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Census director: One 'mainstream culture' doesn’t make much sense
Outgoing Census Bureau Director Robert M. Groves spoke to CNN about what he learned about America.
August 8th, 2012
08:00 AM ET

Census director: One 'mainstream culture' doesn’t make much sense

Editor’s Note: On Wednesday, the Census Bureau shares its 2010 Census Race and Hispanic Origin Alternative Questionnaire Experiment, one of the largest quantitative efforts done for race and Hispanic origin research. This interview with outgoing Census Director Robert M. Groves has been edited for clarity.

By Guy Garcia, Special to CNN

(CNN) - There was a whiff of doomsday in the air when Robert M. Groves was confirmed as director of the U.S. Census Bureau in 2009.

Plagued by technical difficulties and poor planning, the bureau seemed ill-prepared to tackle the gargantuan task of counting the nation’s growing and increasingly diverse population.

Groves, a professor and director of the Public Research Center at the University of Michigan and the author of several books on statistical surveys, certainly had the right background for the job, but congressional critics questioned whether he had the organizational moxie to get the bureau back on track.

He not only fixed the technical snafus and produced census surveys in dozens of languages to better reach the nation’s polyglot population, but he also streamlined the bureaucracy and completed the 2010 Census $1.9 billion under budget.

In his final week as Census Bureau director, he spoke to CNN about what he learned about America, and what he sees for its future.

Robert M. Groves, Census Director

CNN: How is America changing?

GROVES: My personal experiences as a Census Bureau director have taught me that talking about a “mainstream” culture doesn’t make much sense. It’s hard to go from Manhattan to, you know, Lincoln, Nebraska, without saying, "Gee, I’m in two very different places." People talk differently, they move at different rates, they’re interested in different things, they’re knowledgeable about different things. They interact differently. So it isn’t quite clear to me anymore what we mean by mainstream culture. We are many different cultures in this country, and we’re actually quite proud of that. FULL POST

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