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.

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Census, employment rate wind down

Friday, July 16th, 2010

I’m seeing several reports of the unemployment rate being affected by the end of census jobs. Georgia’s The Augusta Chronicle, Tampa’s ABC Action News, and San Diego’s North County Times all have similar stories. It’s all part of the process, baby. Here’s an excellent piece by Darcy Courteau over at The Atlantic that reflects on the end of these census jobs:

The Divine Impermanence of Being a Census Worker

Day two of our Census Bureau training, fingerprinted and cleared, it was time to briefly introduce ourselves and tell the group why we were here. I was first. I reached for the only shred of experience I’d had with the Census Bureau. Ten years ago I was living in a shack on my grandparents’ Ozark property — a place so overgrown I usually missed the turnoff — when a man from the Census showed up. I held up my hands, shaking them, to show how he’d trembled in terror when he stepped from his car. The day before, down another remote road, an anti-government militia with AK-47s had ambushed him. “So,” I finished, “since then I’ve had a burning passion for the Census adventure.”

Our instructor turned to the guy next to me, who stood, said “paycheck,” and sat back down. “I think it’s safe to say that’s why we’re all here,” the instructor muttered. Everyone agreed, aside from a couple of defiant middle-aged women who declared that they were here to get to know the community.

We were re-interviewers, our mission to spot-check data the first waves of Census enumerators had scared up. Training wasn’t much more interactive than listening to verbatim readings from two manuals that our instructor shook at us, a demoralized Moses with perfect bound books full of commandments, though there was only one that really mattered: no overtime, never, DO NOT CLAIM OVERTIME. Our black and white shoulder bags we packed as a group. A team leader asked us to note our reclose-able plastic baggies of pencils, and, leaving nothing to chance, instructed us not to empty the contents into our shoulder bags, as loose pencils would roll around the bottom of a bag.

I’ve been in the field since, long enough to absorb a few more useful bits of knowledge. Newly arrived in Washington, I’ve learned that those women in training were on to something. It might seem obvious, but a great way to get the lay of the land city is to drive its back streets, stopping at homes of strangers to ask if they consider themselves to be male or female, what races they’d like to claim, if they’ve lived somewhere else during the year including jail, prison, or a nursing home, and–when you’re wrapping things up–whether there are any babies in the house they’ve forgotten to mention.

My small crew meets each morning at 8:15 at a McDonald’s where we turn in completed cases — those for which we’ve finally buttonholed a householder — to the crew leader, a trained actor who fields our queries with Old Hollywood gravitas; only when he’s found another ding in his Civic does he break character, falling into unactorly grousing. We swap stories over a syrup-gummed four-top: no militias yet, but we have had our share of doozies. The man who left me a perfectly printed note atop the Notice of Visit I had slipped under his door — hours before being arrested and jailed, I learned from neighbors — was more gracious than another woman who screamed that her boyfriend was going to take care of me, a threat issued straight from the nose as her eyes stared in opposite directions like a hammerhead shark’s. One of my colleague’s occupants told her to go away and then waited her out behind his door. But she’s a 61-year-old bewigged karate brown belt who moonlights as a security guard, and has a few tricks of her own. She had worn jeans on her first visit to his house, but surveying the upscale neighborhood, decided to adjust her look for the next. Gussied up in a church dress and fresh wig, she returned. The man opened the door and greeted her like a friend, tut-tutting about the grubby girl who’d come the night before. He wouldn’t let that one in.

We might seem like an odd bunch, with our dented fleet of emissions-test-failing cars, but for now, we’re the demographers who are mapping the country’s human geography. Not for long, though. Another great lesson of the summer is on the Divine Impermanence of being a Census worker. In May there were nearly 600,000 of us earning paychecks across the United States — a number large enough to ratchet down the unemployment rate by 0.2 percent. But even now our numbers are eroding: in weeks only a few thousand enumerators will be left to follow up on fewer than 20 million residences of the original 130,000,000. Come September, the last door will have been knocked upon. The Census website provides a page for former employees back in the job market that lists our various job titles along with bulleted duties and the stern directive to “copy and paste only the information describing tasks you actually performed into your resume.”

