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.

And they keep knocking in Jersey…

Is this problem unique to The Garden State?

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10 Responses to “And they keep knocking in Jersey…”

  1. DontBHatinEnumeratin Says:

    This is blown out of proportion. Yes, the Census is sending enumerators to check on deletes multiple times and yes the homeowners feel like they’re being “harassed” … but we live in an age where no one wants to help anyone else much less help their government and the Census. So some old lady complains and a hack journalist has a story. And ya’ know, some folks just need a little attention. They think the government is spying on them and or harassing them. You know, you should only wish you were THAT IMPORTANT that the big bad government should harass you. Come on! Get over yourself!

    I’ve checked on deletes or vacants that the manager or homeowner has told me there were enumerators before me … a couple of times. We’re triple checking the double checks, it’ll be over soon so folks chill out.

  2. Patrick Says:

    I agree. This is a worthless story that’s happened to me personally as a crew leader multiple times, and no doubt it’s happened to some of my best enumerators dozens of times over the course of 200 or 300 cases.

    One woman alone I visited said she had been visited half a dozen times because she owned multiple apartments, but at least she was good natured about it… unlike the woman from this story. I guess what I don’t understand is, why did this woman tell the enumerator to get off her porch the first time someone showed up? If she had just talked to them the first time, the whole thing wouldn’t have happened. She would have received, at most, one more visit during VDC, and the enumerator would have explained they were just doing quality checks. Problem solved.

  3. Florida Fool Says:

    To Patrick and DontBHatinEnumeratin’,

    I understand the woman’s frustration, and I wish that correcting the situation was as easy as you two make it sound. First, the article makes it clear that the woman spent a significant amount of time in the 2000 Census trying to correct the error. To have it show up again in the 2010 Census must have been very irritating, especially after she had already mailed in her form and contacted the local and regional census offices again to correct the error. To see an enumerator from NRFU on her porch must have sent her over the edge.

    Regretably, I have had numerous respondents tell me the very same thing. At one unit, the woman telephoned to say she had been contacted 11 previous times during the 2010 Census, beginning with ADCAM. It turns out that the “house” is actually a museum, and no one lives there at all, but she could not convince anyone from the census to believe it.

  4. DontBHatinEnumeratin Says:

    Florida, 2000 data may or may not have bearing on 2010 data and seeing an enumerator on her porch is part of the overall process. The Census demands at least one personal visit … a face to face … how do they know someone from another address isn’t playing a game? Really it takes no more than 90 seconds for someone to say, “No, apartment B is not a housing unit, I use it for storage.” Or something to that affect. And then give a name and contact number. But some would rather spend ten minutes with an enumerator playing victim, hankering over the process and claiming harassment. I would say one in four get it, they understand what’s going on and why there’s a need for one, two, three, four, five visits, follow-ups, phone calls, etc. The other three in four are irritable to begin with, looking for any reason to put a dress on and dramatize. The post man comes to your door every day, doesn’t he? He too works for the federal government. If he needs you to sign for a package, do you get yourself into a rage about your privacy and rights and harassment? WHY DO YOU NEED MY SIGNATURE? YOU KNOW I LIVE HERE! YOU DELIVER PACKAGES EVERY DAY! The US Census is really caught between a rock and a hard place. Very difficult job in difficult times.

  5. Chicagoland Enumerator Says:

    Could have been enumerator error. Or a mixup in the office. For VDC I had to clean up a ton of mistakes made by the Nerfoo enumerators. Marking things delete when it should have been vacant. Vice-versa. Not looking at the label closely and mixing up their apartment 1′s and 2′s. Not taking care of wrong addresses properly. Not paying attention to the map-spots. (A lot of problems with those.)

    Count Add-can, Nerfoo, RI, VDC, and RES and some people got 5-6 visits in the course of a year. Plus some of mine were hit for separate surveys like the ACS. So they simply developed enumerator fatigue. I always tried to explain that if they sent me, it was because something flagged bad at the office. Was always careful to not blame it on the respondent. Worked 99% of the time.

