WASHINGTON — The federal government's collection, reporting, and protection of accurate, comprehensive data is central to implementing, monitoring, and evaluating civil rights laws and policies. But the Trump administration is taking steps that undermine all of these pillars of data collection. In response to this growing threat, today, The Leadership Conference Education Fund issued a paper, Misinformation Nation: The Threat to America's Federal Data and Civil Rights, which highlights the importance of data and the present threats to civil rights-related data collection.
"The collection of federal data helps promote and protect the civil rights of all persons and ensure compliance with federal law," said Vanita Gupta, president and CEO of The Education Fund. "Without these data, federal agencies would be unable to meet their legal obligations, and advocates' work would be stymied. It is critically important that the scope, frequency, and public accessibility of existing data collections be maintained. Unfortunately, the Trump administration is actively undermining the collection and publishing of data critical to civil rights enforcement."
The federal government collects, analyzes, and publishes a tremendous amount of statistical information on the U.S. population on everything from population size and distribution, to wages and employment, to housing conditions and housing finance, to health and medical needs, to crime rates.
From fair political representation to voting rights, to equal opportunity in housing, education, health care, and the job market, the collection of data sets public policy. These data are central to public policy development; support advocacy for fairer and more effective public policies; assist civic and business leaders in promoting equality of opportunity and addressing the needs of a diverse population; allow for the evaluation of federal programs to test their effectiveness and strengthen their reach; provide evidence of potentially discriminatory impacts of government and private-sector actions; enable journalists and the public to hold public officials accountable; and form the basis for allocating half-a-trillion dollars in public spending every single year.
Rigorous collection of reliable and meaningful data for civil rights purposes must therefore remain a core activity of federal agencies.
However, the Trump administration is taking steps that undermine civil rights-related data collections. Among other troubling developments, the White House and federal agencies have canceled the collection of worker pay data by race and sex, undermining efforts to remedy the wage gap; discontinued the collection of key data on LGBT individuals and families, leaving the LGBT community more vulnerable to discrimination; and removed dozens of data tables from the annual "Crime in the United States" report, weakening the ability to propose solutions to criminal justice trends.
In the paper, The Education Fund also recommends the government should generally make its data sources transparent and publicly available for policymakers and advocates, while also protecting sensitive or individualized data from improper disclosure. And in order to be considered credible and reliable, government data collection must remain divorced from partisan influence, including any political anti-civil rights agenda.
The paper, Misinformation Nation: The Threat to America's Federal Data and Civil Rights, is available here.
The Leadership Conference Education Fund builds public will for federal policies that promote and protect the civil and human rights of all persons in the United States. The Education Fund's campaigns empower and mobilize advocates around the country to push for progressive change in the United States. It was founded in 1969 as the education and research arm of The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights. For more information on The Leadership Conference Education Fund, www.leadershipconferenceedfund.org .