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

N.Y. lawmakers criticize inmate census rule

Friday, January 29th, 2010

In New York, two state lawmakers (with Rev. Al Sharpton) are criticizing the Census Bureau policy of counting inmates in the district where they are incarcerated, rather than their home communities.

From the Albany Times-Union:

The longtime U.S. Census Bureau guideline was denounced as “prison-based gerrymandering” by Sen. Eric Schneiderman, D-Manhattan, and Assemblyman Hakeem Jeffries, D-Brooklyn, who were joined by Sharpton and more than two dozen advocacy groups at a news conference at New York City Hall.

“This is an injustice all across America,” Schneiderman said. “We pass hundreds and hundreds of bills every year about highways and forestry and insurance and sewers. This bill is different. This bill is about justice.”

The Times-Union also delves into the pros and cons of the current policy, which a regional manager tells the paper is unlikely to change this year:

Alice Green, executive director for the Center of Law and Justice in Albany, has opposed the Census policy for more than two decades. “Prisoners are not allowed to vote, but yet we count them and then exploit them,” she said.

Because of the location of most state prisons, Census Bureau policy tends to benefit the upstate population count.

New York’s rural 45th Senate District, which includes Clinton, Essex, Franklin, Hamilton, Warren and Washington counties, houses over 13,500 inmates incarcerated in 13 prisons.

Queensbury Republican Sen. Elizabeth Little, who has represented the district since 2002, supports the current Census Bureau guidelines.

“How do we know these people are going to go back to their hometowns once — or if — they are released?,” Little said. “Are they serving life sentences? Do they still have family in their hometowns?”

Poll finds that Hispanics lack knowledge about census

Friday, January 29th, 2010

A recent Pew survey found that the Census Bureau has a ways to go in educating the public about the census, and new data from Ipsos and Telemundo shows that the problem is particularly acute among Hispanics.

AdWeek has more on the new survey:

The survey found that the proportion of those who have never heard of the Census is slightly higher among Hispanics than it is among the U.S. population at large (18 percent vs. 11 percent). And the proportion of those who have heard of it but know nothing more about it is also higher among Hispanics than it is among the total U.S. population (31 percent vs. 23 percent).

The survey found that only half of Hispanics know either “a little” or “a lot” about the Census (52 percent), compared with two-thirds among the U.S. public at large (65 percent).

That said, most of the Hispanics polled indicated they believed the Census was important, with 84 percent agreeing that they and their families intend to be counted.

Census count begins in Alaska Monday

Saturday, January 23rd, 2010

Census Bureau director Robert M. Groves will travel to Alaska Monday to begin the official tally for the 2010 Census.

Groves is slated to count the first household in Noorvik, a remote Inupiat Eskimo village located north of Arctic Circle.

The AP has some background and more details:

Monday’s single count will be the only one conducted by Groves, and the rest of Noorvik’s population will be enumerated beginning Tuesday. Census workers and trained locals are expected to take a week to interview villagers from the same 10-question forms to be mailed to most residents March 15. Census workers also will visit 217 other rural communities, all in Alaska, in the coming weeks.

Alaskans in rural communities not linked by roads have been the first people counted since the 1990 census. The unlinked communities are the places where the process is first conducted in person by census workers. The bureau makes personal visits to nonresponding residents around the country.

It’s easier to get census workers to the Alaska villages before the spring thaw brings a muddy mess, making access more difficult, said Ralph Lee, director of the bureau’s Seattle region, which oversees Alaska. Also, residents in many villages still live off the land, hunting and fishing for their food, and it’s important to reach them before they set off for fishing camps or hunting expeditions when the weather begins to warm.

Poll: Just 31 percent know census is required by law

Wednesday, January 20th, 2010

A survey from the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press shows that Census Bureau still has a ways to go in educating U.S residents about the 2010 Census.

Though 90 percent of respondents said the census was very or somewhat important, the survey underscored the public’s lack of knowledge about the decennial count. Only 31 percent knew census participation is required by law. Answers about the census’ purpose fared somewhat better: 59 percent knew that the census is used to appropriate government funds and 64 percent knew the census determines congressional representation.

The survey comes as Bureau begins heavy promotion of the census: A $133-million advertising campaign began this week and a road tour was launched earlier this month.

