Feature: Real Stories From The Census Bureau (Group Quarters Validation)
As the “Group Quarters Validation” phase of the 2010 Census is well underway, we bring you another detailed account from a Census Bureau employee in New York City (Those interested in writing for us should not hesitate to send contributions…details on our contact page) whose anonymity we are protecting:
Group Quarters Validation (GQV) is the next major field operation in the 2010 Census. In GQV field employees known as listers go out to places that were pre-identified as other living quarters (OLQs) during the first phase, address canvassing. They classify these (OLQs) by conducting interviews using a 44-page questionnaire. Based on the interview they are prompted to classify these OLQs as group quarters (nursing homes, religious group living quarters, hospitals, hospices, group homes), transient (hotels, motel, single-room occupancy, campgrounds, marinas). They can also classify OLQs as nonresidential, vacant or even housing units.
The handheld computers have been ditched but the hugest obstacle in this operation is paper. I can’t imagine what it is like in places like Kansas where there is probably one census office for the entire state. But in a metropolitan city such as New York moving this much paper through the public transportation system like subway, bus or even in cars is a logistical nightmare.
address listing pages: a listing of all the housing units and OLQs in the entire assignment.
questionaires: one or more 44 page questionnaires used to conduct the interview (called survivor questionnaires)
additional labels with barcodes associated with the building (called nonsurvivor labels)
The address listing pages contains the OLQs and every single housing unit on the entire block and print on single sided legal size paper. (We were told that the printers can not be defaulted to double sided printing because the Census would be in violation with contract terms they have with the supplier.) The procedural manuals say that the additional housing units are used to help the lister locate the OLQ. But in New York City the listing of each housing unit in each multi-apartment building make our address listing pages tenfold in size. Some blocks in midtown are so huge that the address listing pages have to be divided into multiple binders.
The questionnaire is another problem. Each questionnaire is 44 pages however the lister only asks several introductory questions and it directs him to complete one of the fifteen tabs in the questionnaire. Each interview uses approximately 5-8 pages of the questionnaire. But with a paper questionnaire the lister has to be very careful to follow the skip pattern, ask the correct questions of the respondent and mark appropriate box. He/she also has to write the correct address status codes on the address listing pages and additional labels. The crew leader checks each questionnaire, each label, and each address listing page.
Even time sheets are now paper. Each employee fills out a time sheet for each day worked. He/she gets the a carbon copy and the original goes to payroll.
So between the paper in the address listing pages, the 44 page survivor questionnaires, non-survivor label sheets for the field staff and the checklists the office staff have to run through on each questionnaire, non-survivor label pages and address register in the office you can see the decennial census not only destroys the rain forest, $14 billion can add up pretty darn quickly.