How To Avoid Politicizing Data When The Stakes Are High

The 2020 census is coming up and to prepare, Congress recently asked a group of experts: What’s the worst that could happen if we get it wrong? Only the restraint or ruin of American business for an entire decade. That can’t be true… can it? Plus, we feature the thoughts of special guest Matthew Jesser from Beyond the Data. Tune in to see all this and more.

The United States Joint Economic Committee recently held a hearing entitled: The Economic Impacts of the 2020 Census and Business Uses of Federal Data.

The bi-partisan committee consisting of 10 Democrats and 10 Republicans from both chambers of Congress met on May 22nd, 2019 and asked a panel of experts for their input on a series of issues including the importance of census accuracy, the trade-offs that come with changing census methodology, and how new technologies like machine learning can help better leverage census data.

Everyone seemed to agree that census data was important and perhaps Dr. Nicholas Eberstadt from the American Enterprise Institute said it best when he said, “whether you're a progressive or conservative, in favor of more government or less, you need good data to inform your efforts to make our country better.”

While “good data” was the outcome for everyone, there wasn't agreement on what that actually means.

To some, it included getting the most accurate headcount possible. To others, it meant including new questions and introducing new techniques to create new and meaningful ways to use the data to better serve we, the people.

We wanted to know how businesses could be impacted by some of the proposed changes to the census, so we reached out to Matthew Jesser, Co-Founder and Data Coach at Beyond the Data, to ask him some questions to help us build a consensus on the approach to the census.

Watched the episode to hear Matt answer these questions:

  • First of all, what does it mean to have “good data” in the census or any other survey? Is there such a thing as an objective approach?
  • Some people want to add more questions to the census around citizenship, criminal history, and social capital as a way to better understand the nation’s health and happiness. What would be some pro’s and con’s to this strategy?
  • One expert suggested a “new frontier” where machine learning and high tech computing could be used to analyze census data alongside private or corporate data. How valuable would it be to match a citizen’s census profile with their Amazon purchases, Facebook activity, or something else?

How can we ensure the most accurate 2020 census possible? What trade-offs do you see between adding more questions and participation in your marketing? And does the government asking social capital questions remind anyone else of an episode of Black Mirror?

Share your thoughts in the comments might just win yourself some new Brandish Insights gear.

Author: Josh Braaten

CEO - Brandish Insights

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