The first stage of the ad campaign will focus on awareness and the Bureau has spent much time touting its outreach efforts — with nonprofits, minority groups and others. But it’s now evident that awareness about the census isn’t enough (84 percent of survey participants had heard of the census, and a full 92 percent were familiar with it after hearing a description) — education must be a key part of the marketing plans.

Perhaps owing to this lack of education, the poll also found that 18 percent of those surveyed may not participate in the 2010 Census. Ten percent said they might not fill out the form, 6 percent said they definitely or probably would not and 2 percent said they were unsure. Top reasons for not participating included a lack of interest or knowledge and a distrust of government.

Readers, what do you think: What’s the best way to educate the public about the cenus?

Census data: Wives increasingly the partner with higher income

Tuesday, January 19th, 2010

A new analysis of census data from the Pew Research Center says that more men are marrying women who earn more than they do.

The New York Times reports:

“Men now are increasingly likely to marry wives with more education and income than they have, and the reverse is true for women,” said Paul Fucito, spokesman for the Pew Center. “In recent decades, with the rise of well-paid working wives, the economic gains of marriage have been a greater benefit for men.”

The analysis examines Americans 30 to 44 years old, the first generation in which more women than men have college degrees. Women’s earnings have been increasing faster than men’s since the 1970s.

“We’ve known for some time that men need marriage more than women from the standpoint of physical and mental well-being,” said Stephanie Coontz, a professor at Evergreen State College in Olympia, Wash., and research director for the Council on Contemporary Families, a research and advocacy group. “Now it is becoming increasingly important to their economic well-being as well.”

And Jezebel has a closer look at the data and a round-up of how it’s been covered in the media.

Iraq plans to conduct first census since 1987

Saturday, January 16th, 2010

In a bit of news from across the globe, Iraq will hold its first census in more than 20 years later this year.

Reuters has more:

BAGHDAD (Reuters) – Plans are on track to take Iraq’s first complete census in 23 years, a process that will help answer questions critical to the future of Iraq’s northern oilfields, such as “how many Kurds live in Kirkuk?”

The long-delayed count, which may shut down the country for two days in October, is also expected to determine how many Iraqis live abroad and how many have been forced to move within Iraq in seven years of war, census chief Mehdi al-Alak said.

The census was postponed for a year over worries it was being politicized. Ethnic groups in contested areas like the northern city of Kirkuk, home to Arabs, Kurds, Turkmen and a valuable part of Iraq’s oil fields, opposed it because it might reveal demographics that would undermine political ambitions.

The count could provide answers or create more squabbles in a diverse nation riven by sectarian violence following the U.S. invasion in 2003 and now trying to bolster fragile security gains while deciding how to share out its vast oil wealth. Iraq has the world’s 3rd largest crude oil reserves.

The autonomous Kurdish region in the north claims Kirkuk as its own. The census will determine whether Kurds are the biggest ethnic bloc in the city, which could bolster that claim.

It will also find out how many people live in Iraqi Kurdistan, which will define its slice of central government revenues, currently 17 percent. If the census finds Kurds are a greater percentage of the total population, the constitution says the region gets more money, and retroactive payments.

Police release 911 tape from death of Ky. census worker

Saturday, January 16th, 2010

Police records released yesterday showed that Kentucky census worker William Sparkman, found hanging from a tree near a cemetery in November, had told a friend of his plan to commit suicide.

WKYT in Lexington, Ky., has audio from the 911 tape from the day Sparkman’s body was found. At the time, police said Sparkman’s death was a suicide staged to look like a murder, but further details — including the 911 call and that Sparkman had disclosed his plans to a friend — were not released until this week.

Listen to the 911 tape here (it’s about a minute in to the segment).

Police say Ky. census worker told friend of suicide plan

Friday, January 15th, 2010

An update from the Associated Press on the death of William Sparkman, a census worker in Kentucky who was found dead in an apparent suicide in November:

FRANKFORT, Ky. — Police who investigated the death of an eastern Kentucky census worker found naked, bound and hanging from a tree learned that he told a friend he intended to kill himself and that he had chosen the time, place and method to do it.

Police records about the death of Bill Sparkman were released Friday to The Associated Press.

