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.

Sending the message across (minority) communities

Today, both Ed O’Keefe’s Federal Eye blog and Max Cacas of Federal News Radio discussed how the Census Bureau is using a massive PR/Advertisin campaign to increase participation by minorities in the 2010 Census.

From the Federal Eye:

Amid fears that millions of people may be overlooked during next year’s census, the Census Bureau will launch a $250 million promotional campaign to encourage participation in the decennial head count, especially among hard-to-reach minority groups in urban areas.

More than half those funds will go for advertising across traditional and social media, and nearly a quarter will be devoted exclusively to Asian, black and Hispanic outlets.

“A year from now, the populace will have seen and heard more ads in national and local media than in any prior census,” the Census Bureau’s acting director, Thomas L. Mesenbourg, told a House Oversight and Government Reform subcommittee.

The agency will also hire 2,000 temporary employees by the end of June to coordinate efforts with more than 10,000 local organizations and corporations to help encourage greater participation. Companies including General Mills and Target and civil rights groups including the NAACP will encourage their customers and members to fill out census forms next year.

All of this is necessary to help boost participation levels among the nation’s undercounted groups, mostly ethnic minorities in economically depressed areas. How the bureau decides to advertise could prove crucial to next year’s count, said Stacey Cumberbach, New York City’s census coordinator.

“While the census is a federal responsibility, there must be earlier and ongoing communication and accountability to local governments and communities,” she said at yesterday’s hearing, noting that 55 percent of New York residents responded to the 2000 census questionnaires, compared with 66 percent nationally.

But any attempt at coordination with local governments may be adversely affected by their tight budgets, according to Robert Goldenkoff of the Government Accountability Office. He also noted that the bureau could encounter many people who refuse to answer questions because of their general distrust of government or fear of revealing their immigration status.

At a forum last week sponsored by the Brookings Institution, census officials and other experts also warned that increases in foreclosure and joblessness would make it harder to accurately count the population during the 2010 census because more Americans are moving out of their homes and into shelters or other locations where they may be more difficult for census workers to find.

Arturo Vargas, executive director of the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials, said minority populations are more likely to be affected because they are being hit harder by job losses and foreclosures. “Another undercount of the Latino community, of which there has been in every single census, simply represents a failed census,” Vargas said.

From Federal News Radio:

One year from now, the Census Bureau expects to be on-the-air, in print, and online with a message for all: please fill out your census forms!

It is all part of the effort to make sure everyone is counted in the 2010 Census.

The House Census Subcommittee, chaired by Missouri Democrat William Lacy Clay, met yesterday to explore how the Census Bureau was planning on using the media to get the word out on the decennial population count, particularly to those people considered “hard to count”.

How will the communications plan decrease the undercount, and increase the mail response rate of the hard to count communities?

For the answers, Clay turned to Thomas Mesenbourg, acting Director of the Census Bureau, who explained that the plan is to expand on a program, successful in the 2000 census, to reach ethnic minorities, those in lower income communities, and others that past censuses have found difficult to count accurately.

Messenbourg said they were devoting $250 million from $1 billion in stimulus money for outreach that will include stepped-up canvassing of addresses to identify residences with multiple dwellers and homes now abandoned due to mortgage foreclosures.

The money will also be used to boost the bureau’s advertising budget by $80 million, of which $26 million would target the fast-growing Asian and Hispanic populations using television, radio and online spots. Another $10 million would be spent on the undercounted black community.

The Census Bureau is getting help in honing and focusing its communications campaign to hard-to-count communities from DraftFCB, a communications firm. Executive vice president Tim Karakajian outlined their most recent step: a cross-country research and fact-finding tour, in which they tested draft versions of commercials with more than 1,400 people in all 40 states, Puerto Rico and the District of Columbia, to make sure their message is effective with target audiences.

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