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.

Has this happened in your area?

MyTwoCensus received the following tip, and we are trying to verify its validity:

Census workers in KS have been told that they are supposed to get information by any means possible to include going to court house property assessment office, registrar of deeds office, get car tags and go to DMV for info.

Please write about your experiences in the comments section.

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41 Responses to “Has this happened in your area?”

  1. JJ Says:

    Absolutely. In our area we have a more seasonal and vacation homes than permanent residents. If it weren’t for us being able to use a variety of resources, we wouldn’t be able to find their usual home or winter home contact information. The DMV is an avenue, though, that we have not used here. We make the call, inform the respondent that we are calling about the status of their home on “such-n-such” street, and for verification that we have the right person, we ask them to verify the house number. If they can do that, we know we have the correct person and conduct the interview. The homeowner is the BEST source of information – we try to avoid proxies because we have discovered erroneous information after the fact when using proxies.

  2. Bill Says:

    In Southeastern Wisconsin we are told to do whatever it takes to get some type of answer.
    We have been told to write down what ever someone tells us even if we think they are making it up. I have had folks read names out of the phone book no worries said Team leader. We are still hiring and we have no new work to hand out.
    Cant wait until they try interviewing proxies again

  3. nerfoo Says:

    Our CLs take the addresses where no one answers & where no valid proxy is found & run them through the county registrar, check them with the dept of health online & through other online real estate sales sites. The information that they get has helped us to understand why we’re not getting an answer at some properties and helped us to find decent proxies (i.e. property condemned by county health dept, vacant on census day per county order – so, county health dept = proxy).

    We only use information that is a matter of public record. I don’t believe that DMV records are available to the public, are they?

    And, we’ll only use it if we’ve exhausted the normal door knocking avenues.

    I’ve received some back from my CL with phone numbers gleaned from phone books or internet address searches. I won’t call someone who did not give me/us their phone number themselves, though. Too creepy, I think – too stalkery. But, knowing that there *is* proof that the property is probably occupied, though, gives me renewed vigor to get out there knocking again, at different hours of the day, different days of the week.

    It’s so much a game of cat and mouse at this point. Each EQ is a puzzle to be solved. The answer to the puzzle feels important, too – each person counted brings us closer to fulfilling our commitment to the founding fathers, to get that accurate count. But, I respect the need that people have to feel safe, secure in their lives. So, I choose not to freak anyone out by being a stranger who figured out their phone number & name knowing only their address to begin with.

    That’s the thing here. Sure, some FOS’s, CL’s, LCO employees are feeling the pressure or feeling the power. And, they are sometimes making bad decisions or issuing odd instructions. And, I’m sure that every enumerator on the street is in need of the money that they’re getting from this job – they don’t want to put it in jeopardy by refusing to do what they’re told.

    But, when it comes down to it, we all have to take responsibility for our own actions & live by our own code of ethics. We all understand the job that needs to be done & why it’s important. And, I believe, that the overwhelming majority of us are doing our job well, morally, ethically, efficiently, despite the fact that there are some in our ranks who aren’t (just as there are some in every walk of life).

  4. PM Says:

    On availing oneself of all resources, I heard through our office of an enumerator having been advised of an NRs workplace by a neighbor, contacting them there- and getting a stalking complaint.

    [>nerfoo re: pressure or power, bad or odd- precisely! I've seen in past that when capable leaders issue sensible directions- from how they write the book through how they speak casually- there's a lot more success by those following them. I heard of a clerk given unclear instruction as to simply arranging materials- and getting a 282 for it, not surprisingly by a supervisor who'll do same to someone forgetting their food in the fridge. You can pull the weight alongside your teammates, or you can push on them to pull it all themselves.]

  5. CLA Dave Says:

    We are using any source we can, not to get information to put on the questionnaire but to find someone to interview.

  6. Samantha Jackson Says:

    Sure we go to the county assessor’s office to find names and addresses of property owners. Then we use the resources at our disposal to find the telephone number of the property owner, call them, and inquire as to the status of the property on 4/1/10 or where the property is if we cannot locate it. What’s the big deal? The assessor’s office has been a valuable resource.

    We also go to the post office and speak with mail carriers about addresses we cannot locate. They are just another tool in our kit to investigate and get the answers we are after.