Sparkman was found near a rural cemetery in September with the word “fed” scrawled on his chest. It triggered a state and federal investigation that ultimately found he had committed suicide.

Calendar of road tour stops

Thursday, January 14th, 2010

One of our commenters wrote last week that the Census Bureau should release a full schedule of stops for its Portrait of America Road Tour to promote the census — and it looks like one is finally up.

The color-coded calendar, which also includes other Census Bureau events, is available from the Bureau’s web site, and syncs with iCal, Outlook and Google Calendar. It’s also available via RSS.

You can also follow the locations of the road tour vehicles on Twitter.

Census advertising campaign begins Sunday (VIDEO)

Thursday, January 14th, 2010

We have a few of the advertising spots from the ad campaign for the 2010 Census.

The Census Bureau‘s first advertising spot will air during the Golden Globe Awards Sunday night.

Here are some of the ads, courtesy of the Washington Post, Advertising Age and Ad Week.

Mail It Back:

The Announcement:

Next 10 Years:

Let us know what you think in the comments, and we’ll have more ads and analysis over the next few weeks.

Census Bureau to roll out ad campaign tomorrow

Wednesday, January 13th, 2010

The Census Bureau is unveiling its $133-million advertising campaign tomorrow.

A Washington, D.C., event hosted by CBS sports broadcaster James Brown will kickoff the campaign, which includes television, radio, print, online and outdoor advertisements.

USA Today has a preview of what we’ll see from the Bureau’s ads in the coming weeks:

Today, the Census Bureau unveils a $133 million national advertising campaign that will debut at 9:15 p.m. ET Sunday during the Golden Globe Awards on NBC.

The money is part of $340 million the government is spending to promote the Census this year, including more than $70 million for ads targeting Hispanic, black, Asian and other ethnic markets.

The campaign chiefly targets the 84% of the U.S. population that consumes English-language media, but ads on billboards, radio and TV and in magazines and newspapers will circulate in 27 other languages.

The first of five TV ads directed by actor/writer Christopher Guest (This is Spinal Tap,Best in Show) showcases Guest’s signature style — using dry wit to showcase life’s absurdities.

In the first ad airing Sunday, a film director played by Ed Begley Jr. announces with dramatic flourish his latest ambitious project: Creating a portrait of “every man, woman and child in this beautiful country of ours.” The ad ends with two people whispering: “Isn’t that what the Census is doing?”

The campaign will feature different themes, says Jeff Tarakajian, executive vice president at Draftfcb, the lead ad agency, which is working with subcontractors who specialize in specific ethnic groups.

One theme is “10 questions, 10 minutes” to highlight the ease of filling out the form.

Another ad will have a crowd cheering as someone walks to a mailbox to send in the form.

Doubts over 2010 Census’ ability to jumpstart economy

Wednesday, January 13th, 2010

The U.S. government is hiring about 1.2 million temporary workers for the 2010 Census, but it’s questionable whether those positions will give a major, sustained boost to the economy.

Though news outlets such as the New York Times and Bloomberg have reported on expectations that census hiring will jumpstart an economic recovery, others, such as Daniel Indiviglio in the Atlantic, are now asserting that the rebound will be weak at best.

As we’ve noted before, these positions are temporary — about six weeks — so they don’t provide the long-term income that could lead to increased spending or significant improvements in the unemployment rate, now at 10 percent. Indiviglio also makes some interesting points about the nature of the census jobs:

What’s worse, these jobs are utterly unproductive. These aren’t manufacturing jobs where these individuals are creating products to be sold overseas. They’re not infrastructure jobs that will improve roads and make commerce more efficient. They’re not even construction jobs to weatherize homes and help drive down U.S. energy costs. These workers will be walking from door to door and taking a count. Nothing will be produced except for some statistics, with no direct economic value.

Finally, census work might be better than no work, but that’s all it’s better than. These are likely jobs that will contribute very little to most of these individuals’ skill sets and career development. That means, other than perhaps timing, they’ll likely be in no better position to get a good job after the census ends than they were beforehand.

That said, the Census Bureau needs workers and, in this economy, it’s hard to be too critical of officials and economists touting the jobs the census brings, even if the claims of a major economic impact are dubious. As Bloomberg notes, the census is still likely to be the biggest single source of new jobs in the coming months:

The surge will probably dwarf any hiring by private employers early in 2010 as companies delay adding staff until they are convinced the economic recovery will be sustained.

