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 January, 2010

Census could shape corporate strategy

Friday, January 8th, 2010

Besides states seeking funding and representation in Congress and workers seeking temporary employment, another group stands to benefit from the 2010 Census: corporations.

The Economist reports that businesses plan to use census data to help them make decisions about where to open stores and what to stock. Target, for example, tells the magazine that it began offering more Spanish-language children’s books and hair products for African Americans after seeing data from the 2000 Census.

And due to the economy, more firms than ever are expected to utilize census data:

According to Zain Raj, the boss of Euro RSCG Discovery, a marketing firm, even more companies than normal will be poring over the census this year. The recession has made them reluctant to expand without good market data, he argues, yet it has also caused them to cut back on research, making the free census data all the more vital.

And some experts predict that this year’s data will lead more companies to push micro-targeted ad campaigns:

Peter Francese, a demographer at Ogilvy & Mather, an advertising agency, thinks the 2010 census will permanently change marketing. When companies analyse the census data, they will see that cities, and even some neighbourhoods, are so diverse now that broad advertising campaigns are no longer suitable. Mass-market advertising, he says, will become “extinct”. Marketers will instead have to focus on reaching specific households—just as the Census Bureau is preparing to do.

The Census Bureau has about 47,000 corporate partners that are helping to market the census, more than double the number in 2000, according to the Economist. It’s clear that the businesses, too, have a stake in the data.

“Negro” has been on census forms for 60 years

Friday, January 8th, 2010

News organizations across the country have reported on the controversy surrounding the word “Negro” on forms for the 2010 Census.

But a Census Bureau official tells NPR that “Negro” has been on the forms since at least 1950.

NPR also reports that 56,175 respondents wrote in “Negro” on their forms in the 2000 Census, even though the word was also included as a response choice.

One of our commenters asked when the Census Bureau last studied the wording for the question, which asks about race, and when we might see some new data. The Bureau told NPR it would examine the effects of removing “Negro” this year.

Tough economy aids search for census workers

Thursday, January 7th, 2010

As Census Bureau director Robert M. Groves said in a conference call last month, the recession is helpful to the Bureau because it means a larger, and more qualified, applicant pool.

The nationwide unemployment rate was 10 percent in November 2009, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (new data is scheduled to be released tomorrow). That number, Time reports, is higher than any census year since 1940.

Time also reports how the Bureau is handling the influx of applications:

In this slow economy, the Census has been overwhelmed by both the quantity and quality of applicants. “We’re getting a lot of people who are professionals, people who have been laid off from the large companies, people with master’s degrees and higher,” says Lillie Eng-Hirt, who manages the Census office in Memphis, Tenn. One man was so grateful at being offered work, she relates, that he had the Census employee hiring him in tears after hearing his story of going without a job for so long.

Enthusiasm about the jobs has been so great that the Census pulled plans to advertise them nationally. Last spring, the Census did run ads when it was hiring canvassers for the summer — people who walk up and down every block in the U.S. to verify each address. The Census was hoping to get 700,000 applications in order to fill 200,000 spots. Instead, the bureau received 1.2 million. (Those applicants will be considered for the new positions too.) This time around, says decennial recruiting chief Wendy Button, the Census will run advertisements only in areas where it anticipates having trouble filling positions, such as inner cities, extremely rural areas and neighborhoods with large percentages of non-English-speaking residents.

And applicants aren’t the only thing the Cenus Bureau has a surplus of this year: The Minneapolis Star-Tribune reports that the Bureau is having no trouble finding office space due to high vacancy rates. The paper says:

And the feds are finding plenty of cheap temporary places for desks, in a market in which roughly 20 percent of all office space stands silent.

Use of “Negro” on census form causes stir

Wednesday, January 6th, 2010

A question on forms for the 2010 Census uses “Negro” as a response choice, and some blacks are taking issue with the Census Bureau‘s wording.

The New York Daily News reports:

The census form for 2010 features a word more often heard in 1966: Negro.

For many New York blacks, the word conjures visions of Jim Crow and segregation – even if the Census Bureau says it’s included to ensure an accurate count of the nation’s minority residents.

“It’s a bad vibe word,” said Kevin Bishop, 45, a Brooklyn salesman. “It doesn’t agree with me, doesn’t agree with my heart.”

