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.

Archive for the ‘Census Form’ Category

And they keep knocking in Jersey…

Monday, August 23rd, 2010

Is this problem unique to The Garden State?

MyTwoCensus Photo Challenge: Best photo of 2010 Census waste gets a cash prize

Thursday, August 19th, 2010

MyTwoCensus is running our first photo challenge. After receiving many reports from readers that Local Census Offices around the country are now  recycling and throwing out hundreds to thousands of boxes worth of 2010 Census materials (including,  as one source says, “A truck completely filled with rubber bands, erasers, and pens…”), MyTwoCensus wants to document this waste.

The Census Bureau is trying to do all of these activities on the down-low (ever  since MyTwoCensus posted a photo of boxes on the sidewalks of New York).  So to further expose the Census Bureau’s practices, use your camera phones to take photos of Census Bureau waste at your local census office.

Please send your photo with a caption to mytwocensus [AT] mytwocensus.com. I will post the top entries before Labor Day Weekend and let readers vote on the outcome (with a cash prize for the winner if the person chooses to be identified). All photos will be posted anonymously unless the photographer says otherwise.

Update on Vangent

Thursday, August 19th, 2010

The other day,  I wrote about Vangent, the company that received an $86 million contract from the Census Bureau to staff call/processing centers for the 2010 Census. As it turns out, the company has a very shady history. Some readers of this site might not even realize that they have been working for Vangent, which sub-contracted 2010 Census hiring to other companies such as Quest Staffing Services, Synergy Staffing Partners and Remedy Intelligent Staffing. To get a more clear picture about how Vangent runs their operations (which seems more like how things are run in China than the US), check out jobvent.com’s page for Vangent. Here’s a sample quote from the site:

“Let’s start out with the basics: Vangent is a call center & information processing company. They work on U.S. federal government contracts. This means the management and leaders at Vangent will stoop to any level to satisfy the government agency who gave them the contract. You as an employee are a robot; performing the work that was outsourced by the government. You are not a person and you have no rights outside of the most basic rights that are afforded to government contract employees. Vangent is the most impersonal company you will ever encounter.”

Census Director Robert M. Groves’ update on the 2012 Census (transcript not yet available)

Friday, August 13th, 2010

Groves to address the media

Thursday, August 5th, 2010

Let me know if you want me to ask any specific questions:

Census Bureau Director to Provide Update on
Status of 2010 Census Operations

What:             U.S. Census Bureau Director Robert M. Groves will brief the media on the status of 2010 Census operations. Groves will discuss the status of quality assurance work being done in the field and the steps ahead in the data processing phase of the
census. The briefing will include a media question-and-answer session.

When:    Tuesday, Aug. 10, 10 to 11 a.m. (EDT)

Who:         Robert M. Groves, director, U.S. Census Bureau

Where:   National Press Club, 13th floor
First Amendment Lounge
529 14th Street, NW
Washington, DC 20045

Members of the media may also participate by telephone. (Please dial-in
early to allow time for the operator to place you in the call.)

Dial-in number:  888-603-8938
Passcode:  2010 CENSUS

How to submit inaccurate or incomplete 2010 Census data (and get away with it)

Friday, July 30th, 2010

Last week, Census Bureau Director Robert M. Groves said to Fox News that you can “trust 2010 Census data.” What our director fails to tell us is that the two software applications have operational problems that will ultimately lead to inaccurate data. Just spend a day working in PBOCS, the Paper-Based Operational Control System which processes enumerator questionnaires from the field, or MARCS, the Matching Address Review Coding System which shows a data capture of every questionnaire that was scanned at the Baltimore Data Capture Center and you will see the poor quality of work. Thousands upon thousands of questionnaires are being scanned that show conflicting or incomplete data such as: vacant housing units with a population count, incorrect enumerator IDs, occupied housing units with no demographic information and the list goes on.

During the peak of the non-response follow-up (NRFU) phase of 2010 Census operations (around mid May), the Census switched to a shipping application built off a PeopleSoft/Oracle interface in order to take the load off PBOCS. Although this was a good thought in theory, the application allowed questionnaires to be shipped that were not even checked in PBOCS. In the final closeout days of the operation, PBOCS claimed many questionnaires were not checked in even though enumerators fervently claimed they turned them in. Fortunately some of those were found in MARCS having been received at the data capture center but never scanned for shipping nor checked in. However because there was such a bottleneck sometimes a few weeks between the time they were shipped and scanned; some questionnaires that never showed in MARCS were re-enumerated. Sometimes PBOCS would just revert some cases back to not being checked in. In a mad dash to finish and meet deadlines enumerators submitted second versions of questionnaires with little or less than accurate data replacing what may or may not have been originally submitted. Immediately after offices finished NRFU, headquarters closed the PBOCS to the local census offices to prevent further glitches.