Learning from the “Negro” controversy

Tuesday, January 12th, 2010

The word “Negro” has appeared on census forms for at least 60 years, but many African Americans are taking offense to the Census Bureau using the word as a response choice in a question about race.

On Ad Age’s Big Tent blog, Pepper Miller has some good insights on the controversy surrounding the wording. Here’s an except, and check out the full post here.

After having conducted research for the 2000 and 2010 Census African-American ad campaigns, I was neither surprised nor turned off by the Census Bureau’s intent to develop inclusive options, especially given that more that 50,000 people wrote in “Negro” as their race during the 2000 Census.

I’m not the only one who thinks Wilson’s allegation that some first-timers may not participate because of the “Negro” option may be an overreaction.

“I doubt that younger voters would be that turned off, given that terms like “Ho and Ni***ga are acceptable to many of them,” says a consultant on the African-American consumer market, Jacklynn Topping. “While the word ‘Negro’ has certainly fallen out of favor, it’s more dated than offensive.” Topping adds. “In my opinion, had it never been brought up, many young people might laugh at the term, if they noticed it at all, and check it anyway.”

She concludes:

The community is more united on participating in the Census than not, but are divided on this issue. In this case, there will be some tension arising from a younger generation not necessarily keen on the word ‘Negro,’ but I don’t expect it to become a huge issue.

Views from the Census Bureau: A critique of coverage

Tuesday, January 12th, 2010

Here is a contribution from a Census employee. MyTwoCensus grants anonymity to Census Bureau employees who wish to tell their stories or express their views on issues surrounding the 2010 Census without fear of repercussions. Census employees who would like to contribute to the site can find details on our contact page. The following does not reflect the opinions of MyTwoCensus or its editors.

Here is my complaint about a very poor piece of journalism published by The Economist in their special edition titled “The World in 2010″. Perhaps the story about the 2010 Census, headlined “Counting Heads” was meant to be nothing more than infotainment. If so, for those of who who take the census seriously, this story by John Grimond should have carried a warning against reading it.

The writer’s failure to discuss the graphic on the same page as the article tells us that he probably did not understand it. The graphic, a map indicating which states are like to gain or lose representation in Congress based on expected changes in the size of their populations, is sourced to the Population Reference Bureau. Is the Population Reference Bureau’s web site a better source of information about the 2010 Census than The Economist?

The reporter’s ignorance of statistics is another problem. He writes “The longer form used to be sent only to a selection of households, from which general conclusions were inferred.” More precisely, the long form used to be sent to a sample of households, from which estimates were made. Grimond also writes “The details…are now gathered by an annual survey of a small proportion of the population”. Once more, Grimond should have used the word sample instead of the word proportion.

Grimond says “…gerrymandering is now elaborated by computers, not pens…”. Decades ago, this was news. Anyway, computers do not gerrymander redistricting; people use computers to gerrymander redistricting. As even Grimond reminds us, pens can can be used to gerrymander redistricting.

In Grimond’s last paragraph, he tells us that the 2010 Census “will end with the news that the resident population stands at  311,349,543 at year-end, give or take a few hundred thousand.” While Grimond appears to have the April 1 population count confused with  the year-end delivery of that count, that is not the bigger problem. Given the insufficient work done to prepare for the 2010 Census, it is irresponsible to state a population projection without giving its source and explaining how it was arrived at. Both the 2006 Census Test and the 2008 Census Dress Rehearsal were incomplete tests, reduced in scope by budget cuts. Census Bureau Director Robert Groves has told us of a systems test. There is no reason to think this systems test involved any real data. If it was an actual test, you would have been given some information about the test.

The 2010 Census will deliver a massive amount of messy data. Duplicate enumerations, unforeseen record linkage results, missing data and mistakes, perhaps badly covered up, mean that determining the population count may not follow a plan. Let no one suggest a population count to the Census Bureau now.

Grimond’s qualification, “give or take a few hundred thousand”, thoughtlessly suggests that the 2010 Census error will be smaller than Census 2000 error. Census error cannot be known in advance.

