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.

Archive for April, 2009

Fear and Loathing in Pahrump Valley: Enumerators face off against people with guns and vicious dogs.

Monday, April 20th, 2009

censusbag2-lo

As hundreds of thousands of Census Bureau employees are now going door to door to verify the addresses of more than 300 million Americans, few people realize the physical risks that these field workers face. MyTwoCensus has called upon the Census Bureau to release statistics that detail how many Census Bureau employees have been injured/killed while on the job thus far in 2010 as well as during he 2000 headcount. While employees of the Postal Service ostensibly also face similar problems to Census Bureau field workers on a daily basis, 2010 Census employees lack the significant training and field experience necessary to deal with hostile individuals/animals/situations.

Also, as MyTwoCensus has previously reported, since Census Bureau employees lack uniforms and formal photo ID badges, they can be more easily targeted by individuals who suspect that someone is trespassing on their property. The Pahrump Valley Times, which serves Nye County in Nevada, reports:

Tony Longo, local Census Bureau supervisor, said crews don’t normally have to knock on doors to verify addresses unless they have a question over additional living quarters on the property.

Longo said a couple of census workers reported dog bites. There was a scary incident at one residence, he said.

“One group was standing in the street at a house on an acre lot and it was tree-lined. He was just trying to verify if there was another unit in the back and the lady sprung out of the trees with a .45 and then her son came behind her with a shotgun,” Longo said. “They were really cool once he explained who he was.”

Case of the Mondays? Maybe Christopher Walken and Tim Meadows can help…

Monday, April 20th, 2009

We at MyTwoCensus loathe Mondays just as much as you do. To help alleviate your back-to-work pain, we want to show you the most hilarious piece of Census Bureau-related comedy ever created:

Weekend Special: In case an enumerator comes to your door…

Friday, April 17th, 2009

Here’s how the Census Bureau is integrating technology into their operations:

New York, New York, it’s a helluva town

Friday, April 17th, 2009

When most people think of New Yorkers, they think of people who are always busy, rushing quickly from one place to the next. It seems that such preoccupations prevented a significant number of New Yorkers from completing the 2000 Census. NYC officials recently stated, “Only 55% of residents responded during the 2000 Census, far below the national average of 67%.”

The Queens Tribune reports, “Officials said that the five boroughs were home to the nation’s highest percentage of hard-to-count residents – immigrants and illegal immigrants paramount among them. Queens is home to the City’s largest immigrant population, with approximately 1 million legal immigrants alone.”

When many people discuss illegal immigration, they presume that it is relegated to border states like Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, and California. However, as the Pew Hispanic Center reported earlier this week, in addition to Texas and California, New York and Florida have the greatest number of illegal immigrants. In a city that has America’s highest population density, the New York City branch of the Census Bureau has a difficult road ahead.


Update: South Carolina Hiring Process

Friday, April 17th, 2009

Earlier this week, we reported that Calhoun County, South Carolina officials complained that the U.S. Census Bureau hadn’t hired any local residents for the decennial headcount. As we found out later that day, these officials were wrong! Here’s the follow-up from the Times and Democrat:

ST. MATTHEWS — Calhoun County officials were wrong when they complained the U.S. Census has hired no county residents, according to census officials.

They say they’ve hired more than a dozen county workers to compile addresses in preparation for the 2010 census. Earlier this week, Calhoun County officials complained about the lack of local hires.

“We indeed have hired 16 people from Calhoun County to work in Calhoun County in our address listing operation,” Charlotte Regional Census Center Media Relations Manager B.J. Welborn said. “We hired, tested and trained them there. We are out there knocking on doors.”

Welborn said about 79 people applied and took a basic skills test to qualify for the address listing operation. About 16 were hired and two additional applicants are being trained.

Welborn said the employees were trained at the Calhoun County Courthouse Annex building and the St. Matthews Department of Social Services office. Applicants were tested at the Calhoun County Council Chambers at the courthouse.

The 16 were selected based on their test scores and access to a working vehicle.

The Columbia Census office was responsible for the testing, hiring, training and supervision of census employees in the county.

