Bureau to inform their work on new strategies for data privacy using a methodology referred to as differential privacy.

Hotz and Salvo, who are ASA members, summarized their lessons in the document:

  • Accuracy in population counts for geographic units and demographic characteristics was not, in fact, harmed with the new differential privacy system.
  • There were, however, concerns about the data for small geographic areas and certain population groups.
  • Several presentations highlighted the problem of temporal inconsistency and comparing population counts from past censuses to the 2020 Census using differential privacy.
  • There appear to be unexpected issues with post-processing involved in the proposed privacy system.
  • The change will also have implications for other Census Bureau data products.
  • Speakers agreed there is a need to educate and provide guidance for users of the 2020 Census products.
  • As information in public data sources can increasingly be linked to commercial databases, a panel of experts discussed potential consequences for the success of the 2020 Census.

Read the entire document, “Assessing the Use of Differential Privacy for the 2020 Census: Summary of What We Learned from the CNSTAT Workshop.”