If you missed Grimond’s story on the 2010 Census, don’t bother reading it.

Nevada awards $866,000 public relations contract

Monday, January 11th, 2010

The public relations firm Weber Shandwick has been awarded an $866,000 contract for a 2010 Census outreach program in Nevada, according to a press release from the company.

The Nevada Secretary of State’s office awarded the contract.

A few more details from Weber Shandwick:

The Minneapolis office of Weber Shandwick, which directs the firm’s work on the national Census effort, has assigned a separate team to lead the Nevada campaign. The Nevada program includes advertising support from Sawyer Miller Advertising and Hispanic and African American outreach by Weber Shandwick’s multi-cultural firm, the Axis Agency. Weber Shandwick has subcontracted with The Ferraro Group of Reno and Las Vegas to assist in executing the plan. Weber Shandwick’s contract runs through the end of April.

Cincinnati, Census Bureau disagree about addresses

Monday, January 11th, 2010

A bit of controversy is brewing in Cincinnati, as city officials are urging the Census Bureau to mail census forms to addresses that the Bureau claims do not exist. The Bureau removed thousands of Cincinnati addresses from its master address file — which should include every housing unit in the United States — but the city says some of those addresses are valid.

The Cincinnati Enquirer reports:

After canvassing every neighborhood and allowing local governments to give input, Cincinnati says the Census Bureau took out 12,534 addresses in the city – many of them without explanation. City officials believe at least 3,063 addresses are valid, and want them put back.

“The effort to get an accurate count begins with the address check, with that master list of addresses, making sure that the census has all the information that we as a city have about where people live,” said Cincinnati Mayor Mark Mallory, who heads a census task force for the U.S. Conference of Mayors.

And according to the newspaper, Cincinnati is far from the only municipality to appeal the Census Bureau’s address list:

Cincinnati’s complaint is one of about 2,200 that have been sent to a special appeals panel – twice as many appeals as were filed a decade ago. Those appeals contain 1.7 million addresses.

The government hasn’t released a list of those appeals, but the Boone County Planning Commission also has appealed 1,458 addresses it says are missing: 337 in Florence, nine in Union and 1,112 in unincorporated Boone County.

Philip N. Fulton, the director of the Census Bureau’s appeals staff, said it’s impossible for his staff of 30 people to review each one of those addresses individually. Instead, his staff looks at whether the city has done a “logical, rigorous analysis.” If so, he said, Cincinnati will get the benefit of the doubt.

“(The appeal process) is an effort by Congress to give communities an opportunity to be heard, and it’s in their favor,” he said. “We go into this with the mentality that this local government has a case, otherwise they wouldn’t put so much work into it.”

Cincinnati’s complaint that addresses were removed without explanation is a common one.

“That’s happening all over the country,” Fulton said. “And that factor is leading to more appeals.”

It’s clear that getting a census form to all addresses is crucial for an accurate count. But wasting forms and time on invalid addresses is a poor use of Census Bureau resources. We’ll keep tabs on the outcomes of address file appeals, so let us know about any in your community.

Book criticizes use of census to apportion House seats

Sunday, January 10th, 2010

The Hartford Courant reports that an upcoming book by a Connecticut population expert criticizes how the Census is used to apportion seats in the U.S. House of Representatives. According to the newspaper, a series of papers by Orlando Rodriguez, manager of the Connecticut State Data Center, form the basis of the book “Vote Thieves: Illegal Immigration, Congressional Apportionment, and Census 2010,” which is scheduled to be published this fall.

Rodriguez asserts that it’s unfair to use the raw head count to determine House seats, because it doesn’t account for non-voters and illegal immigrants:

But in “Vote Thieves,” Rodriguez argues that representation based on population size unfairly penalizes many Northeastern states and intensifies political polarization. The fundamental problem, Rodriguez says, is that states are given federal representation based on the total count of people there. Apportionment is not made according to voting turnout in states, and not according to those who are legal citizens.

This has two major effects, Rodriguez says. Apportionment by raw head counts hugely favors Southern border states at the expense of Northern and Midwestern states. Those Southern border states tend to have younger populations with low voter turnouts. But the generally older and high-voting populations of the North and Midwest are given fewer representatives and thus fewer votes in the House.

