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.

Stange Twist In West Virginian Post Office/Census Bureau Operations

Yesterday, we reported that some 2010 Census forms were sent to West Virginia with the wrong city names one the envelopes. Now we are being told that this was intentional, and it won’t mean a loss of funding for the respondents from cities that were affected by this. Admittedly, this still sounds a bit shady, and we don’t plan to take this explaination at face value. Nonetheless, here’s the latest from West Virginia Public Broadcasting:

Census says wrong city name on form is cost-saving measure

March 17, 2010 · U.S. residents are receiving their 2010 Census forms in the mail this week and some in West Virginia are concerned their town won’t be represented, but Census officials say that’s not the case.

Residents in Vienna received Census forms with neighboring Parkersburg listed as their hometown. Vienna’s Mayor is telling them to cross out Parkersburg on the forms and write in Vienna before mailing them back, but Census spokesman John Willse says this is not necessary.

“That shouldn’t concern them at all. That’s just a postal procedure that helps cut costs on distribution or the mailing out,” Willse says.

By Emily Corio

Willse says a 20-digit identification number on each form links the data to the person’s exact street address and hometown.

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4 Responses to “Stange Twist In West Virginian Post Office/Census Bureau Operations”

  1. Avi Says:

    Ultimately, addresses don’t matter when the statistics are generated; they’re used (1) to get mail to respondents and (2) to give field personnel a reference on the ground to help them locate the right structure. For purpose 1, anything that the Post Office recommends or approves is kosher, which means that any valid city name within the ZIP Code is acceptable (see DMM 602.1.3d). For purpose 2, enumerators have assignment area and block maps that will put them in the correct city; they’ll ultimately locate the addresses with the help of those maps and the addresses on the ground.

    For producing aggregate statistics, every address on the list has accompanying geocodes that reference the state, county, Census block number, and map spot number. For example, 123 Main Street, Anytown, USA might be known to the computers as 13/063/19999/9001, which pinpoints the location exactly. The system can then map each block to a particular city or other geographic unit, which is how the data are ultimately aggregated.

    Admittedly, the bad press from processing addresses this way is an argument against it, but it’s not going to affect the integrity of the data.

  2. TR Says:

    Agreed. These people also need to consider that there are situations where there isn’t one agreed-upon city name. Around major cities, there are often boroughs that are governed independently, but residents use the name of the major city for their mailing addresses.

  3. FactChecker Says:

    He calls this a bit “shady”?

    Some folks seem to have forgotten that the Census Bureau GPS’d the house locations. None of these folks claimed to have received the wrong form…..rather it’s the right form with the wrong city name. Census used the location of the houses to tally numbers, not the mailing address.

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