Status of the Statistical Community After Sustaining Budget Reductions

IMTEC-84-17: Published: Jul 18, 1984. Publicly Released: Jul 18, 1984.

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GAO reviewed changes made by prominent federal statistical agencies to accommodate budget reductions initiated in the early 1980's to determine: (1) program and activity changes from 1980 through the budget authorization for fiscal year (FY) 1984; (2) the rationale for the changes; and (3) the effect of the changes on statistical programs and activities.

Although program reductions made by the statistical agencies mainly affected FY 1982, the statistical system generally has survived, and funding has been restored for several important data programs and for delayed improvements of other programs. GAO found that the Census Bureau was not permitted to proceed with the legally mandated mid-decade census, and it deleted portions of an agriculture census and temporarily suspended work on two other activities. The Bureau of Labor Statistics eliminated several data series and reduced the sample size of a population survey. The Department of Agriculture's Statistical Reporting Service reduced the geographic coverage of some reports, eliminated others, and reduced the frequency of certain data. The National Center for Health Statistics also revised the frequency of several of its data series. The National Center for Education Statistics reduced its technical assistance to states and its research programs. The Internal Revenue Service reduced the sample sizes of several data series, but retained the sample sizes at a level needed for tax administration. GAO found that, in accommodating budget cuts, the statistical agencies protected their core programs, preserved national level data, and attempted to minimize the difficulties for data users. Some users overcame the changes by financing data series proposed for deletion or reduction, and some private sector users paid for data they formerly received at no cost.

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