Robert Santos, Former Director of Survey Operations at ISR, Nominated to Direct U.S. Census Bureau

April 20, 2021

ANN ARBOR – President Biden announced his intent to nominate Robert Santos for Director of the U.S. Census Bureau. Santos is the former Director of Survey Operations at the Survey Research Center (SRC) at U-M’s Institute for Social Research. If confirmed, Santos, a third-generation native Mexican American, will be the first person of color to serve as the Senate confirmed Director of the Census Bureau.

“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.”

Robert Santos

Robert Santos
Image by Errich Petersen

Santos was born and raised in San Antonio, TX, where he currently resides. He began his statistical career studying mathematics at community college, and received his BA in the subject from Trinity University in San Antonio. He then earned his master’s degree from the University of Michigan Statistics Department in the mid-1970s. During that time, he assisted in the development of samples for the National Survey of Black Americans (NSBA) and the National Chicano Survey in the Sampling Section at the Survey Research Center.

When SRC decided that it needed an integrated administrative structure for its “technical sections,” it created the Division of Surveys and Technologies (DST) – now Survey Research Operations. Santos returned to SRC as the first DST Director, serving from 1987-1995. Santos continued to other executive-level leadership positions at NORC and AAPOR, and now the Urban Institute in Washington, DC, where he has served as VP and Chief Methodologist for over two decades. Santos is also currently President of the American Statistical Association (ASA).

With more than 40 years of experience, his expertise spans quantitative and qualitative research design, sampling, survey operations, and statistical analysis, and his specialty areas include undocumented immigrants and other disadvantaged populations. Santos has worked across a wide range of policy areas including education, health, immigration and refugees, environmental issues, housing discrimination, travel behavior, and elections.

He writes, “I have a passion for policy research and helping society to become more informed about public issues. It is incredibly rewarding to apply statistical principles and tools to studies of pragmatic, real-world problems and to help researchers develop rigorous scientific approaches to collect and analyze data for policy insights.”

Karissa Knapp, [email protected]

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