USA TODAY: Hispanic groups call for Census boycott

Thursday, April 16th, 2009

USA Today scooped MyTwoCensus by revealing that some Hispanic groups are urging people to boycott the 2010 Census. This could spell trouble for the decennial headcount, as Hispanics, typically some of America’s most devout and religious people, are being told by members of the clergy to avoid participating in the census until immigration reform laws are passed. Here’s the story:

The National Coalition of Latino Clergy & Christian Leaders, a group that says it represents 20,000 evangelical churches in 34 states, issued a statement this week urging undocumented immigrants not to fill out Census forms unless Congress passes “genuine immigration reform.”

Similar grass-roots campaigns are unfolding in Arizona and New Mexico to protest state and local crackdowns on illegal immigrants. Asking immigrants to be counted without giving them a chance to become legal residents counters church teachings, says the Rev. Miguel Rivera, president of the Latino religious coalition.

When the Census counts growing numbers of Hispanics, the counts are often used to support crackdowns on illegal immigrants, he says. About 38% of the churches’ 3.4 million members are undocumented, he says. The Census Bureau does not ask people if they are here illegally.

Homeless Census

Thursday, April 16th, 2009

The major census operation that falls outside the realm of the Commerce Department and Census Bureau is the homeless census. The annual homeless headcount is required by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) for any county that receives federal funding, though this number is not a factor used to determine how much federal money counties receive. Since 2002 HUD has published its findings in an annual report (PDF) that is a collaborative effort between the federal government, universities, municipal governments, and outside consulting firms. It will certainly be a challenge for the Census Bureau to count America’s homeless during 2010 Census operations, and it will have to be determined whether numbers from the homeless census are used to calculate the actual homeless population. The homeless census has many critics who are skeptical that the rushed effort (this year’s whole tally took place on a single night, January 27) is an accurate portrayal of homelessness in America.

Robert M. Groves is on track for confirmation…

Thursday, April 16th, 2009

Here’s an update on the status of President Obama’s nominee for director of the Census Bureau from Ed O’Keefe at the Washington Post:

Congressional sources tell The Eye that Census director nominee Robert Groves will get a confirmation hearing in early May. The Census Project has released a letter signed by six former Census directors (pdf) backing his nomination.

Immigration Debate Continues…

Thursday, April 16th, 2009

Following the Pew Hispanic Center’s recent report on illegal immigration, there has been great speculation as to the number of illegal immigrants living in each state. For instance, it appears that Alabama’s undocumented immigrant population has more than doubled since 2005. According to Pew, in the past three years, the number of illegal immigrants in the Yellowhammer State has swelled from 40,000 to between 85,000 and 120,000.

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Updated Post: Census Bureau fails to hire residents of Calhoun County, South Carolina

Wednesday, April 15th, 2009

UPDATED POST:

Stacy Gimble, a Public Affairs Specialist at the U.S. Census Bureau, provided an update to our original story:

In following up with our Charlotte Regional office, we have confirmed that
the Census Bureau has actually hired 16 people from Calhoun County to work
in Calhoun County in our address listing operation.

Two additional applicants are being trained as possible replacements in
Calhoun County.  This is a standard procedure in case anyone currently on
the job cannot fulfill his/her duties for any reason.  This brings the
total number of census workers hired in Calhoun County to 18.

Also, the Times and Democrat has agreed to run another story tomorrow,
correcting this information.

Original Post:

Today, the South Carolina Times and Democrat reported that none of Calhoun County’s 15,000+ residents were selected to work for the U.S. Census Bureau for the 2010 Census, even though 140,000 Americans have already taken to the streets to start the Bureau’s initial address verification process. This is an interesting development, because we now have evidence that the Census Bureau has taken their hiring errors to both extremes by failing to hire people from large swaths of land in rural counties while also not hiring qualified people in urban areas who live outside of artificial neighborhood boundaries within municipalities.

Note: We have sent inquiries to four different Census Bureau officials in Washington asking them to explain why Calhoun County’s residents have been neglected from employment. The only justification for not hiring workers from Calhoun County would be if not a single individual passed the Census Bureau’s exams, which, generally are passed by some 40% of applicants.

Here’s the scoop from the Times and Democrat:

ST. MATTHEWS – Complaining of poor communication from the U.S. Census Bureau, Calhoun County officials are particularly peeved that not a single local resident has been hired by the federal agency to help with the 2010 count.

County Administrator Lee Prickett said Monday that, although the county had provided a location for the federal workers to train census taker applicants, “we didn’t see any local people being hired.”

