The Politics of Numbers
24 Sep 2010, 4pm, Van Vleck B239: Margo Anderson (UW-Milwaukee, history)
Title: "The Politics of Numbers"
The U.S. decennial census is mandated in the federal constitution as a mechanism to apportion seats in the House of Representatives and the Electoral College and to provide the states with local area tabulations for redistricting legislative districts. It is thus both a political instrument and a counting mechanism. The interaction between the technical methods of counting and accurately, precisely, and efficiently and the political impact of those technical methods has created census controversies over the centuries. The talk will discuss several historical examples, including controversies over apportionment in the 1920s; the undercount correction methods of the 1960s to the 1990s, and lay understanding of probability sampling. The role of statisticians, mathematicians, and politicians in clarifying or obfuscating the technical and political issues will be addressed.