Paul Watanabe, director of the Institute for Asian American Studies and head of the political science department at the University of Massachusetts Boston, has been named chairman of the U.S. Census Bureau’s new National Advisory Committee on Racial, Ethnic, and Other Populations.
The 32-member committee will advise the Census Bureau on a variety of social variables that affect the agency’s work. The committee will specifically focus on “hard-to-count” populations, such as racial and ethnic minorities, gays and lesbians, young people, and those with disabilities.
“[The Census Bureau] is not just the decennial Census, which is the thing that most people are aware of – it is the major source of collecting information on the American public,” Watanabe said. “And that is a 365-day, 52-week enterprise. It’s not just something that takes place every 10 years.”
Watanabe has worked with the Census Bureau for three years, previously as a member of the Race and Ethnic Advisory Committee. A recent reorganization has created “consolidated committees with a broader scope,” Watanabe said.
After committee selections were made, Census Bureau acting director Thomas Mesenbourg asked Watanabe to serve as chairman. He said the new committee has a crucial mission.
"We expect that the expertise of this committee will help us meet emerging challenges the Census Bureau faces in producing statistics about our diverse nation," Mesenbourg said. The committee will meet for this first time this month at the Census offices in suburban Washington, D.C., to advise officials on creating representative samples of these hard-to-count populations.
Members of the committee come from universities, government, and nonprofit organizations, and represent most of the communities the group will study.
“It’s a fairly comprehensive and impressive group of people,” Watanabe said. “The challenge for me is to get them all hauling in the same direction, to get them to work effectively.”