The past weeks have also revealed the Impermanence of most Washingtonians, who seem never to be home and indeed to have a Buddha-like detachment from sleep, food preparation, and other people. For upwardly mobile whites living on Capitol Hill, the mark of achievement appears to be living alone, regardless of how isolated and ill-lit the apartment. The farther I go from downtown, however, the more intricate become the household counts. At the city’s edge one morning, a very young woman answered her door in cartoon-printed pajamas and a headscarf. Too shy and sleepy to refuse, she sat on the porch and answered my questions. Her boyfriend’s grandmother owned the house and lived there with several relatives, including the boyfriend. Realizing that the girl was not only the youngest in the household but the only one not related by blood, I asked if this was where she lived and slept most of the time, Census-speak for permanent address. She glanced at the front door. “I ain’t going nowhere.” The way she said it, I swear she was staking a claim.

Another Canadian Follow-up

Thursday, July 15th, 2010

To help Morse on his Canadian coverage, Steven Chase of The Globe and Mail once again has another update on the Canadian Census controversy. If you haven’t been following, the Conservatives in charge have scrapped a mandatory long-form census for 20% of Canadians, thereby appearing particularly small government AND giving a hard time to researchers who use the long form data for things such as social services. The Conservatives have now refused requests to reverse that decision, presumably to please the Conservative political base (who were angered by Conservatives’ recent deficit records.)

The story:

Tories refuse to reverse census decision

Steven Chase
Ottawa — From Friday’s Globe and Mail
Published on Thursday, Jul. 15, 2010 2:46PM EDT
Last updated on Thursday, Jul. 15, 2010 10:53PM EDT
They’ve been in power for four long years, but Stephen Harper’s Conservatives have found a way to cast themselves as anti-government populists once more.

The Tories are refusing to reverse a decision to scrap the mandatory long-form census questionnaire – even in the face of broadening opposition – calling it an unwarranted intrusion into Canadians’ personal lives.

The controversy has morphed into a culture war skirmish between the Harper government and critics, one that allows the Tories – despite running record deficits – to paint themselves as anti-Ottawa for the red-meat Conservative political base vital to winning elections. The most hard-core in this group were horrified when the Tories went deep into debt to finance a two-year stimulus program.

While every household must answer basic questions when the census-takers come calling, about one-fifth of Canadians have traditionally been required, under threat of fines or jail time, to respond to a lengthy list of 50-plus enquiries about their home, work lives and ethnicity.

Not any more. And those who rely on the treasure trove of data generated – from social scientists to health researchers, businesses and charities – are warning in ever-louder voices that this will severely undermine the quality and accuracy of census information.

Asked to explain why this matters to the core Conservative constituency, one senior Tory strategist said, on background: “It’s all about the nanny state. Why is it mandatory to tell the government how many bedrooms are in your house?”

The Conservatives are hard-pressed to prove Canadians are substantially concerned about the mandatory long form or have faced significant repercussions. Canada’s federal privacy watchdog says it received only three complaints about the census in the past decade: two in 2006 and one in 2001.

But Industry Minister Tony Clement said on Thursday that Canadians worried about the meddlesome arm of the state aren’t likely to bring their concerns to the Ottawa-based Office of the Privacy Commissioner. They are likely to tell their MPs.

“If you’re concerned about government intrusion, you’re not likely to complain to another organ of government,” Mr. Clement said in an interview. “They would see it as compounding the issue if they complained.”

The Office of the Privacy Commissioner is an arms-length body that is outside the control of the federal government. But Mr. Clement said this distinction is lost on many. “No offence to the Privacy Commissioner, but most people wouldn’t understand that [this] person is an independent actor.”

The concerns the Tories seek to mollify are similar to the sentiments that drove the right-wing Tea Party movement in the United States to call for a boycott of the 2010 U.S. census.

Mr. Clement dismisses the comparison. “I didn’t know about the larger trends. I have no idea what the Tea Party stands for or what they are saying.”

He rejects the idea there’s an “ideological boundary” to resentment about the mandatory long-form census. “It’s people … who just want to be left alone a little bit.”

The Industry Minister said Statistics Canada has assured him enough steps are being taken to make up for the absence of the mandatory long form and ensure the quality of the census is maintained. During the 2011 census, one third of households will receive a voluntary long-form questionnaire. Ottawa will mount an ad campaign to encourage responses.

On Thursday, the Canadian Medical Association Journal joined the protest, saying in an editorial that scrapping the mandatory long form is a case where “ideology trumps evidence.” It warned that the changes could hurt health-care planning and delivery.

Mr. Clement said the medical journal and other critics should trust Statistics Canada.

