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.

We asked the Census Bureau one very clear question and received an ambiguous answer…

The Question from MyTwoCensus.com:

Can you please confirm or deny that most 2010 Census jobs will last 1-3 weeks as opposed to 6 weeks-8 months?

(which has been stated by elected officials…)

The Census Bureau’s response:

Job duration is dependent on the amount of work available in a particular location.  These temporary, part-time jobs can last up to several weeks.  However, length of service is highly variable.

If you have any additional questions, please feel free to give me a call or send me a note.

–Malkia

Malkia D. McLeod
U.S. Census Bureau
Public Information Office

14 Responses to “We asked the Census Bureau one very clear question and received an ambiguous answer…”

  1. Techy Says:

    …How is this ambiguous?
    It’s very clear.

    Work is highly variable and dependant on several factors including work needs. Temporary, part-time jobs cannot gauruntee any length of service.

    You’re trying to ask about something which has been said several times to be something you can’t shoehorn stuff into. Yes, the original jobs were *budgeted* to last several weeks, but that doesn’t mean they will be.

    If anything I would think you would be happy with this. Earlier, you decry the “waste” of training personnel that don’t do a lot of work. Now that its been shown that jobs (and thus, projects) take, on average, half as long as they’ve been budgeted for, you’re upset?

  2. Bailey Says:

    @Techy

    “Job duration is dependent on the amount of work available in a particular location. These temporary, part-time jobs can last up to several weeks. However, length of service is highly variable.”

    Quoting your application Form BC-170D page headed “Census Jobs”: it clearly states, “MOST jobs will be short term, (5 to 10 weeks) and ALL jobs will be temporary.”

    So which is it? You can’t have it both ways. Five to ten weeks is more than “several weeks” or the 1 to 3 weeks now being stated by reputable sites and anonymous Census workers. And we wonder why politicians talk out of both sides of their mouths!

  3. Techy Says:

    ***“Job duration is dependent on the amount of work available in a particular location. These temporary, part-time jobs can last up to several weeks. However, length of service is highly variable.”

    Quoting your application Form BC-170D page headed “Census Jobs”: it clearly states, “MOST jobs will be short term, (5 to 10 weeks) and ALL jobs will be temporary.”

    So which is it? You can’t have it both ways. Five to ten weeks is more than “several weeks” or the 1 to 3 weeks now being stated by reputable sites and anonymous Census workers. And we wonder why politicians talk out of both sides of their mouths!***

    Umm… how is this an either/or? Most jobs are short term, lasting (with training) approx. 5 to 10 weeks (when adding the average of ALL positions, shorter and longer term), terms which are dependent on the amount of work available at the time of hire.

    In addition, some positions last up to 2 years, while others last 2 weeks or less, thus making it highly variable.

    And in the end, all jobs are temporary, as they can be let go at any time, no matter their length of original expected hire, due to lack of work or other factors.

    In short… one statement does not contradict the other.

  4. FactChecker Says:

    The Census is not just 1 project but a series of multiple projects. Get hired for just one and not work any others and you may be looking at a 3 week job. If you helped with recruiting last year, then worked the GPS address job, then recruited again, then worked follow up then it’s a lot longer than 3 weeks.

    If they can hire enough people and they all work 40 hours, that’s one figure for number of jobs. If all the people can work just 20 hours, they need twice as many to do the same job. If 100 of them quit during or just after training, they have 100 more jobs.

    Bottom line is…..if you can tell the Census people how many people won’t mail it back, how many people will pass the test, how many will pass the background check, how many will accept the job when offered, how many will quit after accepting and before training, how many will quit during training, how many will quit after training before they work, how many quit during the work, how many hours each employee hired will work, how many visits to each house will be required to find someone home, and factor in some natural disasters and you should have a pretty good idea EXACTLY how many people are needed. Tell the Census that number and they’ll be set. Sounds simple enough to me…..

  5. Bailey Says:

    @Techy
    @FactChecker

    You two ought to run for office. How do government employees have this much time to spam comment sections of websites that expose the flaws of the Census Bureau’s hiring system?

    Ladies and gentleman, your tax dollars at hard work.

  6. Techy Says:

    **You two ought to run for office. How do government employees have this much time to spam comment sections of websites that expose the flaws of the Census Bureau’s hiring system?**

    Me? I generally check this site when I’m not at work. The beauty of my current position is that I’m in and out of the office all day, and don’t work a 9-5 job. But that’s ok, you keep assuming there! It’s a blast!