As it has been mentioned time and time again, the Census never made it clear what constituted a completed questionnaire. In such a recession, employees were promised more work if they finished quickly so experienced and resourceful field staff took advantage of the three visit rule sometimes making visits in consecutive days or all in a one day before going to a proxy. Local census offices managers, RCC supervisors and managers developed their own rules which were verbally communicated to field staff. These included guesstimating the population count and allowing enumerators to submit Enumerator Questionnaires (EQs) with little or no demographic information. Since performance was purely based on how many questionnaires get checked in; those who submitted hundreds of forms with nothing on the inside of the questionnaire were rewarded with more work.

On the quality assurance end, the staff attempted to examine the data collected for falsification and poor work quality. However reinterview only has been able to find those who intentionally falsified data. An enumerator can submit inaccurate or incomplete data and practically get away with it.

Most enumerators will be tempted to submit inaccurate data when they cannot gain access to the building, speak to a household member or knowledgeable proxy after repeated visits. The reinterview telephone clerks and field staff have to prove definitively by gaining access to the building or speaking to a respondent who said the interview was never conducted. But in reality the reinterview staff can never access the building, or with large apartment buildings sometimes a proxy is asked about hundreds of units and may not remember if the original interview occurred. Most of these bad data cases have little or no information or wrong information: no names, ages, Hispanic origin, race and sometimes not even a person count. But quality assurance staff have either been told to mark them refusals with an unknown population and check them in.

In the rare instance that the Census Bureaus’s quality assurance (QA) operations do suspect data falsification or inaccuracy, finding the culprit is difficult. There are thousands of questionnaires where the enumerator ID numbers are being read incorrectly at data capture. This invites data falsification in two ways. If a questionnaire is found to be inaccurate or falsified then it is impossible to find the culprit. If quality assurance staff does find an enumerator is submitting falsified or inaccurate work, they can not examine the other questionnaires the enumerator completed because many questionnaires do not have a valid enumerator associated with it.

In the current Vacant/Delete check phase of 2010 Census operations, while the agency covered up their own software problems by closing access to PBOCS, they have also created problems. For hundreds of questionnaires where enumerators clearly marked them vacant or deletes without visiting them LCOs cannot access the system to research who actually submitted this erroneous work.

Most of this is happening now in your local census offices across the country as the re-interview phase winds down. This is because of a huge backlog of EQs that were sent into re-interview, hundreds of outliers, and the slowness of MARCS. This inaccurate data is another smear of shame for the Census Bureau. For Dr. Groves to say that we can trust 2010 Census data is merely a cover-up.

Here are some e-mails sent to 2010 Census managers across the nation that detail the aforementioned problems:

07/18/2010

ATTENTION : 2010 Census Managers

SUBJECT: 1- PW Flags randomly appearing or disappearing on the Select Enumerator screen
2- Loss of notes in the LCO Notes panel on the Evaluate Case screen
3- Cases with missing person data from the 400,000 pushed cases

ACTION: Please share the information with the appropriate field staff

1. PW Flags randomly appearing or disappearing on the Select Enumerator screen
As a result of a MaRCS fix, the PW flag may have been working erratically. It has been reported that the PW flag on the Select Enumerator screen may have disappeared from the screen for already worked enumerators or may have appeared in cases for an enumerator the MaRCS clerk had never worked. This was a temporary issue and has been corrected. For those cases that this issue may have happened, please inform the AMQA they would need to remove the PW flag for the cases where the enumerator has not been worked in MaRCS OR asking the QA Clerk to click on the Edit pencil icon for the enumerator they have been working to reactivate the PW flag if it has disappeared.