  7. BTK census worker Says:

    They call it LAST RESORT information for a reason. All this self righteous indignation is so much puffery. CLA Dave there you go being a voice of reason. Who the hell do ou think you are! If someone wants to cheat as a census worker they probably cheat in other areas of their life too. So we do the best we can to discover who these people are and address each case as it comes. What else can one do?

  8. Yet Another Enumerator Says:

    This is just more of SR Morse’s stir-the-pot “journalism”. Nothing to see here, folks, just move on.

    Actually, our NRFU training was totally silent on the issue of using such resources to help our enumeration. However, I did, on my own, contact our county assessor’s office to obtain the name and address of more than one property owner who I then contacted (to do so, I had to also do an online telephone directory search, since our assessor only gives out the names and addresses of porpoerty owners). I then conducted standard telephone interviews.

    What the hell could possibly be wrong with that? Morse is simply looking for any perceived flaw, no matter how small, to berate the Census Bureau over. I think he has stopped being a useful force and is simply looking for sensationalism. (If you want to reply, I’ll look forward to reading your response here.)

  9. Yet Another Enumerator Says:

    After reading these comments and thinking about it a bit, I’m curious about something. I’ve heard some people (enumerators) say that they’ve done a lot of phone-calling of respondents. How do people get phone numbers? The only way I can think of is if the enumerator actually meets the respondent on a visit, but they decline an interview and give the enumerator their phone #. (I’ve never had this happen to me.)

    The only alternative I can think of is using an online directory (like whitepages.com) to get a phone number for an address, then calling them. This actually never occurred to me while out “in the field”, but now that I think of it, I wouldn’t ever want to do this. I think this could potentially give respondents the creeps: “How did you get my phone number?”.

    So how are all you NRFU enums dealing with this?

  10. nerfoo Says:

    I’ve received a couple of lists of phone numbers back with EQ’s I’ve rec’d from my CL for follow-up. These are EQ’s that other enumerators turned in as NC’s or RE’s, that my CL thought might be able to be completed by a different enumerator. In my case, I speak enough spanish to complete an EQ, so I’m getting quite a few like that.

    Sometimes the phone number was given to the last enumerator by someone who lived there but wanted a spanish-speaking enumerator. Sometimes it would be a list of phone numbers gleaned from an internet or phone book white pages search, after getting the name of property owners from a county record search for the address. Sometimes it would be a phone number given to us by a landlord or neighbor.

    No matter how the phone number was collected/found, though, I always preferred to try a face-to-face visit first. My spanish isn’t that good over the phone (it relies on a large amount of mime & facial expression, to communicate the words I can’t remember). And anything else just felt too stalkerish. I know that I wouldn’t want someone telling me that they found my phone number online after hunting me down through county record searches.

    Of course, these people have already, most likely, decided not to mail back their form on time, then decided not to return the enumerator’s call after numerous EQ’s were left. Still, I’d like to treat their privacy & personal security with the same respect that I’d like someone to treat mine & my family’s.

  11. Debi Says:

    Oh yea all these sources are wonderful and time consuming the kicker here is they don’t want to pay you for your research time. There is a silent quota if you don’t produce it, your gone, not always easy to fulfill esp. when your researching & calling people and not reaching anyone don’t turn in time unless you have EQ’s for each hour work. The reason we are out there is the majority of these people didn’t want to complete the questionnaire in the first place. We are told you must work at least 20 hrs a wk minimum, “make your own hrs” then all of a sudden your meeting 3-4 days a week, waiting around, taking sometimes up to 2 1/2 – 3hrs., “you are paid from the time you leave the house until you return” each time (I had to bus there & back) but you are suppose to produce EQ’s for those hrs as well “. Then all of a sudden you are suppose to meet w/your crew leader or asst crew leader everyday! It’s piece work, but it’s not, you are paid hourly but only if you are willing to work some hours and not be paid for them, cuz if you don’t met the silent quota “There’s no more work for you”.

  12. Pablo S Says:

    @Debi…can you please tell us what your “silent quota” is? How many EQ’s per hour? Or…?? How is it measured and what are your specific quotas?
    Thanks.

  13. Bianchi Says:

    I’ve already contacted a local Congressman, but our LCO and FOS (I’m a CL) was so concerned with getting the forms turned in, we were told to guess, make assumptions, lie, etc.