We, The Census

Wednesday, July 14th, 2010

Jamie Stiehm over at U.S. Daily News and Report has an interesting essay on the unifying essence of the Census. When these days certain talk-show hosts with a disproportinate amount of influence can rally a good chnk of Americans against the Census, it’s nice to read about it’s completely Constitutional inception. Take a look:

Have I told you how much I love the Census? Jump in, let’s go for a ride around the block of American democracy to count every single person living on it–babies, the young and the old, students and workers, single and married, rich, poor, and anxious members of the middle class, artists and bus drivers, wired and not, employed and unemployed, the uninsured sick and the covered healthy, military and civilian, homeless, incarcerated and free, citizens and immigrants, people of any religion, color, language or kind. And now it’s over this time around, so let me say a few good words on what it’s all about.

The Census is the closest we come to giving true, timely meaning to “We the People.” It’s a quintessentially American pursuit, dreamed up and penned on paper by the Founding Fathers at the Constitutional Convention, this “enumeration” process of counting the particulars to understand the whole. The first Census, carried out in 1790, was directed by Thomas Jefferson. It held up a mirror to an energetic nation, a brilliant mosaic then as well as now, inventing itself. African-Americans were in the first census, both enslaved and free blacks, but their lower social status was reflected by the lack of names for each and every one. In fact, it wasn’t until the 1870 Census, the first taken after the Civil War, that African-Americans were considered citizens with recorded names to go with their numbers. The pre-1870 silence was broken; family genealogies and histories at last began to speak more clearly across time. For historians, names to go with occupations and addresses meant precious identities could be recovered, say, for a study of the community of Chesapeake watermen back in the late 19th century.

Jefferson’s direction of the first Census is a little-known fact. That’s a shame, for it may have helped quell the tide of anti-government hostility and threats many Census 2010 workers encountered on the job. Doors were slammed in their faces, dogs snarled at and bit them, and some were even run off private property with a shotgun. Jefferson, the Founding Father most fearful of government intrusion into people’s lives and liberty and all that jazz, understood that a proper census was essential to political fair play in dividing up each state’s seats in Congress. More than that, the inquiring social scientist in him wished to know the answer to who dwelled where in the early Republic. Take Nantucket Island, in 1790 a rising whaling capital. The answer: about 5,000 whites, predominantly Quakers, and just a handful of native Wampanoag Indians.

The first Census was a wonder to behold, carried out by federal marshals. So was the last, though ours tells a sadder story. The sheer scope and ambition involved in organizing this endeavor (every 10 years) of counting us, in cities and plains, by the millions, is breathtaking. I remember explaining the Census 2000 methods to a fascinated journalist from Bosnia and taking him to the enormous nerve center of Baltimore’s operation. As a reporter at the Baltimore Sun, it was my job to be there, but it was also my pleasure. I was actually proud to see the job the federal government was doing in counting this city populace of about 650,000 souls in the last peaceful and prosperous year of the Clinton presidency. The Democratic mayor, now Maryland’s governor, Martin O’Malley, was happy with that number because it showed the city had slowed losing residents at a rapid rate. Once an industrial powerhouse, the waterfront city of Baltimore hit its peak population in mid-century. In 1950, it weighed in at 900,000 residents, census figures show. Baltimore before the Civil War had the largest population of free blacks.

These are good things to know to trace the ebb and flow of our own back stories. And even in an age of profound distress, economic and otherwise, the Census can be a morale-booster as an excellent temporary employer to help make ends meet for all manner of people. Unfortunately, all those well-paying government jobs for census-takers are now being phased out. They include college graduates and middle-aged job seekers who will be out in the cold of this 9.5 percent unemployment-rate economy again. While they enjoyed getting to know their communities better, few look forward to being on their own again, missing a sense of mission. Counting 300 million people (more or less) creates motivation and dedication among its civilian foot soldiers. It’s a shame to say good-bye to people who are serving their country, too, if not in uniform.

To prescient Republicans in the George W. Bush era, geniuses who decided to skip the “occupation” question for Census 2010 forms and visits, it’s as if you knew relatively few would have an answer ready on that point. That’s the tragic flaw of this census, that we won’t have a well of rich first-hand reporting on how people across America fended for themselves and fed their families in these hard times, the worst in memory for many. This disservice to ordinary peoples’ lives and our collective social history, like past blind spots in the Census, shall not soon be forgotten and forgiven.

Undercounting in western Texas

Tuesday, July 6th, 2010

There have been worries about undercounting in New York, and it seems to have reached a county in western Texas. Brewster County officials claim that the rural geography makes conventional “urban” census counting pretty useless, which becomes an issue when you count on the census for funding. Still, though accurate enumeration is a neccessity, talk about a challenge – you have 10,000 people over 6000 square miles, people on mountains, and the guys who carry two copies of the Constitution who are personally offended by the census.

