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.

West Virginia: Addresses Skewing Census

The following report comes from the Charleston Daily Mail:

by Billy Wolfe
Daily Mail staff

CHARLESTON, W.Va.–Census workers in West Virginia will make more door-to-door visits this year than officials initially thought because of confusion resulting from the statewide addressing and mapping project.

The new system was meant to standardize rural addresses by assigning a physical street address to every home in the state. The project is a result of post-Sept. 11, 2001 guidelines requiring better security and emergency response.

But while the new system assigned an address to every home, it didn’t put a mailbox in front of each residence. Many residents who have a new physical street address under the system still get their mail at a post office box.

But in many cases, the U.S. Census Bureau used those new addresses to mail out census forms.

That resulted in some census forms being sent to non-existent mailboxes. Postal carriers would then discard those forms as undeliverable mail.

Those addresses were then listed as “non response,” meaning a census worker will have to get the information in person at a later date.

“What I guess was not fully anticipated was how (the addressing and mapping project) would affect the census,” said Anthony Galante, manager of the Charleston census office.

“There has been some confusion where it looks like we have addresses, but there is no mail delivery,” he said. “It’s all going to fall into the no response follow-up portion.”

He doesn’t know how many people failed to get their census form as a result of the address changes, but said his office has received “a great deal” of complaints from Roane and Wayne counties.

The confusion might be one reason why West Virginia is lagging behind the national average for mail participation in the 2010 census.

As of Thursday, West Virginia was showing a 63 percent participation rate for mailing back the forms. The national average was 71 percent.

All of West Virginia’s bordering states were boasting higher mail participation rates than the Mountain State.

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One Response to “West Virginia: Addresses Skewing Census”

  1. Anonymous Census Bureau employee Says:

    Not at all unexpected. This is a country-wide problem. During the “Address Verification” phase (April, 2009), listers were not allowed to enter PO Boxes even if the resident told them that the street address was not deliverable. Only if there was NO street address could PO Boxes be entered. Moreover, if the Census Bureau had used the readily available CASS (Coding Accuracy Support System) certification available from the PO it would have identified the some 12 million undeliverables (“nixies” in the direct mail trade), and at least Census could have avoided printing and mailing (1st class, no less), and then paying for the “undeliverable” notification. The direct mail piece probably cost at least $3 by the time postage is included and so some $36 million went right out the window (with nearly $12 million flying back in to help the PO)