    Example they gave us: “If an apartment has 4 beds, we can assume 4 people live there. Put 4 people down. JUST GET IT TURNED IN.”

    Among other things.

    I’ve tried to bring this to the LCO’s attention, no action. No response except “We’ll look into it”. They haven’t. The same people who told us to guess as far as residents are concerned, still have a job. EVEN after shown email correspondance.

    I’ve called the Attorney General number we were provided, no calls back. So I went to a Congressman, who is up for re-election.

    Other ‘stuff’ going on besides this, that reeks fraud on every level.

  14. Yet Another Enumerator Says:

    @Bianchi: Really? Are you to be believed? or are you some kind of anti-government troll?

    I mean, the accusations you’re making fly in the face of every rule and policy of the Census Bureau. Regarding your claim of guessing the number of occupants from the number of beds in an apartment: how would you even know how many beds are in that apartment? We’re not supposed to go inside people’s dwellings, remember? Oh, yeah, I forgot: it must be question #8A on the EQ: “On April 1st, 2010, how many beds were in this [house/apartment/mobile home]?”

    I just plain don’t believe you.

  15. Yet Another Enumerator Says:

    @Pablo S: Can’t answer for Debi, but when I started working NRFU (with full fresh binders), our CL told us the expected average was somewhere in the vicinity of 2 completed EQs an hour. Since almost everyone is now down to “hard case” enumeration, the expected average must be a lot lower than that–less than 1 per hour, I would guess.

    This is for an urban area, so the expected numbers for rural areas might be a lot different.

  16. anonymous Says:

    Yes, this is true all Kansas LCOs.

  17. anonymous Says:

    All Topeka, KS Crews.

  18. NarfooSnafoo Says:

    Got that word about that…assessor’s office, the whole nine yards. The one thing we can’t do is to call up realtors and confirm the vacancies. It’s against Indiana state law.

  19. Yet Another Enumerator Says:

    Is that true? Wow, that sucks.

    What exactly is that law? Does it apply to everyone, or just to the Census?

    My last CL had a clever idea about realtors (she is one of those too) which might get you around this restriction. She suggested that if we had problems getting ahold of a realtor, we should try calling the office and say that we are interested in that property. Ask them how long it’s been vacant, and there’s your answer. Nothing untrue about that: we are interested in the property, just not interested in buying it.

  20. nerfoo Says:

    In the far western chicago suburbs, we were told that the census bureau figures on about 1 to 1.25 completed EQ’s per hour worked.

    I’m not aware of anyone in our district being let go or not given work because they’re not meeting quotas or expectations. And, without really trying, even on these final difficult cases, I’m still coming in right around that number, on average.

  21. California FOS Says:

    Yet Another, I’ve used that tactic myself with great success. Neither the enumerator nor the CL were getting anywhere with a rental office, so I called the number and said, “Hi! I was driving by your property at (address) and I wanted to know a little more about it. Is it for rent?” “Oh really? Has it been empty for a while?” “It’s been on the market for three months? Wow. Any chance I could take a look at it?” “Oh, I can come to your office and check out the key? Where’s your office?” “It’s at 123 Any Street? Great! Thanks so much!” Then I turned to the CL and said, “Vacant/For Rent, here’s your proxy address.” LOL!

  22. JJ Says:

    The Real Estate offices in our state went bonkers with the amount of calls they were receiving – it was interfering with their business and they complained to the RCC. We were informed that we could no longer use real estate offices/agents for vacant/foreclosed properties in order to keep up good public relations. We could never use mail carriers – (that would interfere with their routes-understandable, they have a schedule to meet)- a big No-No. Again, our use of the internet/assessors/neighbors was in an attempt to gain contact with the owners who lived elsewhere – this is a vacation/second home area. Our quota was 1 per hour – and given our rural area (somewhere between Hooterville and Pixley) that was most reasonable.

    As for number of beds!?!?! Are you kidding me? How on earth would one of my enumerators know how many beds were in a home? If someone was giving you that kind of direction, then I’m not very confident in the data received from that area! Does this person work for ACORN in the evenings?

