Prewitt to Take On Census

The White House is mum, but the word on the street is that the Administration plans to nominate political scientist Kenneth Prewitt for the unenviable job of Census Bureau director. Prewitt, president of the Social Science Research Council in New York, would succeed Martha Farnsworth Riche, who resigned last January after years of battling Congress over the issue of statistical sampling.

Prewitt would not confirm the pick but says "if the president were to ask me to do it, I would do it." Observers say he would supply strong leadership for this summer's budget battles with congressional Republicans, some of whom are trying to block the bureau from using statistical sampling instead of a traditional headcount in the upcoming 2000 census (Science, 6 February, p. 798). A suit challenging the constitutionality of sampling has been filed by House members in U.S. district court. Current plans at Census are to contact 90% of the population and use sampling to estimate the rest. Prewitt won't comment on the dispute other than to hint: "If I want to find out if the soup is hot, I take a spoonful and make a decision. I don't need the whole bowl."

Prewitt is "technically capable and extremely bright," says Ed Spar, executive director of the Council of Professional Associations on Federal Statistics. He predicts quick confirmation by the Senate.