Prickett expressed his concern to Philip LaRoche of Charleston, a partnership specialist with the U.S. Census Bureau, who was on the county council agenda to provide a census update.

LaRoche said the process for hiring census workers is strictly “recruit, test and hire.” Noting that Calhoun County is covered by the Columbia office, he said, “I won’t challenge the test scores for the people” who tested from Calhoun County.

A representative from the Office of the Inspector General of the Department of Commerce, who was on hand to monitor LaRoche, said her office is the one that looks into complaints and asks the questions that raise awareness. She suggested trying the “very helpful” hot-line link at www.oig.doc.gov.

“I don’t know if there are specific complaints, but people have been inquiring about the process,” Prickett said.

After the session, Prickett noted he didn’t realize no locals had been hired until the training started in space the county had provided. Some local residents did apply and take the test, he said, although no figures were available.

Asked if special skills were required, Prickett said some computer literacy would be necessary, since canvassers carry handheld computers.

Elaine Golden, the county’s 911 coordinator, said the unidentified woman her office contacted about the census “wasn’t very cooperative and was not polite to people who contacted her about positions.” And, there were “confusing stories” given about why local people were not hired, she said.

“I hope we get more cooperation,” said Golden, who also complained the county hasn’t even been notified that address canvassers for the census have already started working in the county. “There’s been a lack of cooperation with the census, so far … When do we meet the supervisor of the address representatives out there now?”

LaRoche, who Golden acknowledged had been trying to help solve the county’s problem, said he’ll contact the Columbia office for field operations, which is different from his Charleston-based partnership and operations office.

“We do want to work with them and help them out,” Golden said.

In the end, as requested by LaRoche, council approved a partnership with the U.S. Census. It’s a “symbolic but important” step to get everyone counted, he said.

Editorial Series Part 3: Problems with U.S. Census Bureau Hiring Practices

Wednesday, April 15th, 2009

Problem 3: In its hiring practices, the Census Bureau discriminates against people who live in certain areas, particularly within urban municipalities.

There is an applicant for a census job whom we will call Jane. Jane lives in San Francisco and speaks English, Spanish, and French fluently. She is 30 years old, has a Ph.D. in Demography from Princeton, the ability to work 40 hours per week, a perfect score on the census test, and no criminal record. However, the Census Bureau did not hire her.

Why? Jane lives in Inner Richmond, a neighborhood that has a large Mandarin-speaking population. Her other qualifications are outweighed by the Census Bureau’s computer database by the fact that she doesn’t speak Mandarin. Even worse, even though she lives just three miles from The Mission, a neighborhood where Spanish is the predominant language, there is another applicant with a lower test score, who hasn’t even graduated from high school, who lives within the borders of The Mission and will get the job instead of Jane.

In San Francisco, a less qualified applicant who lives within a neighborhood boundary would be hired instead of someone who is much more qualified who lives a mere three miles away.. Differences of a few miles should not be factored in to the hiring process, as Census Bureau employees in rural areas are asked to commute dozens of miles to and from work.

By not hiring individuals who have the best test scores and other qualifications, the Census Bureau fails to hire the most qualified applicants; those can likely provide the most accurate decennial headcount.

The Census Bureau fails to answer the questions: Part 1

Tuesday, April 14th, 2009

Last week, I wrote that I received a postcard in the mail alerting me that I qualified for open management/supervisory positions at U.S. Census Bureau. I followed the instructions on the postcard (which cost the Census Bureau 27 cents to mail to me…think about how much taxpayer money was wasted by sending postcards to the hundreds of thousands of other people who passed the Census employee exams) and was led to a job page that required me to print and mail out application materials. So, made an inquiry about the lack of online applications for these positions with the Census Bureau’s human resources representative for the Northwestern United States, Lori Brockmeyer. Here’s the chain of e-mails:

Dear Lori,

Is there any way to submit applications for the following positions online:

Local Census Office Manager – San Francisco PDF
Duty Location: Bay Area, CA
(Closing Date: April 17, 2009)

Partnership Specialist, AF-09-2010-PS-21ECA PDF
Duty Location: Bay Area, CA
(Closing Date: April 15, 2009)

Thank you,

Stephen Robert Morse

Lori’s response:

I wish! Sorry, but it is a manual process. Please mail the complete application packages to the address listed in the announcements- they must be received by the closing date.