From The Houston Chroncle:

W Texas officials complain about census undercount

By JOHN MacCORMACK San Antonio Express-News © 2010 The Associated Press

ALPINE, Texas — Perhaps only in southern Brewster County — where the land is harsh, the libertarian fevers run hot and the missing refinements of civilization are not mourned — could a census worker be mauled by a wild swine kept as a family pet.

“I guess she didn’t know what a javelina was or how territorial they can be. She ended up trapped inside the house and called for help,” Brewster County Judge Val Beard said of the improbable confrontation that occurred in 2000, the last time the feds tried to count people here.

After help arrived at the remote home, it ended badly for the overprotective javelina.

“Arnold was executed by the ambulance driver with a pistol, and then Arnold and the injured census worker were both brought to Alpine in the ambulance. Only in South Brewster County,” said Beard, who complained of an undercount then.

Ten years later, not much has changed. The census workers again are making the rounds of the state’s largest county in blazing heat, often on bad roads in search of dubious addresses. This time, it was a belligerent goat that butted a census worker.

And county officials again are complaining loudly that the census is bungling the count.

“We had a horrible undercount 10 years ago, at least 10 percent, based on utility hookups and anecdotal evidence. And if things don’t turn around, it will happen again in south Brewster County,” Beard said.

“The population is so spread out. We have what amount to giant subdivisions, and the Census Bureau doesn’t understand this. They are still applying normal urban formulas,” she said.

In an attempt to avoid a similar outcome, Brewster County leaders two years ago formed a “Complete Count Committee” that chose an image of a charging Arnold as its mascot emeritus.

It was chaired by Commissioner Kathy Killingsworth, whose district includes Terlingua, and also is superintendent of the Terlingua Common School District.

“All our funding, whether it’s the school or the county, is dependent on the count,” said Killingsworth, who, like Beard, fears an undercount, even after consultations with regional census brass.

“The whole system is flawed. It’s not set up for rural West Texas. The maps are inaccurate. The initial forms were not delivered to a majority of the residents. And now, they simply don’t have enough time and people to get it done,” she said.

(more…)

Census enumerator’s dog bites a St. Louis man

Sunday, May 23rd, 2010

Alright, now this is just baffling. Did no one really tell this enumerator you can’t have a dog with you? Especially one that’s supposed to be quarantined? This could have been much worse than it was, if the pitbull were just a little angrier or even if the victim had allergies. I really hope this is the case of one person acting out, rather than a reflection of a lack of proper training – the Census should definitely not allow anyone to work with their dogs while they’re out enumerating.

Here’s a video from St. Louis’ Fox 2:

Federal investigation of Census worker?

Sunday, May 23rd, 2010

A civil-liberties group in VA is asking for a federal investigation in the case of one enumerator who reportedly, after being told that the homeowner was unavailable, stuck his foot into a closing door, entered the home, and insisted to the homeowner’s son that he looked Hispanic (even after being told he is half-Chinese.) The civil liberties group is right that there are constitutional concerns regarding a government worker impinging on a home’s privacy in such a way. However, shades of gray have to be admitted. The enumerator is a government employee, yes, but in all likelihood he wouldn’t have been for much longer even if isn’t fired from this. Enumerator training obviously was not effective — but at what point is it his OWN error rather than that of his trainers? We could have a federal investigation into this guy, but we may have an easier time if we just fire one irresponsible guy.

From Charlottesville, VA’s DailyProgress.com:

Local group wants investigation into complaint of agressive Census worker

By TASHA KATES
Published: May 18, 2010

The president of a Charlottesville-based civil liberties group is pushing for a federal investigation into a report of aggressive behavior by a U.S. Census Bureau worker during a visit to an Albemarle County home.

In a letter John W. Whitehead mailed Tuesday to U.S. Rep Tom Perriello, D-Ivy, he writes that the worker may have violated Fourth Amendment rights by entering a family’s home without permission. The worker also asked questions about ethnicities beyond what is required for the census, Whitehead said in the letter.

“For a government agent to enter a private citizen’s home without invitation and against the wishes of the resident not only indicates a trespass but raises grave constitutional concerns,” wrote Whitehead, who is with The Rutherford Institute.

Tony Jones, a Census spokesman, said the agency hadn’t heard of the incident before Tuesday. He said the employee in question still works for the Census Bureau and likely will receive more training.

