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.

New #Census report from the Inspector General…

It’ s only four pages and the last part of the report consists of recommendations based on problems highlighted earlier. Please post your comments below. Given how critical this report is, we can only imagine how scathing the next full report from the Inspector General will be.

MyTwoCensus analysis:

1. Respondents are facing additional burdens because questionnaires are not being handled properly. The report doesn’t go far enough in criticizing the Census Bureau for creating a system whereby sensitive data is just laying around for long periods of time , thereby compromising the data’s confidentiality.

2. As has been discussed in recent weeks on, there are no guidelines that state whether enumerators can use the Internet to determine proxy information. A memo was sent out about this a couple of weeks ago, informing field workers not to use the Internet, but it is unknown whether this memo reached everyone. Either way, it was sent way too late in the operation to be effective as most enumerators are likely already set in their ways of tracking people down.

3. That 1/3 of interviews were proxy interviews is an unacceptably high figure.

4. Enumerators should never have to give out their personal phone numbers unless they are being compensated by the government or have this written into their contract as part of their job description.

Tags: , , , , ,

40 Responses to “New #Census report from the Inspector General…”

  1. Jeremy Says:

    Where I live 90% of our EQs are done by proxy, because the vast VAST majority of places in this area are seasonal housing and people don’t show up until July generally. So it’s all in context.

  2. Dixter Says:

    We were REQUIRED to put our home phone numbers on the NV. The one enumerator that didn’t was laid off early.

  3. Dixter Says:

    We were also told several times that if we put the LCO phone number on the NV we would be immediately fired.

    I’m so glad it’s over.

  4. anonymous Says:

    Thank you Stephen and My Two Census Journalists!

  5. anonymous Says:

    I auickly read the Inspector General’s Flash Report, TRUE. Can’t wait for the next report.

    Many issues with personal privacy (for both respondents and Census workers), safety issues, payroll, CL and CLA, etc. The previous comments are true.

  6. Enumerate this Says:

    Re phone numbers: Our LCO absolutely forbade giving out their number. Or calling the LCO ourselves. Many in my crew did not want to give out their personal cell numbers — especially in a dodgy neighborhood. Our CL, who does not own a cell phone (!), told everyone to put down the CLA’s cell phone number. Huh?

    Re Hispanic: I understand the need to have uniform questions and data collection procedures, but the Hispanic question followed by the race question does not reflect how 99 percent of Americans think of themselves. By way of explanation, we first ask the respondent if they are of Hispanic, Latino or Spanish origin. If they say yes, we note down exactly what kind — Mexican, Puerto Rican, etc.

    We then ask the race question: “What is your race?” Choices include black, white, Asian, fill-in-your-own, etc. But it does NOT include Hispanic/Latino/Spanish. Because the census has made an institutional decision that Hispanics are a subset of white people.

    So a Hispanic person will answer the Hispanic question that he’s Mexican or whatever, but then is confused by the following race question. “What do you mean? I just told you I’m Mexican.” After about a week of explaining that Mr. Juan Valdez is white according to the census bureau, I just gave up. I would ask the race question (of course, you can’t assume, people can be of mixed-race origin) but if they reiterated that they were solely Hispanic I would simply mark “white” later.

  7. Stephen Robert Morse Says:

    @Jeremy – People should be enumerated at their primary residence, not seasonal housing.

  8. Alison Says:

    @Stephen – I assume he means that the proxies informed him that the residences were vacant, usual home elsewheres.

  9. GS-X Says:

    Enumerate this,

    I see why you answered the race question for Latinos. Too bad you did not feel free to leave it blank.
    Cuz you are following the government’s plan to classify Latinos as white when you mark their race as white.

  10. Senseless Says:

    In my area I completed 5 binders and completed one interview. Everything else was by proxy. It is all seasonal residents. Yes they are counted at their primary residence but we have to determine if they were here on April 1 and if possible find out if they completed the census at their other home. I had one empty street where they were all gone. Proxy’s are the only way we can get information.

  11. Dairyland CL Says:

    As to Race in regard to Hispanics: The native South and Central Americans were here before the Spaniards arrived. Therefore they are Native Americans. Spaniards and other “Castellanos” are of European descent and therefore white. Of course many people are a mixture of the two,

  12. completed interview Says:

    I don’t understand the assumption that Hispanic = White. I had plenty of people from Cuba & Dominican Republic who had me check both Hispanic and Black… and a few from southern Mexico (Chiapas, Oaxaca) who had me check Hispanic and Native American. This wasn’t confusing to them or to me, but had my CLA scratching her head.

    It is a weird question. Where is the question “Are you Anglo-American, of English origin … ” or “Are you Franco-American, Acadian, of French origin…” Really it is kind of arbitrary.