Pamela Reese Smith, visiting the city yesterday from Rochester, said the term was outdated.

“I don’t think my ancestors would appreciate it in 2010,” said Smith, 56. “I don’t want my grandchildren being called Negroes.”

Question No. 9 on this year’s census form asks about race, with one of the answers listed as “black, African-Am. or Negro.”

Census Bureau spokesman Jack Martin said the use of “Negro” was intended as a term of inclusion.

“Many older African-Americans identified themselves that way, and many still do,” he said. “Those who identify themselves as Negroes need to be included.”

The form was also approved by Congress more than a year ago, and the word has appeared on past forms.

Readers, weigh in: Is “Negro” inappropriate or inclusive?

Video from road tour launch

Wednesday, January 6th, 2010

Did you miss the kick off events of the 2010 Census road tour on Monday? If so, you can catch a short clip from the tour’s launch in New York City:

The road tour vehicles will be posting updates and event locations on Twitter. We’ve compiled a Twitter list with the vehicles’ updates. View it here.

Bachmann toning down census criticism

Tuesday, January 5th, 2010

U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.) is toning down her criticism of the 2010 census, now that her district may be in danger, according to recent news reports.

Talking Points Memo observes that it’s been some time since Bachmann — who previously said she would not completely fill out the form and only disclose the number of people in her household — has criticized the census. And that might be because Bachmann’s district could be cut if Minnesota loses one of its eight House seats. State demographers say it’s probable that Minnesota will lose a seat, and the Minneapolis Star-Tribune published an editorial this weekend encouraging state residents to participate.

TPM reports:

The really fun fact, as I’ve learned from Minnesota experts, is that Bachmann’s district would likely be the first to go if the state lost a seat. The other seats are all fairly regular-shaped, logical districts built around identifiable regions of the state (Minneapolis, St. Paul, the Iron Range, and so on). Bachmann’s district is made of what’s left over after such a process, twisting and turning from a small strip of the Wisconsin border and curving deep into the middle of the state. As such, the obvious course of action if the state loses a seat is to split her district up among its neighbors.

UPI has a bit more on the issue:

“She becomes the most vulnerable just simply because of the shape of her district, because of the likelihood of the political composition of the Legislature next year and because Democrats don’t like her,” David Schultz, an election law expert at Hamline University in St. Paul, said.

San Francisco leaders to introduce census legislation

Tuesday, January 5th, 2010

San Francisco Supervisor Ross Mirkarimi will introduce legislation requiring Census workers to be allowed in Single Room Occupancy hotels so their residents can be accurately counted, according to a post on the San Francisco Chronicle’s blog, City Insider.

Mirkarimi successfully advocated similar measures for election workers to be allowed into the “notoriously hard-to-access” SROs three years ago, the blog post said.

The plan is just part of San Francisco city officials’ major push for an accurate count:

Ensuring all San Franciscans are counted in this year’s census has been a focus of city officials over the past several months since they maintain the 2000 census undercounted residents by nearly 100,000 people, costing San Francisco $290 million in federal dollars over the past 10 years.

Mirkarimi’s announcement will come just a day after the 2010 Census Road Tour was launched outside San Francisco’s City Hall.

Indigenous immigrants to be counted for first time

Tuesday, January 5th, 2010

Indigenous immigrants — Native Americans from Central America and Mexico — will be counted for the first time on the 2010 Census.

ABC News has the full story from the Associated Press, which reports that these immigrants often need to check multiple boxes to describe their background. Language barriers and a lack of trust in the government are also obstacles:

The Census Bureau wants to change that in the 2010 count as it tallies immigrant indigenous groups for the first time ever, hoping to get a more complete snapshot of a growing segment of the immigrant population.

In the 2010 Census, the bureau will tabulate handwritten entries specifying that the respondent belongs to a Central American indigenous group such Maya, Nahua, Mixtec, or Purepecha. The list of different populations that end up being counted will be made public when results are released in 2011, said Michele Lowe, spokeswoman for the Census Bureau.

“We’re always striving to present an accurate portrait of the American people, and this is part of that effort,” said Lowe.

An accurate count is important to the indigenous groups themselves, and to the federal government, which allocates resources to state and local government according to the results.

