Title: "‘It's None of Their Damn Business’: Privacy and Disclosure Control in the U.S. Census, 1790-2020."
Abstract: The U.S. Census Bureau is implementing new methods of disclosure control that will reduce the usability of publicly accessible population data. To understand the rationale for the cutbacks in access to data, we must grapple with the history of privacy concerns surrounding the census and the government’s response to those concerns. This paper traces the history of privacy and disclosure control since the first U.S. census in 1790. We argue that controlling public access to census information has never been an effective response to public concerns about government intrusion. We conclude that the Census Bureau should weigh the costs of curtailing access to reliable data against realistic measures of the benefit of new approaches to disclosure control.
Steven Ruggles is Regents Professor of History and Population Studies and Director of the Minnesota Population Center at the University of Minnesota. Ruggles received his Ph.D. from the University of Pennsylvania in 1984, followed by a postdoctoral National Research Service Award at the Center for Demography and Ecology of the University of Wisconsin. Ruggles has made contributions to historical family demography, focusing especially on long-run changes in intergenerational coresidence, single parenthood, divorce, and marriage.
Over the past 25 years, Ruggles has developed large-scale data infrastructure for economic, demographic, and health research. He is best known as the creator of the Integrated Public Use Microdata Series (IPUMS), the world's largest population database, spanning two centuries and 100 countries.
*Co-host: CUNY's Institute for Demographic Research (CIDR)