Biden picks Latino statistician as census director in historic move


President Biden on Tuesday announced his intention to nominate Robert Santos, the president of the American Statistical Association, to lead the U.S. Census Bureau.

Should he be confirmed, Santos would be the first person of color to permanently head the department, which oversees major surveys and the country’s decennial population tally, which is used to allocate congressional seats and federal funding for states.

Besides a brief stint by James Holmes, a Black man, as acting director in 1998, every other head of the department has been a white person.

The Hill said, Santos would fill the term left vacant by Steven Dillingham, who was appointed by former President Trump but quit in January. Dillingham’s term is ending this year, though Santos could be reappointed after its conclusion.

ALSO READ: Clar Weah, wife of Liberian President, urges actions to end gender-based violence

“If confirmed, I will support the Bureau and its staff in its mission to provide quality population and economic data to the nation,” Santos told NPR. “The principles of transparency, scientific independence, and integrity will be key in allowing the Census Bureau to thrive and innovate over the coming decade.”

Santos would take over a Census Bureau that finds itself mired in lingering controversy.

The department is defending itself against a string of lawsuits over a delay in the publication of the 2020 census’s results and is still trying to polish its reputation after a national debate over Trump’s efforts to have undocumented immigrants excluded from the tally.

Biden earlier this year ordered undocumented immigrants to be included in the 2020 census.

Santos, who is also a vice president and chief methodologist at the Urban Institute, has been vocal about the issues facing the 2020 census, warning in 2019 that people of color could be undercounted, which in turn would impact their congressional representation.