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.

Feature: Real Stories From The Field…Yet Another Worker Sounds Off

Here is yet another anonymous Census Bureau employee who wishes to tell his tale (the following does not reflect the opinions of MyTwoCensus or Stephen Robert Morse)…

I was a QC Enumerator for the address validation phase in San Marcos/Escondido CA area.  I used the HHC and was relatively pleased with the results.  One of the things that did trouble me was the absolute accuracy demanded when map-spotting.  For instance, we were practically forbidden to map-spot a mobile home at its mailbox or driveway, but had to go to the front door first, even though most of the front doors were under metal awnings which blocked the satellite. When the front door failed we had to back away until we were at the mailbox or driveway before you picked up the YAH (You-are-here) indicator.  This took about two minutes each time where it should have taken five seconds.  Even separate houses where we could walk down a sidewalk and mark a house in a second, we had to disturb the resident by going to the front door, knock or ring a doorbell, get the dogs barking and wake the child, give them a Confidentiality Notice just tell them to ignore us.  This usually occurred about a week after the original address canvasser had also done it.  This was supposed to instill confidence in Census?

After all that, the first thing they told us when we began the GQV training was that we weren’t going to use the HHC’s.  I immediately thought what a waste of time all that map-spotting was, but the second thing we were told is that we now had to do map-spotting manually! What the hell for?  It would seem to me that a map-spot coordinate is useful to follow a GPS device, but is of limited use to try and follow manually.  But, the government has made expensive computer generated maps that have thousands of map-spots on them.  I thought it would even be more foolish to spend hours trying to place by hand a guessed, at best, pencil map spot on an already crowded map.  I was right, but we spent four hours learning how to do it.  I can’t imagine the expense the Bureau spent on generating progressively detailed map-spotted maps and will now spend to update them with manually estimated map-spots.

I guess my biggest complaint is the seemingly “one size fits all” that creeps into and detracts from all government endeavors.  The training for both phases was excruciatingly boring and rote!  It could have been done in half the time if the trainees weren’t treated like fourth graders and the instructors weren’t forced to read every word from a book. We were told at the beginning of GQV that we would not be doing military or penal quarters, but spent over four hours on how to do it because it was in the “book” and the “book” couldn’t be deviated from. I live in and would canvas southern California yet was subject to long discussions on “black ice” safety and how to approach/avoid “moose” especially during their rutting season!

The questionnaire is a disaster!!  It is a 44 page, die-cut monstrosity that attempts to cover ever scenario that a lister would ever encounter.  The lister must start at its beginning and read it verbatim to whomever they are interviewing.  This requirement became an embarrassing block to a successful interview.  Before we could do solo interviews we had to be observed and “certified” by our crew leader.  For three days, I and my crew leader unsuccessfully tried to complete one interview and each time I was forced to read qualifying questions such as “Is this a drug abuse treatment center?” or “Is this a correctional facility?” I would be stopped by an angry owner and asked to leave.  It was so unbelievable that I finally resigned.  In a total of three days, I logged two hours of billable time, but was expected to standby the phone and wait for the crew leader to call to schedule another certification try.  The last I heard, three of the original class of fourteen were certified and everybody else has left.

The final direction that stuck with me was the homelessness directive. We were told to submit an info form every time we saw an apparent homeless person even if we saw the same person everyday.  When asked why, we were told that homeless people tend to stay in the same area and the census takers would know where to go during the actual Census 2010 (Six months later!).  With logic like that, I look forward to the results!

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2 Responses to “Feature: Real Stories From The Field…Yet Another Worker Sounds Off”

  1. Polprav Says:

    Hello from Russia!
    Can I quote a post “No teme” in your blog with the link to you?

  2. Craig Says:

    “We were told at the beginning of GQV that we would not be doing military or penal quarters, but spent over four hours on how to do it because it was in the “book” and the “book” couldn’t be deviated from. I live in and would canvas southern California yet was subject to long discussions on “black ice” safety and how to approach/avoid “moose” especially during their rutting season!”

    Bulk of this posting is fair, but this is not. There was nowhere near four hours of training on military sites and references on black ice and moose were single line statements in a safety presentation and should have taken no more than 15 seconds and is not worth criticizing as time consuming and unnecessary. The Verbatim format is meant to ensure the same training takes place nationwide.