Lori

My follow-up from yesterday morning:

Dear Lori,

How come there are so many federal jobs on USAJobs.com that can be applied for online but this job has to be applied for via hard copies/mail?

Thanks,

Stephen

As of today, I have receieved no response…someone must be held accountabile…

The 2010 Census immigration debate continues: Illegal aliens are having more kids…

Tuesday, April 14th, 2009

Today, the non-partisan Pew Hispanic Center, based in Washington, released a report indicating that the number of U.S.-citizen children born to illegal immigrants has dramatically increased over the past five years from 2.7 million in 2003 to 4 million in 2008. The Washington Post writes, “More than a third of such children were in poverty in 2007, compared with about 18 percent of those born to either legal immigrants or U.S.-born parents. Similarly, one in four U.S.-born children of unauthorized immigrants went without health insurance in 2008, compared with 14 percent of those born to legal immigrants and 8 percent born to U.S.-born parents.”

Here are the findings, as first reported by the Associated Press:

The analysis by Pew, a nonpartisan research organization, estimated that 11.9 million illegal immigrants lived in the U.S. Of those, 8.3 million were in the labor force as of March 2008, making up 5.4 percent of the U.S. work force, primarily in lower-paying farming, construction or janitorial work.

Roughly three out of four of their children — or 4 million — were born in the U.S. In 2003, 2.7 million children of illegal immigrants, or 63 percent, were born in this country.

Overall, illegal immigrants’ children account for one of every 15 students in kindergarten through 12th grade.

Illegal immigrants also have become more geographically dispersed, increasingly passing up typical destinations like California in favor of jobs in newly emerging Hispanic areas in Southeastern states like Georgia and North Carolina.

In 2008, California had the most illegal immigrants at 2.7 million, double its 1990 number, followed by Texas, Florida, New York and New Jersey. Still, California’s 22 percent share of the nation’s illegal immigrant population was a marked drop-off from its 42 percent share in 1990.

The latest demographic snapshot comes as President Barack Obama is preparing to address the politically sensitive issue of immigration reform later this year, including a proposal to give illegal immigrants a path to citizenship.

Though their numbers have soared over the past two decades, the total number of illegal immigrants in the U.S. has declined or remained flat in the last few years. Demographers attribute that to slower rates of migration into the U.S. caused in part by the recession, as well as to deportations and stepped-up immigration enforcement during the Bush administration.

Among the findings:

_One-third of the children of illegal immigrants live in poverty, nearly double the rate for children of U.S.-born parents.

_Illegal immigrants’ share of low-wage jobs has grown in recent years, from 10 percent of construction jobs in 2003 to 17 percent in 2008. They also make up 25 percent of workers in farming and 19 percent in building maintenance.

_The 2007 median household income of illegal immigrants was $36,000, compared with $50,000 for U.S.-born residents. In contrast to other immigrants, illegal immigrants do not earn markedly higher incomes the longer they live in the United States.

_About 47 percent of illegal immigrant households have children, compared with 21 percent for U.S.-born residents and 35 percent for legal immigrants.

_About three-quarters, or 76 percent, of illegal immigrants in the U.S. are Hispanic. The majority came from Mexico (59 percent), numbering 7 million. Other regions included Asia (11 percent), Central America (11 percent), South America (7 percent), the Caribbean (4 percent) and the Middle East (2 percent).

Lockheed Martin & The 2010 Census

Monday, April 13th, 2009

Last week, a report came out that a Canadian man, Todd Stelmach, was fined $300 for failing to participate in Canada’s 2006 Census. His reason for avoiding the surveys: His religious and antiwar beliefs made it such that he couldn’t support Lockheed Martin, the American defense technology firm that was contracted by the Canadian government to provide the services responsible for the Census.

American anti-war advocates are most likely unaware that Lockheed Martin has a contract to “develop and deploy the Decennial Response Integration System (DRIS) to carry out the 2010 Census. The Lockheed Martin Team was selected by the U.S. Census Bureau last year (2005) o implement the most technically advanced Census in the history of the United States.” Who awarded Lockheed Martin this contract? Was it a no-bid contract? What other firms sought to provide the 2010 Census with its necessary technology?

Here’s Lockheed Martin’s description of the Census services that they have provided for governments around the world:

The Lockheed Martin Census Business Practice team is a premier international provider of integrated census data collection, processing and analysis solutions. More than 10 years of unmatched experience, resources, methods, systems and commitment ensure that our census solutions are flexible, secure, accurate and cost effective.

