My Two Census

Formerly the non-partisan watchdog of the 2010 US Census, and currently an opinion blog that covers all things political, media, foreign policy, globalization, and culture…but sometimes returning to its census/demographics roots.

Census starts its pre-Census legwork

Here in San Francisco, we’re pretty much daily readers of the San Francisco Chronicle. (After all, we need to enjoy it while it lasts.)

And even with the recent cuts and under-staffing that has plagued the paper, we happy to see some solid reporting about the 2010 Census in today’s Chronicle. Even better, the Chronicle teased to the story on the top of the newspaper’s front page.

As the Chronicle reported, the local Census is already gearing up for next’s massive undertaking. For those looking for jobs, the local office is looking to hire 700 census takers to “who will fan out next month to make note of every single dwelling in the region.”

Tracking down every single address in the nation is no small task, and the article notes that a recent Government Accountability Office report highlights some of the daunting problems still plaguing the “fragile” operation:

1. Technology. Census officials had hoped to equip census takers visiting homes that didn’t mail back their census forms with small GPS comp0uters. But technical difficulties forced the bureau to abandon those plans. Census takers will, according to the Chronicle, carry the devices when doing address canvassing.

2. Budget. Not only is the Census a massive undertaking, but it also takes a massive amount of tax dollars to fund that effort. And with the economy reeling and government expenditures being scrutinized for their job-creation efects, it may not be an easy year to fully fund the Census, despite the Constitutional requirement to do so. That’s no small problem when the Census may cost $14 billion to carry out.

3. Accuracy. Tracking down every address in the nation may go a long way toward ensuring an accurate census. But, what about those that don’t live in a real home or apartment? Many of the nation’s agricultural workforce is crammed into shacks, tents or crowded apartments. So those are still heads that need counting.

The Bureau has its work cut out for them. We’re happy to hear that they’ll be beefing up staffing to help solve that problem. And we’re just as happy that, even in bad times for newspapers, we’re not the only ones keeping an eye on how the Census is being carried out.