  23. Crew Leader Says:

    I don’t believe there is any hard & fast quota. Every distrct is different. The only ratio I have ever seen or heard is the example in the manual (1.2 HR/EQ). Also, if you’re working with a number, be careful not to confuse it with the reciprical (EQ/HR vs. HR/EQ). Any ratio will change as we get towards the end with only the difficult cases remaining.

    I have taken work from enums that are not very productive or are PITAs & given it to those that are doing well. That’s how business works. I will, always, prefer to manage good people.

    On the blog subject: We were never authorized to use the internet for anything. I’m sure it is a useful tool but, it may fall into the catagory of diminishing returns.

    I have never encouraged anyone to do work without getting paid for it. There is no reason to donate ANY time to the Census Bureau. My FOS does donate time past her authorized OT but, her only life beyond 2010 Census is a house full of cats. Because she, essentially, has no life, I’ll excuse & pity her.

  24. Bianchi Says:

    @ Yet Another Enumerator

    You don’t have to believe me. I know what is going on at our LCO. I have email correspondance with other CL’s saying we were not going to tell our enumerators to fudge or lie or guess. I know what we are not supposed to do, and I know what they are telling us to do. This was around May 18th when they told us this (We were a week behind in work; it was a rainy May) and a week later (after telling us to lie, guess, make assumptions) we get the news that it will end 3 weeks early.

    It was recently said in a statement to not use a Mailman as a proxy. They said we could use them. They told us to go to a police station or ask someone of Law Enforcement the information.

    In back to “Getting the forms turned in” they said go to a proxy and if they weren’t sure on the number of household members, to have them guess.

    And to the original claim of 4 beds/4 people. It’s not hard to go online and find a floor plan or go to an apartment’s office and get how many beds or rooms a place can have. Hell, I lived in a 2 bedroom apartment, but there was 4 people living there.

    Say what you want. I just got word that the office is now going to be investigated based on these claims and others (I wont touch on just yet) that me and 35 other people (signed statements) have made. Statements from ppl from the LCO, other CL’s and other enumerators.

  25. Enumerate this Says:

    @NarfooSnafoo: You wrote that “the one thing we can’t do is to call up realtors and confirm the vacancies. It’s against Indiana state law.”

    That is utter fucking nonsense. Who told you this? What law? Cite the chapter.

    The census — especially at the LCO level and up — is full of people who know nothing about the law but who are fond of saying “legally, you can/can’t do that.” The same people who came up with the arrant nonsense about not getting paid to write about any part of your census experience. First Amendment, anyone?

  26. Yet Another Enumerator Says:

    @Enumerate this: You’re correct in all but one thing. That business you’re talking about regarding “getting paid to write about any part of your census experience”, which is obviously from that Confidentiality and Ethics Reminder that we all got last month, is valid. It’s called a conflict of interest, and you can read all about it in the Census Employee Handbook, D-590.

    But I agree about that nonsense about some supposed state law that forbids one from contacting a real estate agent. WTF!?!?!?!

  27. Yet Another Enumerator Says:

    @Bianchi: you said:

    And to the original claim of 4 beds/4 people. It’s not hard to go online and find a floor plan or go to an apartment’s office and get how many beds or rooms a place can have. Hell, I lived in a 2 bedroom apartment, but there was 4 people living there.

    Sorry, this sounds like BS to me. Where can you “go online” and get the floor plan of an apartment? Apartment office? None of the apartment buildings in any of my AAs even had an office. And even if they did, how the hell is the manager going to know how many beds are in any particular apartment? They might know how many bedrooms. So no, what you say is simply not believeable. As is a lot of other nonsense one reads in comments here.

  28. anonther anonymous Says:

    Topeka, KS – 2622 – “use whatever means necessary, but don’t tell anyone it came from us”.

  29. Bianchi Says:

    @ Yet Another Enumerator

    Again. You don’t have to believe me. I do have email correspondance with other CL’s where we decided to not inform our Enumerators to lie. This is a college town. BIG wellknown college town. One of the top college backsetball teams…

    The Inspector Attorney General saw the emails and our written statements as enough proof. An investigation is about to be underway. Again, you don’t have to believe me and I don’t really care to continue this with you. The people who matter, think this is serious and they’re going to be doing something.

    And before you go on again about ‘some Government plant’ I went forward with this to a Democrat congressmen, he’s up for re-election this year.