    Now I see why an enumerator couldn’t work on a case in RES or VDC that they had in Nerfoo. Fresh eyes…

  6. Patrick Says:

    @ Florida Fool:

    Fair points you make. It would seem there should be an easier way for workers, with assistance from LCO’s, to access and modify information from the central Census database so as to ensure that people who call to say they’ve been visited 4 times, please don’t come back, don’t get re-visited. Yes, 11 visits is excessive.

    On the other hand, the whole point of doing the census the way the US does it (which may or may not be justified) is to be accurate and thorough. DontBHatin makes a good point — there’s no way for someone on the phone, or reading a letter, to verify an address or guarantee that the information is accurate to the extent that a personal visit can.

    I agree there’s a fine line that got crossed way too many times during the census. And I agree that it should have been corrected after the 2000 census in this particular case. But this woman still flipped out over something that, as you acknowledge (again, rightly or wrongly), has happened thousands, perhaps millions, of times essentially because the Census Bureau wants to make sure it has accurate information. To be visited, say, five times, because you used to have an apartment that used to exist but does not any longer, is hardly the end of the world, and it certainly does not constitute harrassment.

    Tangentially… I had a woman the other day who swore up and down that Barack Obama was manipulating the census intentionally as a way to “ruin this country.” She was just sure that he’s personally responsible for the questions that appeared on the form because he wants to push forward with his “socialistic” policies. She told me she watches the news every night and Obama gives the magic word to hire (and, ostensibly, fire) 200,000 workers as a means to make himself look better. The point is, some people simply don’t like the government, especially under the current President, and will go to any length to make up an excuse, however illogical or irrational, to complain quite loudly about and/or refuse to cooperate, even with something as fairly benign as the Census — and I suspect virtually all of the refusals we faced, as well as the woman in this article (based purely on anecdotal stereotypes), stem from similar attitudes.

  7. DontBHatinEnumeratin Says:

    Tangentially… I had a woman the other day who swore up and down that Barack Obama was manipulating the census intentionally as a way to “ruin this country.” She was just sure that he’s personally responsible for the questions that appeared on the form because he wants to push forward with his “socialistic” policies.

    Patrick, I had one that made the same claims for LA mayor Antonio Villarigoisa. These folks need to take a long break from reality television and enjoy some time with loved ones. The Census began in 1790, not 2008.

  8. Shirley Says:

    As I was looking for an address in VDC, a man was out watering his flowers, waved me over and asked if he could help me. I told him I was from the Census Bureau and looking for an address on his street. He looked sympathetic and said, “You work for the Census? That’s too bad.” He asked, “Are you a Christian?” When I replied that yes, I am, he then proceeded to tell me that the census was wrong, even non-biblical.(though he couldn’t quote the exact scripture reference). He also told me that the census was a government plot, and one purpose was so that when the oil in the gulf forces people out of their homes, the government will know how many FEMA trailers to buy. He also mentioned that the Jesuits are taking over the government, and that he used to work for the government as a police officer, and he knew all about corruption.
    Wow. He finally let me go with, “I know you must need a job, but I wish you could be doing something else.”
    This was certainly the most interesting conversation I had during the census. I’m glad I didn’t have to enumerate his address!!!

  9. GS-X Says:

    I love your comment:
    “These folks need to take a long break from reality television and enjoy some time with loved ones.”
    Television and related media have driven the United States insane.

  10. Jake Says:


    One of my most contacts worth forgeting would have to be on a Saturday.

    Approached a home and a kid waved me over to a cookout area next to this H/U’s garage. As I approached I could see thirty some folks seated enjoying their BarB-Q. A “gentlemen” stood up and asked me what he could do for me. I did my introduction. At that point he motioned for all the people present to be silent. He then went off on the government and the census stating his “rights” of only having to state the number of people. Giving me “the number” he then asked me to leave. As I turned to leave I heard him tell the kids in the crowd:
    “kids, now that is how you treat anybody from the government that comes on your property”.
    Great thing to teach the future leaders of America.