If voter turnout in the most recent presidential elections, instead of raw head counts, was used in assigning House seats, Rodriguez’s calculations show that Connecticut would actually gain a House seat.

It’s unlikely that we’ll see a shift in the way the census is used to determine Congressional representation soon, but Rodriguez makes some pretty interesting arguments against using the raw head count. If you buy Rodriguez’s claims, relying on voter turnout instead could give states an incentive to maximize voter turnout, reduce disenfranchisement and draw competitive legislative districts to draw in moderate voters. And it’s pretty hard to argue against at least taking a closer look at a method of determining House seats that might do that.

Census could shape corporate strategy

Friday, January 8th, 2010

Besides states seeking funding and representation in Congress and workers seeking temporary employment, another group stands to benefit from the 2010 Census: corporations.

The Economist reports that businesses plan to use census data to help them make decisions about where to open stores and what to stock. Target, for example, tells the magazine that it began offering more Spanish-language children’s books and hair products for African Americans after seeing data from the 2000 Census.

And due to the economy, more firms than ever are expected to utilize census data:

According to Zain Raj, the boss of Euro RSCG Discovery, a marketing firm, even more companies than normal will be poring over the census this year. The recession has made them reluctant to expand without good market data, he argues, yet it has also caused them to cut back on research, making the free census data all the more vital.

And some experts predict that this year’s data will lead more companies to push micro-targeted ad campaigns:

Peter Francese, a demographer at Ogilvy & Mather, an advertising agency, thinks the 2010 census will permanently change marketing. When companies analyse the census data, they will see that cities, and even some neighbourhoods, are so diverse now that broad advertising campaigns are no longer suitable. Mass-market advertising, he says, will become “extinct”. Marketers will instead have to focus on reaching specific households—just as the Census Bureau is preparing to do.

The Census Bureau has about 47,000 corporate partners that are helping to market the census, more than double the number in 2000, according to the Economist. It’s clear that the businesses, too, have a stake in the data.

“Negro” has been on census forms for 60 years

Friday, January 8th, 2010

News organizations across the country have reported on the controversy surrounding the word “Negro” on forms for the 2010 Census.

But a Census Bureau official tells NPR that “Negro” has been on the forms since at least 1950.

NPR also reports that 56,175 respondents wrote in “Negro” on their forms in the 2000 Census, even though the word was also included as a response choice.

One of our commenters asked when the Census Bureau last studied the wording for the question, which asks about race, and when we might see some new data. The Bureau told NPR it would examine the effects of removing “Negro” this year.

Tough economy aids search for census workers

Thursday, January 7th, 2010

As Census Bureau director Robert M. Groves said in a conference call last month, the recession is helpful to the Bureau because it means a larger, and more qualified, applicant pool.

The nationwide unemployment rate was 10 percent in November 2009, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (new data is scheduled to be released tomorrow). That number, Time reports, is higher than any census year since 1940.

Time also reports how the Bureau is handling the influx of applications:

In this slow economy, the Census has been overwhelmed by both the quantity and quality of applicants. “We’re getting a lot of people who are professionals, people who have been laid off from the large companies, people with master’s degrees and higher,” says Lillie Eng-Hirt, who manages the Census office in Memphis, Tenn. One man was so grateful at being offered work, she relates, that he had the Census employee hiring him in tears after hearing his story of going without a job for so long.

Enthusiasm about the jobs has been so great that the Census pulled plans to advertise them nationally. Last spring, the Census did run ads when it was hiring canvassers for the summer — people who walk up and down every block in the U.S. to verify each address. The Census was hoping to get 700,000 applications in order to fill 200,000 spots. Instead, the bureau received 1.2 million. (Those applicants will be considered for the new positions too.) This time around, says decennial recruiting chief Wendy Button, the Census will run advertisements only in areas where it anticipates having trouble filling positions, such as inner cities, extremely rural areas and neighborhoods with large percentages of non-English-speaking residents.

And applicants aren’t the only thing the Cenus Bureau has a surplus of this year: The Minneapolis Star-Tribune reports that the Bureau is having no trouble finding office space due to high vacancy rates. The paper says:

And the feds are finding plenty of cheap temporary places for desks, in a market in which roughly 20 percent of all office space stands silent.