Robert M. Groves

Census Director (since July 2009)

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Why He Matters

On the surface, Groves has been assigned a straightforward task: count every person living in America in 2010.

But anything and everything about the census is controversial. A former associate director of the Commerce Department's Census Bureau during the first Bush administration, Groves advocated statistical sampling - a controversial method of estimating those people, such as illegal immigrants and the homeless, who are hard to reach directly - during the 1990 census.

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At a Glance

  • Career History: Professor at the University of Michigan (1992 to present); Associate Director at the Census Bureau (1990 to 1992); Professor at the U of M (1975 to 1990)
  • Hometown: Kansas City, Mo.
  • Alma Mater: Dartmouth College, B.A. (sociology), 1970; University of Michigan, M.A. (sociology and statistics), 1973; U of M, Ph.D (sociology), 1975
  • DC Office: U.S. Census Bureau, 4600 Silver Hill Road, Washington, D.C. 20233, 301-763-INFO (4636)
  • Web site

Path to Power

Born in Kansas City, Mo., Groves never had one place he called home for long as a child. Groves's father was a metallurgical engineer, working for a variety of defense contractors, as well as NASA, which meant the family moved often.

For college, Groves attended Dartmouth University, where he studied sociology. In 1968, while working on a paper about prison recidivism, Groves grew a mustache and found a job as a prison guard in order to understand prison-life.

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The Issues

The selection of a census director was a contentious issue when Obama entered office because of the national count scheduled for 2010. This debate grew more heated when the president announced that the White House would monitor how the census was conducted in order to assure Latinos and African American populations weren't disenfranchised. When the president selected Groves in April 2009, many Republicans jumped on the choice.

Republicans feared that Obama and Democrats would try to politicize the census, which dictates the number of House Members apportioned per state. The decennial count is also used to allot federal dollars to the states. Groves is a past supporter of sampling, and tried to employ it (unsuccessfully) in the 1990 census. But his boss, Commerce Secretary Locke, told lawmakers at his Senate confirmation hearings that the bureau would not use the controversial estimation method in 2010.

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The Network

The Census Bureau is housed in the Commerce Department . Groves will be reporting to an unnamed undersecretary at the Commerce, as well as Secretary Locke . Groves will work closely with General Counsel Cameron F. Kerry


Campaign Contributions

Groves has donated $450 to political campaigns, all of which went to Michael Bouchard (R), a Michigan senatorial candidate in 2006.