2. Loss of notes in the LCO Notes panel in the Evaluate Case screen
As a result of the MaRCS performance issues that LCOs are experiencing, some screens are loading slowly. To avoid losing the notes entered in the Evaluate Case screen, the MaRCS clerk needs to wait until the page has fully loaded. A page is fully loaded when the “Please wait for page to respond” message disappears in MaRCS or when the Windows browser loading indicator (it shows as a progressive number of green squares) at the bottom of the browser also disappears. Please also remind the LCOs to enter the notes in the LCO Notes panel before assigning a final outcome on the case and to save these notes often so they are not lost if the MaRCS session times out.

3. Cases with missing person data from the 400,000 pushed cases
NPC noted that a portion of the 400,000 cases pushed for processing have blank person data in the original interview or the reinterview in cases where the unit status (US field in Review Data screen) shows occupied (OCC). Most if not all of these cases will be deferred to the LCOs due to different unit statuses between the original interview and reinterview. An example of this situation might be, the original interview has an unit status of occupied with 3 people living at the housing unit and the roster and demographic information is blank; and the reinterview shows that the housing unit is vacant (thus no roster or demographic information shown).

The MaRCS clerks should investigate these cases as any other case in LCO Review. For these cases, the MaRCS clerks should focus their investigation on the unit status of the housing unit, determining which one might be correct. When the MaRCS clerk determines the correct unit status, then they should turn their investigation on what might have caused the discrepancies in the data and assign an outcome code based on the investigation results.

07/15/2010

ATTENTION : 2010 Census Managers

SUBJECT: MaRCS NRFU users account maintenance

ACTION: Delete unused MaRCS accounts by noon, Friday 7/16/2010

MaRCS is experiencing performance issues due to the exceeding the number of users accessing and using the system at the same time. Per our teleconference today, attached below are the tallies by LCO of MaRCS accounts issued to users in the LCO. Please review the number of users in each of the region’s LCOs and delete the accounts that are no longer needed.

IMPORTANT – MaRCS accounts should be used for coding MaRCS cases. Limit or eliminate MaRCS uses for purposes other than coding MaRCS cases. Staff assigned to work MaRCS cases are the only staff allowed to have a MaRCS accounts in the LCOs.

The AMT can delete the unused accounts in the LCO. The RMQA needs to work with the AMQA to identify and delete the MaRCS accounts that are no longer needed. For example, we have noticed multiple AMQA roles for a single LCO. It is preferable to only have 1 AMQA role per LCO, as this is the person that has the responsibility to Hard Fail a case. LCOs may have, in rare cases, more than 1 AMQA role if the AMQA has a backup or if there are other AMQAs working shifts.

The AMT instructions to delete users in MaRCS are in their AMT Manual D-650.1, lesson 6. The RMQA can also ask the LSC to run the D-1311M User Role Report to verify user roles and that unused accounts are deleted.

After the accounts are deleted, the MaRCS contractor will measure system performance and inform us if this resolved the issue. Until further notice, please inform the LCOs to use, at most, 4 accounts per LCO OR use accounts not to go over the number of LCOs times 4 per region, the allowed number of MaRCS users.

07/09/2010

ATTENTION : 2010 Census Managers

SUBJECT: Start of the processing of 400,000 cases in MaRCS with data capture issues

ACTION: Please share the information with the appropriate field staff

As mentioned in the last RMQA teleconference, MaRCS held from processing about 400,000 cases that had a data capture problem. The data capture problem was in the population count where a scanning error, as an example, might have returned a population count of 74 when the actual count is 4. These cases were not processed because MaRCS was waiting for a continuation form where one was likely not needed.

MaRCS will start processing these forms starting on Monday, July 09, 2010 and should be finishing by the end of the week. These forms will likely be deferred to NPC from computer matching because the population counts will not match. It is expected that NPC will resolve the majority of these cases because as long as the roster and demographic information matches, the NPC clerks will pass the case.

It is not expected that the LCOs will get to code many of these cases. However, if they do get some of these cases, please remind the LCOs to ignore the population counts and, if the roster and demographic information matches, then pass the case. If the roster and demographic information does not match, then the MaRCS clerk needs to conduct an investigation on the case as any other case in LCO Review.

The other issue this should resolve are the cases that may be showing in the D-3421M Completion and Data Capture Report as not being data captured when there is information in PBOCS that the case was worked and shipped. It is expected that as these cases are processed, many cases showing in this report will be removed.

