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.

Author Archive

A call for clarity: What’s ‘living somewhere else’?

Tuesday, March 16th, 2010

This MyTwoCensus employee received his census form in the mail today, and immediately ripped it open to start filling the form out.

Most questions were very clear. Race? White. Name? Evan Goldin.

However, one question was not so clear: “Does this person sometimes live or stay somewhere else?”

I spend time in Lake Tahoe at a cabin that I rent with a dozen other friends. Does that necessitate a checkmark for this question under “Yes — as a season or second residence.” My roommate stays at his girlfriend’s house a lot. Should that get a checkbox under “For another reason?”

The title of the question seems to make things clear, but it’s unclear what qualifies as “sometimes,” and no implications are clarified either (does this mean I shouldn’t fill out the form?).

What do you think? Anything else that was unclear? Care to clear this question up?

Canvassers, in the wild

Wednesday, May 13th, 2009
Address canvasser in action

Address canvasser in action

There’s no doubt that it’s Census Season.

In the past few weeks, MyTwoCensus staff have spotted multiple address canvassers on their foot patrols across the San Francisco Bay Area, the home of MyTwoCensus’ West Coast staff.

In one case, photographed above, we spotted an address canvasser walking the hilly streets of Potrero Hill, a residential San Francisco neighborhood. As the garage door opened and a curious homeowner approached, the canvasser promptly announced his presence, and his purpose.

The homeowner, curiosity apparently satisfied, let the canvasser return to his work.

With the billions of dollars being spent on this Census, we’re thrilled to say that the canvassers we’ve seen working in person have been diligent and focused on the task at hand: Verifying every single address on every one of the 3,794,066 square miles in the country.

Is this the norm? Have you seen address canvassers in the wild? Are you one yourself? Share your story, photos or thoughts by emailing us at mytwocensus ( at ) mytwocensus.com

Census.gov says ‘Page not found’

Monday, May 11th, 2009

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During this economic downturn, we can only imagine that most visitors to the Census Bureau’s web site seek information about employment and jobs with the Census bureau, as the Bureau will hire more than 1.4 million Americans during the 2010 Census, including the 140,000 who have already been verifying addresses across America.

At MyTwoCensus, we regularly browse and comb the www.Census.gov.

Naturally, we had some questions that needed answering, so we clicked on “FAQs.” This brought us to a special section of the Census Bureau’s site devoted to answering Americans’ questions about the 2010 Census through a list of Frequently Asked Questions and an interface to submit questions to the Census Bureau.

On the top of any FAQ page, there is a list of navigational links, such as “Jobs” and “About 2010 Census.” Very disappointingly, both the links to “Jobs” and “Timeline of Activites,” which likely appear on hundreds of Census Web pages, are completely dead links.

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Not only that, but visitors are not brought to a standard 404 error page, which any teenager who knows anything about HTML could build. Instead, browsers reveal a message that the page doesn’t exist, and visitors must figure out on their own that, to find a job, they need to navigate all the way back to the Census home page, where they can find a working “Jobs” link.

This experience is extremely user unfriendly for job seekers, many of whom are likely older individuals who may not ever be able to figure out how to find the correct “Jobs” page. Just how many potential Census Bureau job applicants were lost because they couldn’t navigate to the proper Jobs page?

Even though these broken links reside within the FAQ section, –which is powered by RightNow Technologies, a firm whose software MyTwoCensus staff has used for other endeavors– when any part of the Census.gov site is updated, the first task should be to ensure that all links lead to the right place.

Here are our recommendations:

  • Fix these broken “Jobs” and “Timeline of Activities” links
  • Set up a proper 404 error page, which will lead anyone who does stumble upon a dead link to a page that helps them find what they’re looking for (check out some 404 inspiration)
  • Run a dead link checker, to ensure all dead links are fixed across the site.

Anything else wrong with Census.gov? Let us know! We’ll follow up in the coming weeks with additional thoughts on how to improve the Census Bureau’s site. For now, fixing broken links should be the top priority!

Census starts its pre-Census legwork

Friday, March 13th, 2009

Here in San Francisco, we’re pretty much daily readers of the San Francisco Chronicle. (After all, we need to enjoy it while it lasts.)

And even with the recent cuts and under-staffing that has plagued the paper, we happy to see some solid reporting about the 2010 Census in today’s Chronicle. Even better, the Chronicle teased to the story on the top of the newspaper’s front page.

As the Chronicle reported, the local Census is already gearing up for next’s massive undertaking. For those looking for jobs, the local office is looking to hire 700 census takers to “who will fan out next month to make note of every single dwelling in the region.”

Tracking down every single address in the nation is no small task, and the article notes that a recent Government Accountability Office report highlights some of the daunting problems still plaguing the “fragile” operation:

1. Technology. Census officials had hoped to equip census takers visiting homes that didn’t mail back their census forms with small GPS comp0uters. But technical difficulties forced the bureau to abandon those plans. Census takers will, according to the Chronicle, carry the devices when doing address canvassing.

2. Budget. Not only is the Census a massive undertaking, but it also takes a massive amount of tax dollars to fund that effort. And with the economy reeling and government expenditures being scrutinized for their job-creation efects, it may not be an easy year to fully fund the Census, despite the Constitutional requirement to do so. That’s no small problem when the Census may cost $14 billion to carry out.

3. Accuracy. Tracking down every address in the nation may go a long way toward ensuring an accurate census. But, what about those that don’t live in a real home or apartment? Many of the nation’s agricultural workforce is crammed into shacks, tents or crowded apartments. So those are still heads that need counting.

The Bureau has its work cut out for them. We’re happy to hear that they’ll be beefing up staffing to help solve that problem. And we’re just as happy that, even in bad times for newspapers, we’re not the only ones keeping an eye on how the Census is being carried out.