Our Census Business Practice successes include the U.S. 2000 Census, the United Kingdom’s 2001 Census, and Canada’s 2006 Census, which was the first census in North America that allowed citizens nationwide the choice to submit their census via a secure Internet solution. The team is currently supporting the U.S. Census Bureau with the Decennial Response Integration System for the 2010 Census.

In the United States, the Corporation supported the Census 2000 with the Data Capture System (DCS). The U.S. Census 2000 was the largest, most sophisticated – and most accurate – census undertaken; encompassing 120 million forms with 98 percent accuracy. It represented the first census to use scanned optical character recognition (OCR) technology to process the handwritten forms.

For the 2001 UK Census, Lockheed Martin’s team provided data capture and coding services, including form printing, dress rehearsal services and census services for nearly 30 million forms with an accuracy rate of better than 99 percent.

Lockheed Martin provided hardware and software integration for Statistics Canada’s dress rehearsal and full 2006 census, including the first successful use of the secure Internet channel.

In every census we support, Lockheed Martin’s team strives to:

• Provide the general public with multiple, easy-to-use and secure methods of response.
• Help census authorities collect and capture the data accurately and completely.
• Employ robust processes and tools to ensure complete protection of individuals’ personal information.

Lockheed Martin’s Census Business Practice represents technology expertise that make census taking highly accurate, more automated and efficient, and easier for citizens as well as for governments to use.

Redistricting & The 2010 Census

Monday, April 13th, 2009

Many state legislatures are currently engaged in partisan battles over redistricting prior to the 2010 headcount. Colorado’s Aurora Sentinel reports:

Colorado has never had a shortage of embarrassing moments under the Gold Dome. The Legislature has tried to legislate the slander of vegetables, granted state residents permission to remove tags from pillows and furniture, and make it easier to carry a concealed weapon than it is to rent a car. But lawmakers may at least ward the next embarrassing gaffe off by changing the way the state draws boundaries for congressional and state legislative districts.

State Rep. Mike May, R-Parker, is proposing the state create a single bipartisan panel that has a tie-splitting independent voter to keep things fair.

Republicans have nothing to lose by the change — this time.

In Montana, similar arguments are now dominating the state legislature. Here’s what the Flathead Beacon has to say about redistricting:

HELENA – Even lawmakers’ first steps to begin the once-a-decade process of carving new legislative districts wear the marks of the bitter partisanship that often characterized the process in the past.

Republicans on Thursday released names of their candidates for the commission charged with redrawing legislative districts to reflect new census numbers. And — surprise — all four turned out to be Republicans. Democrats, if history is any indication, almost certainly will pick party stalwarts for their appointments, as well.

This time GOP leaders have thrown a new twist into the process, with a dedicated e-mail for receiving public comment on their candidates. Senate Majority Leader Jim Peterson, R-Buffalo, said the goal is to be more “open and transparent,” but Democrats think otherwise and have no plans to do the same.

“It could get to be a partisan sort of wrangling and that’s not what the commission is supposed to do,” said Senate Minority Leader Carol Williams, D-Missoula, careful to note that she finds all the Republican nominees well-qualified.

State law says Republican and Democratic leadership in the Legislature each may select two commissioners. Those four then are to agree on a fifth member, the chairman. If the appointees deadlock on choosing the tie-breaking chairman, then a decision rests with the Montana Supreme Court.

“I was hopeful the last go round that the four would be able to agree on a chairman,” said retired Chief Justice Karla Gray, who served on the court when it nominated the swing vote in 1999. “I don’t think it’s a responsibility that the court looks forward to, but perhaps that’s just my opinion.”

Stalemates have forced the court to appoint the chairman for bickering lawmakers in three of the four most recent redistricting efforts. And those appointments have in turn led to more partisan bickering, spawning bitter charges of gerrymandering that reverberate for years.


Uh-Oh(io): Will the Buckeye State lose 2 seats in Congress?

Friday, April 10th, 2009

Politicians in Ohio are getting nervous that they may not have jobs in a few years. The Newark Advocate reports, “Ohio Gov. Ted Strickland said the state is in ‘great danger’ of losing two congressional seats after the 2010 Census is completed. Strickland said Thursday he thinks Ohio certainly will lose one member in the U.S. House and chances are strong that it could be two. Ohio was on the brink of losing a representative after the 2000 Census and has since seen its population grow only modestly while many other states have seen much larger gains.” Uh-oh!