“We certainly apologize if anyone has been offended by this particular census taker’s actions,” Jones said. “We strive every day to do a better job, and we promise to do better going forward.”

According to White-head’s letter, a census taker came to Susan Broadwa-ter’s home on May 10 to conduct the survey. Broadwater’s 19-year-old son said his mother was unavailable, asked the man to come back and started to close the door.

“The Census Bureau worker, insistent that the son answer the questions, stuck his foot in the door and illegally entered the premises of Ms. Broadwater’s home,” the letter said.

Whitehead’s letter said the worker “began to vigorously question” the teenager about his ethnicity. The employee reportedly told the boy that he looked Hispanic or Latino after being told that the teenager was half Chinese. The man told the worker that no one in the home was Hispanic or Latino, the letter said, but the employee continued to question him about the presence of Hispanic/Latino people in the home.

Broadwater didn’t immediately return a call seeking comment for this story. Jones said that enumerators receive a week of training, during which time they are told to only conduct the questionnaire in the doorway because of concerns about census worker safety.

When asked what census workers are instructed to do when they think a respondent is lying, Jones said enumerators are instructed to use the 10-question form as the script for the interview.

Jessica Barba, Perriello’s press secretary, said the Charlottesville office is getting a Privacy Act consent form from Broadwater so that the congressman’s office can start making inquiries to the U.S. Department of Commerce, which oversees the census.

Jones said census workers are supposed to identify themselves, show their ID badges and share the name and phone number of their supervisor with respondents before asking questions. Whitehead said if a census worker tries to enter a person’s home, the person should ask them to leave and contact police if the worker remains.

Anyone who has a complaint or question about the census may call the Charlotte-based regional census center at (704) 936-5300, Jones said.

A Yuba City, CA woman was shot and killed after a Census visit

Friday, May 21st, 2010

The story is tragic and bizarre — after residents pointed a gun at a Census employee, attracting police to the area, a woman refused officers’ demands to lay down a shotgun she was carrying and was shot. It’s sad that an irrational fear of Census takers seems to have fueled gun threats yet again, and it’s even sadder that it had to result in the loss of a life this time. From Appeal-Democrat.com:

Woman shot, killed by Yuba City police

May 21, 2010 11:18:00 AM

A 67-year-old Yuba City woman was shot and killed by officers when she pointed a shotgun at them and refused to put it down, according to Yuba City police.

Victoria Helen Roger-Vasselin was pronounced dead late Thursday at her home at 764 Mariner Loop in an affluent neighborhood on the city’s far south side.
Roger-Vasselin was the sister of the late Thomas E. Mathews, a Yuba County judge and district attorney.

“They shot her dead,” Roger-Vasselin’s distraught son said outside the house Friday morning.

“I think she was just startled” by late visits to her home, he said.

Before he could give his full name, a relative or family friend took him by the arm and led him inside, shutting the door.
Officers went to the Mariner Loop home after receiving a call at 9:04 p.m. about weapons being brandished.

A U.S. Census worker “had been confronted by residents who pointed a firearm at the worker and said they would not answer any questions and closed the door,” said police spokeswoman Shawna Pavey.

When two male officers arrived, 51-year-old Lionel Patterson answered the door, armed with a handgun, police said.

“As officers were dealing with the male, a female approached the door with a shotgun and ignored officers’ orders to release the weapon. As the female advanced on officers, she continued to point the shotgun at officers in a threatening manner and the two officers fired their service weapons, hitting the female,” police said.

Both officers fired their guns, said Pavey, adding she didn’t believe Roger-Vasselin or Patterson fired.

Both officers were uniformed and clearly identifiable as police, Pavey said.

Pavey said toxicology testing after an autopsy Friday morning will determine if alcohol or drugs were factors in the incident.

The officers have been placed on routine administrative leave while the Sutter County District Attorney’s Office investigates the incident.

A neighbor, Bob Dhaliwal, said he was in bed when heard people, including one woman, shouting and yelling, followed by five or six shots. When he came outside, officers with guns drawn had the male suspect on the ground, then took him away in a patrol car, he said.

“All I saw was him being arrested. I assumed he shot somebody,” Dhaliwal said.

Patterson lives at the same address. Pavey and neighbors said it wasn’t clear what the relationship was between him and Roger-Vasselin.

Dhaliwal and other neighbors said they didn’t know Roger-Vasselin well.

“She kept to herself,” Dhaliwal said.

One neighbor, who declined to give her name, described Roger-Vasselin “pleasant but reserved,” almost reclusive.

