Robert Santos could make history as first person of color confirmed to lead U.S. Census Bureau

WASHINGTON – President Joe Biden has chosen one of the nation’s top statisticians to lead the U.S. Census Bureau, potentially putting a person of color in charge of an agency that has been criticized for undercounting Black people, Latinos and other minority populations.

If confirmed, Robert Santos would become the first person of color to serve as permanent director of the Census Bureau, which is charged with conducting federal surveys and the once-every-decade head count used to determine how many congressional seats each state will get and how many federal funds are distributed.

Santos will replace Steven Dillingham, who stepped down in January amid criticism that he was caving to pressure from then-President Donald Trump to produce citizenship information at the expense of data quality.

The White House announced Santos’ appointment on Tuesday.

Santos, who was born and raised in San Antonio and lives in Austin, is currently the vice president and chief methodologist at the Urban Institute, a think tank in Washington. He’s an expert in survey sampling, survey design, and social science and policy research, with more than 40 years of experience.

Santos is president of the American Statistical Association and previously served as president of the American Association for Public Opinion Research and as an elected member of the International Statistical Institute.

In 2019, he co-authored a report warning that underfunding and the last-minute introduction of a citizenship question could result in serious miscounts of Blacks, Latinos and others in the 2020 Census.

People of color and poor families are undercounted every census. But COVID-19 delayed delivery of Census questionnaires for hard-to-reach populations during the 2020 spring quarantine and delayed operations since then to reach households that failed to respond. 

Michael Collins covers the White House. Follow him on Twitter @mcollinsNEWS.

Contributing: The Associated Press and 

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