The U.S. Department of Labor estimates indigenous migrants make up about 17 percent of the country’s farm workers, and may represent up to 30 percent of California’s farm worker population. Florida also has a large indigenous immigrant population.

Counting on census controversy

Monday, January 4th, 2010

From a proposal to ask about citizenship on 2010 Census to a collaboration between Latino groups and evangelical churches to promote the census, we’ve seen a fair amount of controversy, well before census forms are distributed in March.

Audrey Singer, a senior fellow in the Metropolitan Policy Program at the Brookings Institution examines some of the controversies surrounding the upcoming census in an op-ed for CNN.com.

Much of the debate will center on meaning of “home,” she writes:

This coming census — the largest count of the U.S. population with more immigrants and minorities than ever — will be complicated further by the economic downturn and foreclosure crisis because many people are “doubling up” or otherwise living in temporary quarters.

The census questionnaire asks for a count of all people who live and sleep in the household “most of the time,” as of April 1, but not those who are living away at college or in the military or those who are living in a nursing home or who are in a jail, prison or detention facility. (They are counted separately from households.)

“Home” may have changed recently for those whose hardship leaves them little choice but to live with relatives or friends, however temporary that may be. “Home” for displaced residents of the Gulf Coast may be miles away from where they lived before the devastation that Hurricanes Katrina and Rita wrought in their communities.

“Home” for some immigrants is in U.S. communities even though they are not legally residing in the United States. And “home” may be in a prison or detention center in a state far away from the inmate’s hometown residence.

In the comments, let us know what you see as the most controversial parts of the 2010 Census.

Why the 2010 Census matters

Monday, January 4th, 2010

Sacramento Bee editorial writer Pia Lopez has a piece today responding to SacBee commenters and politicians like Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.) who want to boycott the census.

It’s a good read, and a reminder that the Census is about more than funding and congressional representation. Here’s Lopez’s central argument (check out the full piece here):

The U.S. census provides an essential portrait of who we are as a people and how we live – from 1790 to the present.

The census gives us a person-by-person, family-by-family, street-by-street, community-by-community, state-by-state set of details about Americans. It is not just “America by the Numbers” – an impersonal compendium of population numbers for a statistical atlas.

Lopez used census information to look into her own family history — and what she found is pretty interesting. The 1900 Census reveals that her great-grandfather was the only boarder on a New York City block of Swedish, Irish and German immigrants. Most could speak English, read and write, but not everyone could.

The census, she writes, gives us details about how Americans lived — and protects privacy because the page-by-page details aren’t disclosed until 72 years later. Lopez encourages those who receive the in-depth American Community Survey to willingly fill it out:

If you get that longer questionnaire, which delves into 40 topic areas – including such things as income, citizenship, disability, plumbing and heating in the house, telephone service, family relationships and educational attainment – just remember that the information won’t be released until 2082. And when it is, it will provide indispensable information about technological change, standard of living and the work people do.

In the short-term, the 2010 Census is crucial for fairly appropriating funds and ensuring just representation in Congress. But for future historians and regular people who want to know their family’s past, it provides a comprehensive yet specific look at American society. The story of Lopez’s great-grandfather is just one of the millions that show the value of the census.

Census road tour updates: Twitter feeds and tour stops

Monday, January 4th, 2010

The 2010 Census Portrait of America Road Tour is launching in New York City today, and we have a few updates on the tour:

There will be one national vehicle and 13 smaller regional vehicles. The national vehicle, which will be unveiled today in Times Square, is a 46-foot gooseneck trailer towed by a dual axle, quad-cab pick-up truck. It’s expected to visit high-profile events nationwide.

The regional vehicles are sprinter cargo vans towing 14-foot bumper pull trailers. They’ll be at a variety of events in their areas.

The vehicles, which the Census Bureau has named, are equipped with GPS technology to track their progress online. Each vehicle also has it’s own Twitter feed.

After the jump, see the full list of regional vehicles, Twitter feeds and locations the national vehicle is slated to visit.

(more…)

California relying on nonprofits in 2010 Census

Saturday, January 2nd, 2010

In California, nonprofits are expected to play a key role in 2010 Census outreach, but a lack of organizations may hinder efforts in some areas.