“She was much more social when she moved first moved in. The economy was better then,” the neighbor said.

Neighbors said they had also received nighttime visits from a female census worker.

Roger-Vasselin owned the house for about three years but rented it for about six months while she worked in Hawaii, returning to Yuba City six to nine months ago, the neighbor said.

When her mother, Lillian Mathews-Crumrine, died in 1998, Roger-Vasselin lived in Kauai, Hawaii.

When the former judge, Thomas E. Mathews, died In 2005, Roger-Vasselin was living in San Francisco. Then 63 and a regional membership executive at the Ritz-Carlton Hotel, she was one four employees involved in an age- discrimination lawsuit against the Marriott Corporation.

Mom knows best

Friday, May 21st, 2010

UPDATE: The guy, Frank Kuni, is now in even more trouble. The local ABC affiliate’s website is reporting that the Department of Homeland Security is after him too. From the story (for the whole article click here):

By DAVID HENRY

PENNSAUKEN, N.J. – May 21, 2010 (WPVI) – Action News has learned the Department of Homeland Security issued a search warrant in connection with the case of a convicted sex offender who got a job as a Census worker in New Jersey.

Those warrants are for two locations in connection to Frank Kuni, who is being charged with using a fake Social Security number in the application he filled out in March to get the Census job.

Pennsauken Police and the Social Security Administration’s Office of Investigations are also involved in the search warrant.

They are searching for laptop computers, false ID’s or any documents that would be able to prove he used false identification. They have already confiscated numerous laptops and large sums of money.

This case came to light earlier this week, when Action News reported that Pennsauken resident Amy Schmalbach recognized Kuni from the NJ State Police sex offender registry.

Here’s a story that came out of of Jersey earlier. A registered sex offender allegedly used an alias to get past a name background check for enumerators, got fired when he failed his fingerprint checks, and went on to impersonate a Census employee with a badge and bag (MyTwoCensus has written extensively on how easy it’d be to do this). Luckily, an informed mother recognized him from an internet database. Unfortunately, this isn’t the first time someone has allegedly impersonated an enumerator. We hope these cases are far and few in between. From Philly.com:

Mother recognizes Census worker as sex offender

By Darran Simon

Inquirer Staff Writer

Amy Schmalbach doesn’t answer her door when she’s home alone with her toddler son. But she opened it for a U.S. Census Bureau worker on May 4.

“I figured this is a government worker, I’m safe,” said Schmalbach, 33, who had misplaced her survey and got a visit from a worker.

Schmalbach spoke briefly to the man, who said his name was Jamie, on the porch of her Pennsauken home. He looked familiar, wore a badge, and carried a dark bag with the census logo. He asked for names and birthdates, and whether Schmalbach and her husband rented or owned.

Toward the end of the interview, she recognized him: She had seen his face on the state’s sex-offender Internet registry. She remembered his many aliases – including some outrageous ones – such as Phanton Flam, Toot Flynn, and Jamie Shepard.

Schmalbach checked the sex-offender registry site after he left, found the man, and told her neighbors and Pennsauken police. The next day, officers arrested Frank J. Kuni, a registered sex offender in Pennsauken, who had used the alias Jamie Shepard to get a job as a census worker, Pennsauken police said.

Kuni, 47, was being held Monday in the Camden County Jail on charges of false representation and impersonating a public official, authorities said.

“If I had not recognized who this person was, none of my neighbors would have, and I believe he would have continued to go door to door,” Schmalbach said.

Police credited a quick-thinking resident concerned about Kuni with helping the investigation.

A census official said someone named Jamie Shepard working in the Camden area passed a name check but failed a fingerprint check. He had been hired in late April, completed four days of training April 30, and was terminated May 5. Kuni had visited more than one Pennsauken home, police said.

The census official confirmed Shepard failed the background check but could not say why.

A sex-crime arrest or conviction would preclude someone from working as a census worker, said Fernando E. Armstrong, director for the Philadelphia region.

Kuni had served about four years in prison for endangering the welfare of a child in November 1996, burglary, and other crimes. He assaulted one victim and had inappropriate contact with two other victims he knew, according to a state website.

There are 3,168 registered sex offenders listed on the state’s Internet registry. Camden County has 324, Burlington has 130, and Gloucester has 70.

Armstrong said workers are fingerprinted at the start of the four-day training. The checks usually flag arrests or convictions in training or shortly afterward.

The census hired some 600,000 workers in the last week of April for the home visits, which started on May 1, Armstrong said.