  13. nerfoo Says:

    If a person re-iterated that they were ‘Hispanic’ or ‘Latino’ or ‘Mexican’ or whatever on the race question, then I marked ‘Some Other Race’ and filled that in. That’s what the ‘Some Other Race’ box is for – to mark down self-identified races that aren’t listed. When I’d have the conversation with hispanic people in my AA’s, I’d remind them that they are already counted as ‘Of Hispanic Origin’ in the first question, so they could then follow up with whatever race they’d like to identify with in the next question, or they could repeat their hispanic origin as race, if they wanted to, too.

    For the NV phone number, our LCO didn’t want their number given out, either. I can understand that – they don’t know what’s going on, in detail, on the street & would be useless to the callers who called there directly. Our FOS and CL said that we could put down their phone numbers, if we didn’t want to use our own.

    Any census employee could be compensated for any phone use that costs them extra, beyond their regular plans. There’s a field for claiming expenses right on the D-308 -and- phone compensation is discussed in training. They’d have to show documentation of the amount being claimed as an expense, of course.

  14. Anon Says:

    @ enumerate this – The census has not made a decision that Hispanics are white. You are the one who did that when you marked the forms that way without the respondent answering that way. You misunderstood a sometimes confusing issue.

  15. lagirl Says:

    @enumerate this: I live in So. CA and about 50% of my EQs were some sort of Hispanic. I never assumed anything: I asked the race question and let them tell me.
    I think the question is designed wrong and people were offended it. I would definately say the Hispanic people I interviewed were offended by it.

  16. lagirl Says:

    As far as the proxies go, if they weren’t in such a damn hurry to wrap up our operation here I could have had way more success in contacting people.

    About 10 days after we started, our FOS called a meeting and said we had to hurry up and get them done. Getting the interview suddenly became unimportant: get the proxy and turn it in. We were pretty much done 3 weeks ago.

    A lot of people here commute and don’t get home by 6 pm. They get home after 8. So if I go to their house mon-tues-wed before dark I will never see them! And that happened. We were under so much pressure to get the EQ’s in that I couldn’t wait and try on the weekend. The CL didn’t want to hear it. Just get the Proxy was the mantra those weeks.

    Now they say there are too many proxies? Look at the operation, how it was handled, and don’t blame the enumerators who were just trying to do the best they could in an impossible situation.

  17. end the census Says:

    We were told to write down our own phone numbers, never the LCO’s because they were “swamped”. I refuse to write down my phone number, there are too many angry and crazy people around here.

  18. end the census Says:

    PS the report at the OIG website is seriously interesting!!!!

  19. one of the enumerators Says:

    completed interview, I wrote down exactly what the respondent would tell me. However, I have a CL and CLA who erase and change the information in the “Other” box. For example, I had one respondent who said he was “Black”, so I checked this box. Then, he told me he was also “German-American”. I checked the “Other” box and wrote in German-American. When my CL and CLA saw this at our crew meeting, they erased the “Other” box and erased the “German-American”. They have also erased and changed other EQ race data.

  20. JJ Says:

    Stephen Robert Morse Says:
    June 15th, 2010 at 3:52 am

    @Jeremy – People should be enumerated at their primary residence, not seasonal housing.

    Well, no shit Sherlock. But if that address is on our NRFU list and we have a labeled EQ for it, we have to find out the status of that property! A proxy will tell us that his neighbor only comes up a few weekends of the summer with the family and that they usually live elsewhere. This is the scenario of 75% of the housing units in my area. That’s why the form has boxes to check stating that it is a seasonal/vacation home.

  21. Maiasaura Says:

    Our LCO did not have a problem with us giving out their number. It took a few days for them to pass the info on to us, though.

    Personally, I used a Google Voice number that was forwarded to my cell phone just for enumeration. No problem.

  22. Maiasaura Says:

    To NERFOO re:
    Any census employee could be compensated for any phone use that costs them extra, beyond their regular plans. There’s a field for claiming expenses right on the D-308 -and- phone compensation is discussed in training. They’d have to show documentation of the amount being claimed as an expense, of course.

    I hope your not serious? No one I know, met or worked with has ever met the criteria laid out in the Enumerator Handbook to actually collect money for their cell phone expenses. Have you?

  23. anonymous Says:

    Maiasaura is correct. When our crew tried to claim cell phone expenses, it was declined immediately.

  24. Anon Says:

    German-American is not a race.

  25. CLA Dave Says:

    re: “German-American is not a race.”

    Neither is Vietnamese, but it’s on the form.

  26. GS-X Says:

    Dairyland CL, completed interview and others,
    Interesting comments. Here is a link to an earlier story about indigenous people from Central America.
    Immigrants from south of the border have many different racial identities.
    Remember, your race is what you say it is. That’s why you get a write-in field.
    Let’s see if the Census Bureau tabulates the “German-American”s or if they dismiss this write-in as too silly or too few.