In general, as states in the Sun Belt see America’s largest population gains, the rest of the country’s population remains relatively stable or show slight population losses of people who are moving south. On the national stage, Ohio has played a major role in the past two Presidential elections, but that role will surely be diminished if it has fewer electoral votes up for grabs.

How to spend $1 billion: Census Bureau turns to “Brewster’s Millions” for advice

Friday, April 10th, 2009

Today, the Census Bureau sent out a press release announcing how it would spend the $1 billion it was given from the stimulus package. Though I’m sitting on these numbers for the weekend so I can properly analyze them, I am very disappointed that the Census Bureau made these financial decisions so quickly.

In the 1982 film Brewster’s Millions, Richard Pryor’s title character has to spend $30 million within 30 days. Since the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act was signed into law by President Obama on February 17, 2009, the Census Bureau, much like Brewster, now has $1 billion in new money to spend. Here’s the problem: There’s still no date for the confirmation hearing of Robert M. Groves, the Census Bureau Director-To-Be.

In a time where there is so much controversy involved in the 2010 Census, (and this is a position that of the utmost important to America for approximately one out of every ten years, which happens to be right now!), wouldn’t it be wise for Congress to put Groves’ confirmation hearing at the top of their agenda? What are they waiting for?

I can only imagine the frustration that Groves (presuming he is confirmed) will feel when he arrives for his first day of work. How would you like it if you were starting a new job and your underlings (or even worse, your predecessor who worked for the previous administration) were telling you how to spend $1 billion? Brewster wouldn’t have stood for this, and Robert M. Groves shouldn’t either.

This also begs the question: Who was responsible for allocating the $1 billion, if not the man who who will be in charge?

Uncle Sam Says: I Want You for the U.S. Census Bureau…errr…but not really…

Thursday, April 9th, 2009

want-you1

In mid-February, I went undercover and sat for the exams to become a U.S. Census field worker and supervisor. I studied hard and passed both exams with flying colors. However, despite my perfect test scores, exemplary educational background, and advanced foreign language skills, I never received a call from the Bureau to even interview for any position. This was shocking, because some 6,000 people in the San Francisco area were hired to work for the Census Bureau. Without sounding cocky, were there really 6,000 people out there with perfect test scores and other qualifications equal to mine? Apparently so, even though the local Census Bureau employees I’ve dealt with have been sub-par, as one employee told me to lie about my address and the other employee couldn’t speak English!

But yesterday, I received a postcard in the mail from the Census Bureau’s regional headquarters in Seattle. The headline was, “New Management & Supervisor Jobs Are Opening Soon At The Census!” The body of the letter reads, “Our records indicate that you have passed the test for management and supervisory positions with the 2010 Census…” It then goes on to give me the name of the web site where I can search for job openings.

When I went to this site, there were only two positions open in the Bay Area. One was for an Office Manager position and the other was to be a Partnership Specialist. Now you may ask, “What the heck is a partnership specialist?” In this case, it is someone who has “the ability to develop relationships and productive partnership agreements with leaders in the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, or Transgender community.” Well, this is San Francisco, so it shouldn’t be too difficult to find someone qualified…I know I’m surely capable.

But the problem I have with these jobs is that unlike other federal jobs which can easily be applied to online at USAJOBS.GOV, the Census Bureau requires applicants to mail a bulky application packet to Seattle, making the process of applying all-the-more difficult and tedious. This, my friends, is bureaucracy at work. More on this story coming soon!

Penalties from the Census Bureau: Are they ever enforced?

Thursday, April 9th, 2009

Perhaps you’re too lazy to fill out your 2010 Census questionnaire. Perhaps you don’t believe that the government has the right to know your personal information. Perhaps you are living in this country illegally and don’t want to come under suspicion. Whether your like it or not, every person in America is required by law to complete their census form (or their American  Community Survey if they are part of the 1 in 40 households destined for a more thorough demographic investigation).

