The Campaign Spot

Can We Trust the Census Bureau’s Data?

This morning, Twitter is abuzz about a shocking report in today’s New York Post:

Two years before the presidential election, the Census Bureau had caught an employee fabricating data that went into the unemployment report, which is one of the most closely watched measures of the economy. And a knowledgeable source says the deception went beyond that one employee — that it escalated at the time President Obama was seeking reelection in 2012 and continues today.

The Post article says that the false data was discovered, and four of 14 instances were investigated, but superiors at the Department of Labor and the public were never notified.

One Campaign Spot reader is a veteran of the Census Bureau, who finds some elements of the story believable, but is skeptical that this sort of dishonesty could be widespread within the organization:

I worked at the Census Bureau for 23 years and knew the people who ran the CPS Branch. It is true that the vast majority of Census employees support Obama but I have a hard time believing that they would risk their careers by deliberately manipulating the employment data. It is true that interviewers sometimes submit fake completed interviews (curbstoning) but this is usually due to pressures to meet a target of completed interviews or laziness or both. Even if there was a coordinated conspiracy to fake the unemployment numbers, doing it by having a lot of interviewers fake interviews seems to be an inefficient and risky way to do it.

Unless there is a lot more information out there that hasn’t been reported I would not believe this story. I say this as one of the few people I knew at Census who did not support Obama. I also admit that a lot of things I didn’t think possible have happened in this administration.

However, if any economic data was falsified, we can rest assured that the Obama administration will seek out the perpetrators, most likely rogue low-level employees acting on their own initiative in the Cincinnati office, just like in the IRS scandal.

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