“When you are looking at 600,000 people going through this check, you can understand that it doesn’t always work the way it should,” he said.

Here is the how the hiring process works:

Applicants must pass a written test and a check of their Social Security number and date of birth, among other things.

Then, new hires take an oath and get fingerprinted on the first day of training. Fingerprints are sent within a day to an Indiana census center.

If the background check finds something, regional offices get electronic messages that someone should be removed, but not the details.

The order trickles down to a field supervisor.

But Schmalbach wants the census to clear workers before they receive any materials and credentials, which happens on the last day of training.

“I know that they’re not going to catch every bad guy even by doing the fingerprinting,” she said this week. “But I think a great amount of people, who have bad intentions or want to do some harm, would be precluded from doing so if these background checks are done before they give out the materials.”

To see the list of registered sex offenders in New Jersey, go tohttp://www.state.nj.us/njsp/info/reg_sexoffend.html

The online Census we all saw coming

Friday, May 21st, 2010

A Washing ton Post article by Ed O’Keefe a few days ago quotes Census Bureau director Robert Groves as stating that the 2020 census is unimaginable without some kind of internet option. And I don’t disagree, it would be utterly ridiculous not to have that, seeing as it’s pretty ridiculous right now this second. All the wasted paper, extra man hours, and needless bureaucracy got tiring before it even happened. Was the internet’s popularity really in doubt by the end of the 2000 Census?

Census Bureau hopes much of 2020 count will take place online

By Ed O’Keefe
Washington Post Staff Writer

How will Americans use the Internet in 2020? Will we all use cellphones? Will we still have snail mail?

Experts at the U.S. Census Bureau are asking those questions in preparation for the 2020 count, even as temporary workers are knocking on doors to complete the 2010 Census.

Final answers won’t be needed for about eight years, but the team hopes to keep costs below the $14.7 billion budgeted for the 2010 Census and to make it possible for at least some Americans to answer questions via the Internet.

“None of us can imagine doing a 2020 Census without an Internet option,” Census Bureau Director Robert Groves said. Although he’s overseeing the current census, most of his tenure will be tied to 2020 preparations — and he’s pushing for a more efficient operation with fewer people.

“The easiest way to reduce costs in the census is to reduce manpower,” Groves said. “To the extent that we can reduce the number of census worker visits in 2020, we’re going to save a lot of money.”

Groves and his colleagues think they should wait until 2017 or 2018 to finalize plans on the Internet option to avoid making a technologically obsolete decision.

Lawmakers might force the bureau to move faster: Bills moving through the House and Senate with bipartisan support would require Groves to present plans on how to test and implement an Internet response option within six months of the bill’s passage. The agency’s inability to test and use expensive handheld computers for this year’s count has led some critics to question whether it can make a decision in the next 10 years. Groves dismissed those concerns.

“We can do this. I’m very optimistic,” he said.

In addition to cutting labor costs, allowing Americans to answer decennial census questions on the Internet would help cut the bureau’s costs for postage, printing and paper and could get data to the agency faster. Most especially, Groves said, “our guess is the Web will really be great for those people who are difficult to contact in person who are at home very infrequently,” thus reducing the need for door-knocking census takers.

But “we won’t go to 100 percent Internet, because it won’t work,” Groves said. A Web-only effort would make it harder to count those in rural areas or illiterate people, so the agency would continue to rely on paper questionnaires, in-person interviews and maybe telephone calls, he said.

Internet options will be tested in the next 10 years with the annual American Community Survey, which tracks demographic and economic statistics. Although details are sketchy, Groves said he expects the agency to send the questionnaire in paper format with an Internet address and code allowing people to submit answers online. Confidence in the online option might increase if respondents can first review the answers in print, he said.

Canada did something similar in 2006, and 18.6 percent of respondents replied online, said Mark Hamel, manager of the 2011 census for Statistics Canada, the Canadian equivalent of the U.S. Census Bureau.

Every Canadian household received a paper form with a secure access code, and the agency used a computer network with double encryption similar to the security features used for online banking, he said.

“Everything indicates that we’re going to be able to more than double our online responses in 2011,” Hamel said. “We demonstrated that the data collected online is much cleaner than it is on paper, because when people answer online, we can make sure that they’re answering the questions that are appropriate for them.”