If you have any questions please contact Hector Merced or Vance Davis at 301-763-8822 or email fld.quality.assurance.branch@census.gov
07/02/2010

ATTENTION : 2010 Census Managers

SUBJECT:

1. Hard Fail Recommendation screen reminders
2. Applicant ID capture error – new known issue and workaround
3. Handling cases where the Address panel information in the Review Case Data screen is outside the LCO or RCC boundaries
4. Reminder on handling duplicate D-1282Ms
5. Update on cases not showing in PBOCS when a D-1282M exists in MaRCS
6. MaRCS clerk observation forms for both UE and NRFU

ACTION: Please share the information with the appropriate field staff

1. Hard Fail Recommendation screen reminders
Some regions have informed us that Hard Fail cases are not showing in the D-831M Hard Fail Report after the AMQA assigns a hard fail code to a case. This is due to the AMQA not entering notes in a timely manner in this screen (MaRCS times out) or exiting the screen before clicking the Save button. Please remind the AMQAs to be prepared to enter the notes and the LCO managers’ decisions prior to coming to this screen. It is suggested the AMQA has the notes ready in a notepad so they can quickly be entered on the screen along with the AMFO/LCOM decisions. The notes for a hard failed enumerator should not be lengthy since all LCO managers are in agreement with the outcome.

Not entering and properly saving these notes in this screen has also affected the D-831M Hard Fail Report. This is a defect that the MaRCS contractor is fixing today. An updated report with these cases should be available early next week. Also, as a result of this defect, D-1282M Transcription Reports were not generated for these hard failed enumerators. The fix to the report will also correct this defect, so LCOs should expect next week D-1282Ms with the completed eligible cases for the hard failed enumerator that needs to be reinterviewed.

2. Applicant ID capture error – new known issue and workaround
There is another known issue where valid applicant IDs and names show in MaRCS cases but the enumerator showing in the case does not work in that LCO. The rest of the data displayed for the case will belong to the LCO and the only inaccurate data is the applicant ID and name of the enumerator in the case. This happens when the applicant ID was incorrectly captured at the data capture center and it happened to match a valid ID from another enumerator in another LCO. The MaRCS clerk needs to review this case as any other and assign a final outcome code based on the case investigation (PASS, SOFT FAIL, DK/NO SUSP, or DK/SUSP).

If the MaRCS clerk reviewing the case is recommending to hard fail the case and the LCO managers agree to hard fail the case, please DO NOT HARD FAIL THIS CASE . Doing this will cause the enumerator outside the LCO being flagged as a Hard Fail enumerator. Have the MaRCS clerk Soft Fail the case. Using the case ID, please look if the LCO can identify the enumerator that actually worked the case in the LCO (or the RMQA can send the case ID to QAB to get that information). Once the correct enumerator is identified for the reviewed case, the AMQA can then Non-RI Fail the enumerator. This will ensure the right enumerator is hard failed and the completed eligible cases for this enumerator are reinterviewed.

No action is required if the reinterviewer name and applicant ID displayed in MaRCS is outside the LCO boundaries. The Reinterview panel information in the Review Case Data screen will belong to the LCO.

3. Handling cases where the Address panel information in the Review Case Data screen is outside the LCO or RCC boundaries
Some regions have said that they have cases from other LCOs or are outside the RCC boundaries. This is a known issue that happens for added housing units during NRFU. This is another data capture issue where the LCO was incorrectly captured for the added housing unit. There is no viable solution to transfer these cases to the appropriate LCO. Please instruct the LCOs to PASS these cases and include in the Notes the reason for the pass is the case is outside the LCO/RCC boundaries.

4. Reminder on handling duplicate D-1282Ms
This is a reminder to the LCOs to ignore the D-1282Ms that are duplicates. There might instances where MaRCS created 2 or more D-1282Ms for the same case ID. Please inform the LCOs to reinterview only one of the cases and to ignore all other possible duplicated D-1282Ms.

5. Update on cases not showing in PBOCS when a D-1282M exists in MaRCS
We got confirmation that MaRCS has passed all information to PBOCS as of 6/29/2010. From now on, the sponsor division will monitor that PBOCS receives the data from MaRCS and will inform QAB when PBOCS did not acknowledge receiving the data. We will inform the regions when the MaRCS cases were not received in PBOCS and provide guidance when this happens.

Also, DOTS staff will send back to the LCOs the Remedy tickets created when the case exists in MaRCS and not in PBOCS. The LCOs will be asked to see if the information is in PBOCS, as we have been given confirmation the information from MaRCS was acknowledge in PBOCS as of 6/20/10.