  30. Ena Umerator Says:

    Here in Oklahoma, we have been told we can get info from the assessor and post office.

  31. other anonymous Says:

    Bianchi nailed it.

    2622 – Topeka, KS: Privacy issues on Washburn University Campus, gated communitities, Shawnee County residents complaining about being visited several times.

  32. Yet Another Enumerator Says:

    I think people everywhere are complaining about being visited by us. One of my co-enumerators called our LCO (2716, Oakland, CA) to ask what their hours were. They told her that most people who called did so to complain about being bothered by us knocking on their doors.

    The funny thing is that a lot of people would leave a message complaining about this and telling the office not to send people around anymore, but they would hang up before giving their address.

  33. Crew Leader Says:

    @ Bianchi: BIG “wellknown” college town. One of the top college “backsetball” teams…

    Well…that sells it for me. You must be telling the truth.

    The “lie, cheat & steal/Get-r-done” attitude permeates the entire 2010 Census. But…somehow…only YOUR Attorney General & Congressman is going to kick ass & take names!

    WOW!!! You’re AMAZING!!!

    I wish we had a top backsetball team so we could get the special attention that you get.

  34. Nowheresville NY Says:

    Those of you who obtain landlord contact info for difficult places (whether through an apartment resident, the tax office, etc), what do you do if you’re unable to reach *them*? I’m a bit paranoid about calling landlords during non-business hours now because of one bad experience, but I’ve got a couple reassigned cases where I’ve all but exhausted other likely, in-person proxies, and I keep getting voicemails.

  35. Nowheresville NY Says:

    Also, odd as it may seem, going to the phonebook or internet is against the rules, but a person at the tax office telling you that same information + their name and the office address/phone for the RI is allowed.

  36. AnnoyedInLA Says:

    My husband took a job as an enumerator because he hasn’t been able to find anything in the last year. He hasn’t resorted to tactics like going to the DMV but I can see how that can seem like a tempting avenue. He’s been cussed out, been threatened, doors slammed in his face, attacked by dogs, and so on because now he’s required to go back and basically stalk and harass the people who are making it plain as day that they do not want to participate. So his group hasn’t been asked to get the info by any means necessary but would definitely be a lot easier than going in person every day.

  37. CL axg11 Says:

    I interviewed an 18 year old who said her parents had told her not to participate….

  38. MiddleOfNowhereCL Says:

    At a recent LCO meeting, the CLs and FOSs were told that using reverse lookups, the internet, yellow pages, town clerks, assessors, postal clerks, etc to obtain info to find a phone number was against the rules. When it was asked then how the heck people were supposed to get phone numbers, we were told, do what you have to, but just don’t tell us how you got the number and for God’s sake don’t write anything about it on the EQ.

  39. Yet Another Enumerator Says:

    I believe all these reports of folks being told it’s “against the rules” to use various outside resources (assessors’ offices, internet searches, etc.) to get information, but I’m still puzzled: where is this written?

    First of all, I’ve worked on four different NRFU crews, and nobody has ever told me that this is against the rules. In fact, I’ve told at least one of my crew leaders that I called the county assessor’s office to contact the owners of a vacant property, and they didn’t bat an eyelash. So where are these “rules”? Can anyone point to chapter and verse? Or does this vary by LCO? or is it just totally capricious?

  40. Done Says:

    Just finished working NRFU VDC in Kansas. This is by far the worst one yet. Topeka required us to make 3 visits if the house was vacant or a delete. We were not allowed to get a proxy the first time we were there. In addition we were made to get a different proxy if the first proxy refused to give out there phone number, even if they were the occupants. We were also told if the address wasn’t a 911 address we were sent to the county appraisers office to get it. A lot of used 411.com or whitepages.com to get information such as name and ages. Some even used Facebook.com.
    I have been threatened to be sued for Trespassing, the cops called on me, called every name in the book, and have been treated like a dog by my CL.

  41. NRFU Part 16: Dregs « Loosefemme Says:

    [...] heard the controversy swirling around finding information on the Internet.  http://www.mytwocensus.com/2010/06/07/has-this-happened-in-your-area/#comments My experience was my CLA told me that I could find phone numbers on the internet.  Soon afterwards [...]