Social networking is bad! (says the Census Bureau)

Wednesday, May 19th, 2010
An anonymous Census employee sent SRM a tip about a few flyers the Bureau sent along with their paychecks (finally). One flyer covered driving safety (and please, everyone, do take care while driving). The other covered the ethics of social networking, and unfortunately it came to the conclusion that it’s bad. Sorry Morse, time to close up shop! (Note: That was a joke.)
Email excerpt:
It’s funny how it is implied that criticizing and talking to outsiders about the incompetence of the census machinery and brass is punishable with jail and fines, when in reality, it only applies to title 13 of USC in regard to respondent information and personally identifiable information.  The census own manuals have a section devoted to the rights and protections afforded to whistleblowers.  They also imply that because we are paid government employees, that it is unethical for us to publicly humiliate and or expose the ineptness of our employers.  Nice try.  There is no law preventing anyone from writing in their personal capacity, but it is implied that it is wrong, unethical, and just not cool.
And from the reminder itself (no emphasis added):
CONFIDENTIALITY AND ETHICS REMINDER
Social Networking and Census Employment
As personal blogging, tweeting, social networking sites have become more common and popular, it
is not unusual for Federal employees to have an opportunity to write about their work and their
employer in a public forum.  Please be aware you cannot disclose any nonpublic information that
is protected by statute.  You also cannot receive payments for writing about Census programs or
operations or about assignments you have been given as a Census employee.  In addition, you
must be careful to ensure that there is no appearance created that you are writing on behalf of the
Bureau of the Census, the Department of Commerce, or the United States Government when you
are writing in your personal capacity.
[...]
These restrictions on writing and publications are in addition to the life-time oath you took to
uphold the confidentiality of census information.  Any wrongful disclosure of confidential census
information subjects you to a fine up to $250,000, imprisonment up to five years, or both.

Census worker takes a stand

Tuesday, May 18th, 2010

You’ve heard about Census workers running into trouble on the job – shotgun trouble, perhaps – but it’s refreshing to hear news about someone who realized he has the law on his side. From southern New Jersey’s Courier-Post:

A 2010 Census worker is pressing charges against a Mount Laurel resident after the apparently irate resident smashed the worker’s cell phone, police said.

The census worker filed a complaint at the township police department after a May 15 confrontation with occupants at a home in the 4500 block of Fenwick Lane, police said.

The census worker told police that a resident at the home refused to answer survey questions. The resident’s son then confronted the census worker, grabbed her cell phone and smashed it on the ground.

Police are investigating the matter.

Some tips for identifying a Census worker

Monday, May 17th, 2010

Concerns about identifying Census enumerators aren’t new on MyTwoCensus, and we’ve even posted news of a tragic incident that might have been prevented if certain information had been more widespread. Fortunately, the Daily River Front Times had a Q&A session with the Census Bureau on just that subject:

1.Q. How to identify an official Census taker?

1.A. An official Census taker will have an official ID badge with their name, expiration date and the U.S. Department of Commerce logo on it. They will have a “Your Answers Are Confidential Information Sheet” (Form D-1 (F); may be carrying a black canvass bag with the U.S. Department of Commerce logo; and they will provide their supervisor’s contact information or the number to the Local Census Office for verification, if asked. Census takers will also have a Language ID Flashcard with 35 languages.

2. Q. Will a census taker ask to come inside someone’s home?

2. A. No.

3.Q. Will a Census taker ask for my Social Security number or bank information?

3.A. No, a Census taker will not ask for Social Security numbers or for bank information.

4.Q. If a resident sent in their Census questionnaire, can they still receive a visit from a Census taker or a phone call from the U.S. Census Bureau?

4.A. Yes, if a resident’s questionnaire was received by the Census Bureau after the deadline for Complete Count Door-to-Door Follow Up, they will likely be visited by a Census taker during Door-to-Door Enumeration. The Census Bureau also conducts quality control as a part of the 2010 Census so a resident could be contacted during quality control operations. The Census Bureau asks for the public’s cooperation during these operations.

5.Q. What does a Census taker do if there is no one at home?

5.A. A Census taker will leave a Notice of Visit (Form D-26), with their name and phone number or the phone number to the Local Census Office. This way the resident can contact the census taker or the Local Census Office to arrange a convenient time to be interviewed.

6.Q. How many times will a Census taker visit a house?

6.A. A Census taker will make at least three visits at different times of the day in an effort to interview a resident of the home.

7.Q. What does a Census taker do if he or she cannot speak to someone at the home after several attempts?

7.A. A Census taker will try to locate a person with knowledge about the house and its occupants such as a neighbor, a landlord or a property manager in order to get as much information as possible to complete the Census questionnaire.