Unless QAB sends information to the regions that PBOCS did not acknowledge the data, a case not appearing in PBOCS is a PBOCS issue and not a MaRCS issue. Please inform the LCOs to submit the Remedy tickets to PBOCS and not MaRCS.

6. MaRCS clerk observation forms for both UE and NRFU
We have been told that MaRCS observation forms have been sent to NPC along with the NRFU enumerator observation forms. Please ask the LCOs not to send to NPC the MaRCS Observation forms. QAB will soon issue a disposition ops log for these forms and all other forms used in the investigations.

If you have any questions please contact Hector Merced or Vance Davis at 301-763-8822 or email fld.quality.assurance.branch@census.gov
07/01/2010 – New ops log for July

ATTENTION : 2010 Census Managers

SUBJECT: Clarification on 6/30/2010 ops log (Selecting additional cases for supplemental reinterview — Urgent Request)

ACTION: Please share the information with the appropriate field staff

Many of the regions have said that some of the cases for this special project cannot be sent to supplemental RI. The RMQAs need to check that the LCOs followed the following steps before sending the case IDs to the QAB branch as invalid case IDs. There are 4 possible reasons these cases cannot be sent to reinterview–the case has an invalid applicant ID, the case does not exist in MaRCS, the case has already been reinterviewed, or the case is ineligible for reinterview. All these scenarios are explained below.

The first step they need to do is check the case exists in MaRCS. This is done by clicking on the Case Search option at the top of the Welcome screen. The person selecting the supplemental case can then check if the case exists by entering the case ID in the Case ID box and ensuring the All Cases radio button is selected. If the case exists, please check that the Enumerator Name column has an enumerator name in it. If it does not, this is a case that has an invalid applicant ID and cannot be sent to RI. Please send these case IDs to the QAB branch. If the case search does not bring a case (the screen is blank for that case), then the case does not exist in MaRCS. Please send these case IDs to the QAB branch.

Also check in this screen if the case has already been sent to RI. The screen will show in the Outcome column the final outcome code assigned to the case. For this case, the RMQA needs to update the spreadsheet to record the results of this case. Please also send these case IDs to the QAB branch.

If the case exists, then the clerk selecting the supplemental cases need to be back at the Welcome screen to start the process of selecting the supplemental cases. At the Welcome screen, they need to click on Select RI Cases at the top (in the Menu bar). This will bring up the Select Supplemental RI Cases screen. The next step is to select the enumerator for the selected case. This is done by clicking on the drop down box labeled Select an Enumerator. It is likely that the first several entries on this drop down box are those cases with invalid IDs. Please ensure the clerk selecting the cases scrolls down the list until the enumerator name is found. When the enumerator name is found on the drop down box, click on it to bring up the cases for that enumerator. The clerk needs to scroll down the list until he/she finds the case. MaRCS will show a certain number of cases per screen, please ensure the clerks goes through all the screens with cases. This is done by clicking on the pagination links at the top right corner of the screen. Once the case/s are found, click on the Select column check box to send the case/s to supplemental RI. Please remind the LCOs not so select a precipitating case in the Enter Case Selection Details screen. The note the clerk can enter there can be “Special project.”

If after the clerk goes through all the screens looking for the case ID and the case is not included for the enumerator, the case then is ineligible for RI. Please send these case IDs to the QAB branch.

We do not know at this point if these cases will be replaced with other cases. We will let the regions know if we get replacement cases for these invalid case IDs.

If you have any questions please contact Hector Merced or Vance Davis at 301-763-8822 or email fld.quality.assurance.branch@census.gov

The latest update on the Brooklyn 2010 Census falsification scandal (Price Tag: $250K)

Thursday, July 22nd, 2010

MyTwoCensus has been informed that Census Bureau employees have been lifting information off the Internet and falsifying forms at locations throughout the country. Whistleblowers should not hesitate to contact MyTwoCensus.com immediately. Your confidentiality will be 100% maintained.

On Monday, July 19, 2010, the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform held a hearing entitled, “Is Brooklyn Being Counted? – Problems With the 2010 Census” to examine a recent incident involving two senior managers at the Brooklyn North East Local Census Office who were fired for fraudulently completing census surveys.  The hearing examined the steps the Census Bureau is taking to ensure the accuracy of the 2010 count. The New York State Congressional Delegation has been invited to participate in the hearing.