  7. FactChecker Says:

    Bailey,

    Who said I work for the government? I’m a genealogist and a firm supporter of the United States Constitution. I read information from the census website and newspaper articles on the subject and the IG articles linked from this site. I’d rather come to my own conclusions than blindly follow somebody else’s that are not based on fact.

    I’m amazed at sites like this and comments like yours that make negative comments about the census without doing some simple research to understand the issue.

  8. Bailey Says:

    A priceless, not to mention TRUE tweet about the Census Bureau’s inane application process:

    “Getting ready to take this census test, this woman must think we are all idiots who can’t figure out how to fill out a form whew”
    http://twitter.com/julier0cks

    What’s amazing is the Census employee didn’t even know this person was using her cellphone. Ha! The process is indeed a joke.

  9. Bailey Says:

    “Millions Wasted On Census As Head Count Approaches”
    http://tinyurl.com/yzp8x3e

    From the Associated Press, another great account of the ineptness of the Census Bureau. The article states that the Bureau is going to try to curtail costs by encouraging people to mail in their census forms thereby eliminating the need to hire additional temporary workers.

  10. Ex-IT Says:

    No question that they over-hire for field operations. Local managers have learned that if they are not producing numbers that are way ahead of already unrealistic productions goals, they will face criticism and threats from upper management. This means that field workers will often get much shorter employment and quality is nothing but a buzz-word.

  11. TR Says:

    Totally agreed ex-IT. To me, the type of stuff in this post is just distraction. There are a lot bigger problems than misrepresenting how long the job will last.

    A lot of the stuff that goes on is just ridiculous. We got to the point where we were blatantly told to ignore certain procedures in the interest of getting more work in. I don’t know where on the chain that’s coming in, but I know my Crew Leader was constantly hounded on because she was “behind”.

    “Quality” is definitely just a buzzword. The whole QC operation is a joke. The QC listers are no better or worse than the production listers. In fact I recently heard a story where a QC FOS and CL both got a certain procedure wrong, and forced their listers to change production work that was correct, meaning the final listings turned in are wrong! Not only that, this made for extra work because the areas with these non-issues would fail QC and have to be recanvassed. Ridiculous. The problem is that the supervisors *never* do any grunt work, so they have no idea what people actually encounter in the field.

  12. MissV Says:

    I worked on address canvassing in spring 2009. 8 weeks/40 hours turned into about 30 hours for four weeks, fewer than 20 hours for a week, and a few random hours coupled with being on hold for another week or so (and, I was screwed out of an extra two weeks of 30+ hour work in another town because of an incompetent supevisor).

    In the fall, I worked on an operation that “verified group quarters” (which meant I mostly corrected shoddy work that classified apartment complexes and such in the category where hospitals, dorms, etc. should be – things that should have been caught if the supervisors were actually checking up on work in the spring). After training, we worked fewer than three weeks and didn’t get close to 40 hours a week. Our supervisors were actually encouraging us to keep visiting seemingly abandoned homes to get hours in.

    In this economy especially, those of us who get jobs, even short term one, ARE lucky. But as much as I wanted it to feel like an Important Job, being the steward of Census data and all, it is nothing more than a clerical position with training geared toward the lowest common denominator (which describes the majority of folks I trained with – many of the address canvassers couldn’t read maps and weren’t able to find their assigned neighborhood the day we did field training). If you expect anything more, you will be disappointed.

    Also, this three-week gig with lower-than-expected wages affected my unemployment to the extent that I had to reapply and didn’t get checks for three weeks. It was the first time in a year of being un-/under-employed that I fell behind.

    That said, people should view these as nothing more than part-time, short-term jobs, no matter what the recruiter says. If working for the Census will in any way jeopardize other regular employment, even if it pays less, skip it.

  13. IndyGuy Says:

    From Bailey…”The article states that the Bureau is going to try to curtail costs by encouraging people to mail in their census forms thereby eliminating the need to hire additional temporary workers.”

    What’s wrong with encouraging people to mail in the forms like they are asked to do???

    If EVERYONE answered the 10 simple questions & sent it back in, then we wouldn’t need to pay thousands upon thousands of people to knock on doors.

    In other words, taxpayer money is being wasted by those TAXPAYERS who don’t send their questionnaire back in! If we could actually rely upon our fellow citizens, we would save BILLIONS.

  14. Pleb Says:

    Hey Factchecker- How ’bout the census use some of their highly ‘confidential’ information from 2000 to estimate how much operations will cost this decennial. We don’t even get ESTIMATES of how many jobs will be available to the hundreds (of thousands) of people who have tested and applied. If you would review GAO doc. in 2007, you would know that census recruits AT LEAST 5x the amt of applicants they need to complete operations. OVER RECRUITING!!