New America Media reports that there’s a shortage of nonprofits in some of the state’s poorest areas, which could lead to an undercount in those locations:

“This is a big, big challenge,” said Ted Wang, a census consultant with Grantmakers Concerned with Immigrants and Refugees, which is coordinating private sector funding for outreach in California. “Neighborhoods that have the least amount of infrastructure often are the ones that are the most difficult to count.”

San Francisco is a case in point. No county in California has spent anywhere near the city’s $570,000 investment on outreach, according to city officials. San Francisco is also home to 2,879 public charity nonprofits – more per capita than any other county in the state, public records show. But an investigation by New America Media found that despite these achievements, in Bay View-Hunters Point and Visitacion Valley, neighborhoods where the response rates to the 2000 Census were lowest and the need for outreach in 2010 is arguably greatest, there are disproportionately few nonprofits and very little capacity to do outreach.

San Francisco hired 13 nonprofits to do $300,000 in census outreach, but none of those organizations are from the Bay View and Visitacion Valley areas. Nonprofits in those neighborhoods were encouraged t0 apply, officials said.

“We were looking for people that knew the population and the population trusted,” said Adrienne Pon, executive director of the city’s Office of Civic Engagement and Immigrant Affairs.

City officials hoped to fund a team of nonprofits that were already regularly engaged with the same hard-to-count residents they would be targeting for the census.

But that task was difficult because in San Fransisco and elsewhere, nonprofits tend to cluster in areas with more civic engagement, such as downtown, rather than in poorer areas. That discrepancy could have big census repercussions for California, where nonprofits are expected to play a larger-than-typical role due to the state’s fiscal crisis. California spent nearly $25 million for the 2000 Census, but has cut its allocation for the 2010 Census to less than $2 million. The challenges of location and funding mean that California’s nonprofits have a big task ahead of them to prevent an undercount in the state’s poorest areas.

New York awards grants for Census outreach

Friday, January 1st, 2010

Happy new year, everyone. It’s now Census year! We’ve valued all of your comments, e-mails and suggestions in 2009. Keep them coming in 2010.

To start off the new year, we have a funding announcement — and some disappointed groups — up in New York. The state is distributing $2 million in grants to community groups and local governments for census outreach, but the allocations are already under fire from at least one who group that applied for, but did not receive, funds.

According to a release from Gov. David Paterson’s office, grants were awarded in two categories. Funds for outreach and mobilization will help recipients distribute information, train community members to encourage census participation and help hard-to-count groups fill out the census form. Grants for media campaigns will fund census promotion in print, broadcast and online media.

Here’s a full list of groups and local governments that received funding:

Outreach and mobilization grants

  • Asian American Federation
  • CAMBA, Inc.
  • Caribbean American Chamber of Commerce
  • Centro Cultural Hispano de Oyster Bay, East Norwich
  • Chinese-American Planning Council
  • Citizens Advice Bureau, Inc.
  • City of Albany, Vital Statistics
  • City of Buffalo
  • City of New Rochelle
  • City of Syracuse, Department of Community Development
  • City of Rochester
  • City of White Plains
  • City of Yonkers
  • Council of Peoples Organization
  • County of St. Lawrence
  • Emerald Isle Immigration Center
  • Hagedorn Foundation
  • Hispanic Federation
  • Make the Road New York
  • Medgar Evers College (CUNY) Center for Law and Social Justice
  • The Metropolitan Council on Jewish Poverty
  • NYS Association of Regional Councils
  • Sesame Flyers International, Inc.

Media Campaign Grants

  • Asian American Federation
  • Asian Americans for Equality
  • City of Buffalo
  • City of Rochester
  • Hagedorn Foundation
  • Hispanic Federation
  • New York Immigration Coalition
  • Voto Latin

But one group not on those lists was quick to issue a statement criticizing the allocations yesterday. CaribID2010, which is advocating for the Census Bureau to add a Caribbean-American or West Indian category to census forms, says it deserved a grant due to its record of partnerships with media, churches and other groups to educate Caribbean Americans about the census.

CaribID2010 also criticized the state for not awarding a media grant to a Caribbean-focused group. Felicia Persaud, the group’s founder, called the decision “an insult and an outrage” in the statement.

Readers, where else have state grants been awarded? And what has the reaction been?