The hearing was held on Monday, July 19, 2010 at 10:00 a.m. in the courtroom of Brooklyn Borough Hall, located at 209 Joralemon Street, Brooklyn, NY.

The witnesses who testified were:

Dr. Robert M. Groves
Director
U.S. Census Bureau

Mr. Todd J. Zinser
Inspector General
U.S. Department of Commerce

Mr. Lester A. Farthing
Regional Director
U.S. Census Bureau NY Regional Census Center

Opening Statement of Chairman Edolphus Towns

Opening Statement of Subcommittee Chairman Wm. Lacy Clay

Opening Statement of Rep. Yvette Clarke

Prepared testimony of Dr. Robert Groves

Prepared testimony of Mr. Todd Zinser

According to the New York Daily News:

The bungling was first uncovered last month when two census managers were discovered faking surveys by lifting information off the Internet.

Brooklyn Northeast census manager Alvin Aviles and assistant Sonya Merritt were axed – and 4,200 questionnaires had to be redone.

Redoing the phony forms – which is almost complete – will cost taxpayers $250,000, Groves revealed.

To make matters worse, a whistleblower recently alerted officials that some of the new surveys also were fudged by workers who took their best guess when no one answered the door.

The workers estimated the number of people living in a home based on information such as names on mailboxes, Groves said at the hearing.

“This … is a clear violation of procedures,” he said.

Groves said the second snafu affected a few hundred households. He blamed the mistake on confused workers who misunderstood instructions.

The bureau is investigating whether information was faked in any other offices in Brooklyn or around the country.

He promised the bureau will come up with an accurate count and said that the recount of all 4,200 surveys will be done in a few days.

“I want to say how troubled I am that this occurred,” Groves said. “This activity violates all the principles for which the Census Bureau stands. It is an abhorrent act.”

According to Gothamist:

Census Recounters Messed Up Recount, Re-recount Planned

Those Brooklyn Census workers really don’t want to lose their jobs. After being instructed to redo more than 4,000 falsified Census forms, workers at the Brooklyn Northeast Census office botched the corrections and must complete the forms a third time.

One office worker recently alerted officials that some workers were fudging answers when people wouldn’t answer their doors—exactly what managers Alvin Aviles and Sonya Merritt did to get themselves fired and start this whole mess in the first place. The best part is the whole $250,000 SNAFU could probably have been avoided, since Census workers are allowed to leave questions blank if they cannot obtain the information by either first person or “proxy” interviews.

At a hearing yesterday regarding the first set of faked forms, Congressman Ed Towns said, “I represent a district that is comprised of a number of so-called ‘hard to count’ communities…These communities present challenges to the Census Bureau, but these challenges must be met.” Census Bureau Director Robert Groves says the second round of mistakes were caused by confused workers who misunderstood instructions, and that it should be worked out shortly. Still, he said, “I want to say how troubled I am that this occurred. This activity violates all the principles for which the Census Bureau stands. It is an abhorrent act.”

More shocking news from North of the 49th parallel as StatCan chief resigns

Wednesday, July 21st, 2010

From Canada’s The Globe and Mail:

By Steven Chase

Ottawa — Globe and Mail Update Published on Wednesday, Jul. 21, 2010 1:20PM EDT Last updated on Wednesday, Jul. 21, 2010 10:38PM EDT

It’s not clear what he is referring to but The Globe and Mail ran an interview Wednesday with Industry Minister Tony Clement where the minister said Statscan is not an independent agency.

 

The embattled head of Statistics Canada has resigned over the Harper government’s plan to scrap the mandatory long-form census, saying the replacement they propose for this will not work.

In a letter on the Statscan website, Munir Sheikh refused to say what advice he gave the Conservatives when they asked him to make these changes.

But he made it clear he cannot accept the scheme the Tories say is a perfectly adequate replacement for a compulsory long-form questionairre.

“I want to take this opportunity to comment on a technical statistical issue which has become the subject of media discussion,” Mr. Sheikh wrote.

“This relates to the question of whether a voluntary survey can become a substitute for a mandatory census. It cannot,” he said.

“Under the circumstances, I have tendered my resignation to the prime minister.”

In a statement, Industry Minister Tony Clement said he acknowledges Mr. Sheikh’s resignation “with regret.”

