Now the Biden administration is working on a plan to reduce the number of people crawling between the cracks.
By making data more inclusive, the hope is that policy decisions that rely on federal data will ultimately better serve communities in need, Alondra Nelson, co-chair of the Equitable Data Working Group, said in an interview with CNN Business.
Government data is also often considered the gold standard when it comes to determining the distribution of federal, state, and local funding for services such as veterans’ benefits, disaster relief, and incentive payments. It can also be used to better analyze how tax cuts and other benefits affect Americans and to ensure that this funding gets to the people who need it most.
“We can’t really know how we’re doing and how well we’re serving the American public if we don’t have the ability to dig into the data,” she said.
Among the top recommendations: parse and split the broader data into demographic areas, such as racial and ethnic subgroups, income, geography, sexual orientation, and gender identity; increase funding for more federal and independent research and analysis of data that better includes minorities and marginalized populations; and make the information more accessible, transparent and easier to understand for the general public.
The recommendations also include several requests for budget increases for further research and analysis in areas such as access to health care, long-term Covid and mental health status in historically disadvantaged communities; adding questions about sexual orientation and gender identity to the Census Bureau’s largest household survey; and increasing the workforce and capabilities to expand data collection to include Middle Eastern and North African heritage and subgroups of Asian-American, Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islanders.
Over the past year, the group has met with dozens of nonprofits and research organizations to gather their input on how federal data can be more equitable. Some of these groups included the Arab Community Center for Economic and Social Services, the Black Women’s Roundtable, the Latina Institute, the National Congress of American Indians, the Pew Research Center, the Urban Institute, and the Williams Institute on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity. †
Several of these groups have increasingly spoken out about how their communities, populations, and demographic subgroups are not represented in federal data.
Independent research conducted by universities, non-profit organizations and others only goes so far, they said, because it doesn’t carry the same weight as government statistics leading to funding of direct services.
Nelson said Friday the government is listening and taking action to implement these changes.
“We want to say to the American public, ‘We hear you,'” she said. “‘We understand you don’t feel seen.'”