Social and Decision Analytics

John H. Thompson

  • Distinguished Institute Fellow
Thompson headshot


John H. Thompson is a Distinguished Institute Fellow with the Biocomplexity Institute and Initiative at the University of Virginia. He also is currently an independent consultant with a focus on survey methodology, executive leadership, the Federal Statistical System, and decennial census. Thompson was director of the U.S. Census Bureau, and most recently, the Executive Director of the Council of Professional Associations on Federal Statistics, an organization whose focus is to advocate for the production and use of high-quality statistics to support good governance and economic growth. Thompson is nationally recognized for his innovative leadership, significant impact on government and academic research, and vision to advance excellence in federal statistics and modernize the federal statistical system.

Thompson spent close to 10 years in two separate, distinctive executive leadership positions with the U.S. Census Bureau. From 1997 to 2002, he was the senior career executive responsible for all aspects of the 2000 Decennial Census and spearheaded the transformation of large-scale complex surveys through innovation. As the executive leader of the 2000 Decennial Census, the U.S. government’s largest peacetime mobilization, he managed a budget of $6.5 billion and a workforce of more than 500,000 people. He received accolades for his outstanding work from the National Academy of Sciences Panel evaluating the census, among others. From 2013 to 2017, Thompson was the director of the Census Bureau where he successfully worked with the executive and legislative branches of the federal government, including the White House and Congress, to transform the Bureau into a forward-looking 21st century statistical agency. His accomplishments include a redesign of the 2020 Decennial Census to achieve great efficiencies through the use of modern geospatial tools, the Internet, and mobile technology; and implementation of a research program to support mission critical activities – both of which have had a profound impact on the federal statistical system.

Thompson was President and Executive Vice President of the (National Opinion Research Center) NORC at the University of Chicago, a national nonprofit organization that conducts high-quality social science research in the public interest. Between 2002 and 2012, he led the organization to nearly 50 percent growth in revenue, implemented new initiatives to improve and advance federal statistics, and oversaw major research projects, including the National Immunization Survey conducted on behalf of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Thompson is a fellow of the American Statistical Association, a member of the 2013 Virginia Tech College of Science Hall of Distinction inaugural class, and received the Presidential Rank Award for Meritorious Executive in 2001. The Department of Commerce recognized his cumulative impact on federal statistics with the bronze medal in 1988, silver medal in 1998, and gold medal in 2000.

Full CV

    • B.S. Mathematics, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University 1973
    • M.S. Mathematics, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University 1975
    • Graduate course work in statistics, George Washington University 1977-1981
Professional Service and Associations

Professional Service and Associations

American Statistical Association, 1975 to Present

  • Chair, Social Statistics Section, 2011
  • Chair, ASA Committee on Fellows, 2009

National Academy of Sciences

  • Member of the Committee on National Statistics, 2011 – 2013
  • Member of the Panel on the Design of the 2010 Census Program of Evaluations and Experiments
  • Member of the Panel to Review the 2010 Census


Awards and Honors

Awards and Honors

  • Virginia Tech College of Science Hall of Distinction Inaugural Class, 2013
  • Presidential Rank Award of Meritorious Executive, 2001
  • Gold Medal, Department of Commerce, Gold Medal, U.S. Bureau of the Census, 2000
  • Elected Fellow of the American Statistical Association, 2000
  • Silver Medal, Department of Commerce, U.S. Bureau of the Census, 1998
  • Bronze Medal, Department of Commerce, U.S. Bureau of the Census, 1988
In the News