However, Mr. Clement stood by the Conservatives’ plans to abolish the mandatory long-form survey.

“We do not believe Canadians should be forced, under threat of fines, jail, or both, to divulge extensive private and personal information. We believe it is not appropriate to compel citizens to divulge how many bedrooms they have in their houses, or what time they leave for work in the morning.”

This isn’t the first time a government has sought to tamper with the census. In November, 1984, Brian Mulroney’s Conservative government announced it intended to save money by cancelling the 1986 census. There was an immediate protest from the business community – which said the census data were needed to plan marketing strategies – and Mr. Mulroney’s finance minister, Michael Wilson, reversed the decision the following month.

At the same time, the government also responded to complaints that some of the information sought on the long form was too personal. It eliminated, for example, a question about the number of household bathrooms.

Wayne Smith, assistant chief statistician for business and trade statistics, will fill the post on an interim basis, until a permanent successor to Mr. Sheikh is found.

Earlier Wednesday, Mr. Sheikh sent an e-mail to staff that cancelled a planned town-hall meeting where he was to address employee concerns. He said he would have more to say shortly.

“In light of today’s media coverage, I am cancelling the scheduled town hall meeting,” Mr. Sheikh said in a mass e-mail to Statscan staff.

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.

Canada’s crazy (by Canadian standards) census controversy…

Thursday, July 15th, 2010

The Canadian census soap opera continues!

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 AND a lower participation rate?

Sunday, July 11th, 2010

We have already addressed concerns of under-counting in the state of Texas.  News 8 in Austin is reporting that Texas has an average response rate that is 3 points below the national average.

“According to bureau officials, Texas has an overall lower participation rate than 2000. The census bureau office reported a 72 percent average participation rate across the nation, but only a 69 percent participation rate in Texas.”

It will be interesting to find out how much federal money Texas will loose because of their reduced response rate and undercounting.

Hearing to take place on Brooklyn scandal…

Saturday, July 10th, 2010

From the New York Daily News:

BY MICHAEL MCAULIFF

The chairman of the House Oversight Committee has set a hearing into the Brooklyn Census office that dummied up thousands of questionnaires, prompting the firing of two managers and do-overs for 10,000 family surveys.

edtowns.jpg

Rep. Ed Towns, whose district is next door to the Northeast Brooklyn Census office that used the Internet and phone books to fill out forms, set the hearing for July 19 in Brooklyn’s Borough Hall.

“Given my commitment to the success of the 2010 Census, this recent problem is particularly troubling,” said Towns, who ironically held an earlier hearing in the very census office that later became a problem.

“Any attempt to compromise the integrity of the census is simply unacceptable given what is at stake for our community,” Towns said of the shenanigans first reported by the Daily News. “I am holding this hearing to ensure that the Census Bureau is following all of the necessary steps to accurately count every resident in Brooklyn.”

Among those invited to testify are Census Director Robert Groves, Commerce Department Inspector General Todd Zinser, and Tony Farthing, the census regional director.

An update on 2010 Census operations…

Thursday, July 8th, 2010

Carol Morello of The Washington Post, writes the following in her article about Maryland residents who weren’t counted (yet):

Since May 1, census takers have knocked on the doors of more than 47 million homes, virtually all the addresses for which nobody returned a form. They found 14.3 million vacant residences, up from 9.9 million in the 2000 Census — a reflection of the heavy toll the recession and foreclosures have taken on the nation.

As the census winds down, more than three-quarters of the 635,000 temporary workers hired for it have been dismissed. The remaining 125,000 will be checking the work that has been done.

The big news from today’s press conference…

Wednesday, July 7th, 2010

I don’t have a complete transcript of the press conference available, but of the 565,000 enumerators involved in non-response follow-up (NRFU) operations, the Census Bureau estimates that 1,000 of these people fabricated data. In the coming days MyTwoCensus.com will demonstrate why this “1,000″ figure is too low and how additional data that has been compromised will be overlooked.