  27. Arpad Golgoth Says:

    I got a 95 on the test. The proctor seemed excited by this. They wanted me to be a supervisor. Then they told me I had a criminal record when I do not. They would not tell me what I did, or when or where I did it, just that I had to prove to them that I didn’t do it. Like the guy in the Trial by Kafka. Then I heard about about a class action suit vs. the census bureau by lots of people who had the same thing happen to them. I emailed the law firm that was handling it and sent them all the documentation in support of my story. A barely intelligible black woman called me back and asked me if I was a white man. I said yes. She said I could not be part of the suit because I was a white man and hung up. What happened to this country?

  28. annnnnnnnon Says:

    Race should just be a box to fill in. Since its self-identification anyways. It brings up an interesting quandry about whether heritage and race can be the same thing.

  29. nerfoo Says:

    “I hope your not serious? No one I know, met or worked with has ever met the criteria laid out in the Enumerator Handbook to actually collect money for their cell phone expenses. Have you?”

    No, I haven’t. So, I didn’t claim any cell phone use as an expense. Why would I? If it didn’t cost me anything extra, why would I claim it as an expense?

  30. root beer float Says:

    Arpad Golgoth, I’m sorry this happened. It’s discriminatory.

  31. GS-X Says:

    annnnnnnnon, By heritage, do you mean what the Census Bureau calls Ancestry?

  32. completed interview Says:

    I’ve been waiting for some wiseacre to say “Human” when we get to the race question. Hasn’t happened though.

  33. anonymous too Says:

    I’ve had a couple of respondents tell me “human race”. They were serious – so, I checked the “other” bos and wrote in exactly what they told me. The respondents for the NRFU operation and let us into their lives for a few minutes. I record what they tell me. I believe it’s wrong for a CL or CLA to go back later and change information that a respondent gave us.

  34. TSJ Says:

    @Arpad Golgoth … somebody should take your report and run with it…a nice expose on racial/gender discrimination.

  35. Peon aka Enumerator in SoCal Says:

    I never heard anything said about using the internet and was horrified when a co-worker said she was googling addresses to get information. Our CL not only had no problem with that, but kept her on after he let me go. Most of that information is inaccurate, but, hey, she wrote SOMETHING in those boxes, I guess that’s all that mattered.

    Proxy information can’t really be avoided, but we were made to feel like shit if we used a proxy anyway. I went to some places more than 6 times and really worked one particular area with no luck – couldn’t even get proxies (and neither could the CLA) on several, and was made to feel awful about it. We were jerked around nonstop and nothing was ever good enough, even though the rules were changed on a daily basis. What a ridiculous (and expensive) boondoggle this whole thing was. It was like they didn’t even think out any of it first. So glad it’s over!

    When I did address canvassing last year, I didn’t get my cell phone bill until after we had finished and turned everything in. My bill was $160 (it’s normally $38). Not only too late to try and collect, but doubt that it was possible. I was very careful and tried to not over use it this time, but haven’t received my bill yet. I was horrified that they expected us to give out our numbers (and also used Google Voice for security, although it doesn’t help with my bill), but feel that with all the money they wasted anyway, they should have issued us throw away phones or something. They obviously had absolutely no concern for our safety in ANY regard.

    I wouldn’t trust any of this data. Overheard too many remarks by enumerators who apparently just wanted to fill out the forms and keep their jobs, interviewed people who said they not only had mailed their forms in, but that another enumerator had already come and taken the information again the week before, and talked to too many people who said they never got a form and nobody ever came to their door. Found one huge area that had the wrong city and zip code (big surprise – the only three people I talked to while there all said they weren’t counted) and was told it “wasn’t our problem” when I tried to tell my CL about it (or anything else).

  36. GS-X Says:

    completed interview, those wiseacres don’t wait for you.
    They have their fun filling out the census form they got in the mail.

  37. Vacant/Delete Chick Says:

    Peon in S Calif, your right!

  38. Hermes Says:

    @Arpad Golgoth: how did you know she was black?


    Got terminated for disagreeing with assistant manager on basic procedure. Her take on this procedure was wrong as checked on it with the legal department of Department of Commerce who oversees Census. They gotcha also as when you are terminated for whatever reason you have no appeal rights. A lot of the managers they choose are incompetent and seem to relish beating enumerators into the ground especially over the use of proxies. Census 2000 was good for me. Census 2010 to me is a disaster.

  40. anonymous Says:

    George Wilberg, I’m sorry about what happened to you. Search “AOL Confessions of a Census Worker” June 9 article – you’ll read lots of comments from former Census Asst. Mgrs., former Census employees, very detailed accounts and you won’t have the “censoring” by some individuals who are critical of this site.