PAA Member Dr. Jeffrey Morenoff Testifies Before U.S. Senate

By PAA Web posted 08-08-2022 12:49


On July 25, U.S. Senator Gary Peters (D-MI), Chairman of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, convened a field hearing, “Reviewing the 2022 Census: Local Perspectives in Michigan.” The purpose of the hearing was to examine the impact of the 2020 Census on local communities and, more specifically, to discuss a challenge that the City of Detroit has filed with the U.S. Census Bureau regarding its enumeration.

 Among the witnesses was PAA member Dr. Jeffrey Morenoff, professor of public policy and sociology at the University of Michigan. Morenoff discussed findings from a recent housing audit he conducted with the City of Detroit, which revealed that the 2020 Census failed to count over 78,000 housing units in the over 4,000 census blocks that the study reviewed.  Morenoff also talked about a study he co-authored in December 2021, “Analysis of the Census 2020 Count in Detroit,” which showed that the 2020 Census undercounted the number of occupied housing units in 10 block groups by 8%--a percentage that if found in a majority of the city’s more than 600 block groups would put the population undercount in the “tens of thousands.” Dr. Morenoff explained that the housing undercount was “most pronounced in neighborhoods with the lowest self-response rates to the 2020 Census, suggesting that not enough resources were invested in field operations to complete the count.”

During the question-and-answer segment of the hearing, Senator Peters asked the witnesses, which included Detroit Mayor Michael E. Duggan and leaders from the city’s civil rights and non-profit communities, to identify significant challenges that led to the potential undercount in Detroit. In his response, Dr Morenoff stated that budget uncertainty in the years prior to the 2020 Census, which forced the cancellation of key field tests, had an adverse effect on the Bureau’s non-response follow up operations. Key strategies that could have enhanced the Bureau’s field operations were never evaluated nor employed. Underscoring a point made by Mayor Duggan towards the end of the hearing, Dr. Morenoff urged the Census Bureau to be more transparent with localities and to share more detailed data and metrics regarding its enumeration process and post-enumeration survey results.

 Following his appearance, Dr. Morenoff said, “This experience deepened my understanding and appreciation for the complexity of operating a decennial census. It also presented an opportunity to merge research and practice, by collecting data that helped the City of Detroit assess the accuracy of its count and challenge the results in areas of the city where there was strong evidence of an undercount. I intend to remain active in this area and will continue working with Detroit on pursuing remedies for its undercount.”