The Census Bureau lists the punishments for failing to complete a census survey. However, it is unknown with what, if any, strength or frequency the following punishments are actually enforced, because if they were enforced, that would mean that millions of Americans would owe the federal government $100 each for failing to complete the decennial survey. This begs the question: What is the purpose of having a law on the books if it is never actually enforced? Here are the Census Bureau’s fine/penalty guidelines:

(a) Whoever, being over eighteen years of age, refuses or willfully
neglects, when requested by the Secretary, or by any other authorized
officer or employee of the Department of Commerce or bureau or agency
thereof acting under the instructions of the Secretary or authorized
officer, to answer, to the best of his knowledge, any of the questions
on any schedule submitted to him in connection with any census or survey
provided for by subchapters I, II, IV, and V of chapter 5 of this title,
applying to himself or to the family to which he belongs or is related,
or to the farm or farms of which he or his family is the occupant, shall
be fined not more than $100.

(b) Whoever, when answering questions described in subsection (a) of
this section, and under the conditions or circumstances described in
such subsection, willfully gives any answer that is false, shall be
fined not more than $500.

(c) Notwithstanding any other provision of this title, no person
shall be compelled to disclose information relative to his religious
beliefs or to membership in a religious body.

MyTwoCensus Exclusive Part 3: Identity Theft, Scams, and the Census Bureau

Wednesday, April 8th, 2009

3 million Americans are set to receive bonuses this year as they are being asked to turn in  a 301-question form to the Census Bureau, called the American Community Survey (click here to download this 76-page monstrosity), instead of the typical “it-takes-less-than-ten-minutes-to-complete survey” that the other 300 million Americans out there will take. The American Community Survey is a replacement for “the long form,” which, from 1930-2000 was a lengthy survey sent to one in every six households that asked questions about everything from property taxes and indoor plumbing to education, ancestry and commuting patterns. But don’t think that everyone who received this new American Community Survey in the mail isn’t suspicious of its legitimacy, especially in this era of identity theft. Here’s the report from the Treasure Coast Palm newspaper:

— Vero Beach resident Robert Di Santi got a packet in the mail from the U.S. Department of Commerce, U.S. Census Bureau.

He was a little concerned about the invasiveness of some of the 301 questions, touching on topics from marriage to income. And he wondered if the material was actually from the government because the census is normally conducted once a decade.

“I requested information from Sen. Martinez and Rep. Posey about the propriety of this request,” said Di Santi, who thought it might be a scam.

In this era of identity theft, Census officials said Di Santi, and others who have received the packet, shouldn’t worry.

The Vero Beach resident’s home was one of about 7,000 Treasure Coast residences that will receive the packet this year. The Census annually sends out 3 million of its American Community Surveys to randomly selected residential addresses nationwide this decade. About 1-in-40 homes are selected to complete the mandatory survey. Failure to complete the survey could result in a $100 to $5,000 fine.

The questionnaire is a new method of conducting the long form of the census, now called the American Community Survey, that had been part of the once-a-decade roundup of facts about Americans.

In the 2000 survey, one in six residences received a long form. In the 2010 census, conducted April 1, everyone will receive what had been called the short form.

The downside of only doing the long form once every 10 years is the data gets out of date pretty quickly, said Shelly Lowe, Census Bureau public information officer. Since various programs rely upon set formulas for allocations of money and grants, it was decided to switch the long form to the annual survey.

“As part of the census, (American Community Surveys) data help determine how over $300 billion in federal tax dollars are distributed back to state and local areas,” Lowe said. “That’s why it’s important to fill it out and send it back if you receive it.”

The survey questions are similar to what was in the long form, but by being done annually, the survey provides a moving picture of the changes across the American landscape, Lowe said. The representative sample taken by the survey is also used to determine how federal dollars are distributed.

The Census Bureau will send a letter telling residents they have been selected for the survey. If a household selected for the survey doesn’t respond, a census employee will call or visit the address to conduct the survey.

How the American Community Survey data is used

Ethic origin: Used by the Public Health Service Act to identify segments of the population that might not be getting adequate medical services.

Marital status: Used by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development to determine areas eligible for Low Income Housing Tax Credits.

Grandparents as primary caregivers: Used by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to administer the Temporary Assistance to Needy Families program.

English language ability: Used to assist with voting per the Voting Rights Act.

Educational attainment: Used to distribute money to school districts for adult education.

Residence one year ago: Used by federal programs concerned with employment, housing, education and the elderly.

Commute to work: Used as the basis for state and metropolitan planning transit planning.

Plumbing and kitchen facilities: Used by federal programs that distribute housing grants to state and local areas.