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 Bureau re-interviewing thousands of people in Brooklyn

Friday, June 25th, 2010

Well, folks, you heard it here first. (Don’t forget that!) Now, let’s hope that the New York news organizations will pick up on the following info. As usual the Census Bureau releases critical information on a Friday afternoon in the summer time hoping that the media mavens in New York are already on their way to the Hamptons and will forget about this by Monday. How much will this operation cost taxpayers? Will the fired officials be charged with crimes? Here’s a Census Bureau Press Release:

Brooklyn Households May Get Additional Visit From Census Bureau

Quality checks reveal work must be redone to ensure complete accurate count

WASHINGTON, June 25 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ — The U.S. Census Bureau today announced that checks on the quality of some of the work in the Brooklyn North East local census office (LCO) have led to a replacement of the management of that office, and to the judgment that at least 10,000 household interviews will have to be redone to ensure a complete and accurate count.

(Logo: http://photos.prnewswire.com/prnh/20090226/CENSUSLOGO)

(Logo: http://www.newscom.com/cgi-bin/prnh/20090226/CENSUSLOGO)

“I want to stress that our highest priority is to get a complete and accurate count in 2010 for Brooklyn, and while I regret some of the work must be redone, I’m sure the people of Brooklyn share in the goal of getting this right,” said Regional Director Tony Farthing.

Census officials from the New York Regional Office and the Suitland, Maryland headquarters visited the LCO this week following up on concerns raised by some employees in the LCO that the management there was not following established procedures. Senior managers confirmed that a variety of training and processing standards had recently been neglected in the LCO.  The New York Regional Office has replaced the LCO management with two experienced managers who are very familiar with the communities in the affected area. The systematic review of processing steps continues, and may lead to more household re-interviews. A physical inspection of a sample of census questionnaires pointed to a recent breakdown and failure to follow quality standards that must be met by every local census office.

Regional Director Tony Farthing said that the new LCO team will be in the field beginning this weekend to ensure all enumerator interviews are conducted properly and that any suspect interviews will be redone with new interviews of the households. He said he felt confident all the work can be completed before the end of door to door enumeration, but that work would continue until the Bureau is satisfied of the quality.

Editor’s note: News releases, reports and data tables are available on the Census Bureau’s home page. Go to http://www.census.gov and click on “Releases.”

From the mailbag: Quality Control

Friday, June 25th, 2010

Any other re-interview problems out there besides what is written below?

I am a crew leader in Broward County on NRFU RI(Non Response Follow-Up Re-Interview).  We do quality assurance on interviews by re-interviewing a percent of all households who did not mail in their forms, but were counted by a Census Taker.  NRFU (Non Response Follow Up), the operation that conducted the original interviews, is finishing up here and will be over this week.  The LCO has started moving a few enumerators from NRFU over to NRFU RI !!!  That means, they will be checking THEIR OWN WORK! Since Crew Leaders have to assign jobs based on the area the enumerator lives in, and there is no way to know who conducted the original interview – these transferred crew members could very possibly quality control their own work and get paid for it.  Beautiful! How could the count possibly be correct when stuff like this is going on? The things I have seen go on in this Census is absolutely unbelievable!  It has changed the whole way I feel about my beloved country and what I think the true capability of our government is in other areas.

MyTwoCensus.com on CNN.com

Wednesday, June 23rd, 2010

Please excuse the pluralization of my name…hopefully it will be corrected by tomorrow…

But here we are, basking in mainstream media glory!

Burmese residents of Northern California get help with 2010 Census

Tuesday, June 22nd, 2010

KALW and the San Francisco Chronicle recently collaborated on a piece about counting the Burmese population. As MyTwoCensus reported months ago, this effort would have been much simpler and more effective if the Burmese translations on forms were accurate. The below article implies that the Burmese in Northern California are using English forms and subsequently having others (who speak English) complete the forms on their behalf:

The Census Bureau has released its latest population estimates, ahead of announcing this year’s official census count, and some of the results may surprise you. As of July 2009, 317 counties, four states, and the District of Columbia were officially considered ‘minority majority’ areas, meaning that people of European descent are now in the minority there. The four states are Texas, New Mexico, Hawaii and–you guessed it, California. Demographers are attributing the jump to high minority birth rates, and a large influx of young immigrants and refugees.

According to the US State Department, among the half-million refugees who arrived in the US over the last decade 60,000 are from the Southeast Asian country of Myanmar, also known as Burma.

Many agencies, including Amnesty International, claim the ruling military junta in Burma has been committing human rights violations since the 1960s, when it overthrew the democratic government. No one knows how many of its citizens have fled, but in the last decade, more than 2,000 Burmese refugees have resettled in California. But this upswing in the Burmese immigrant community here might not get reflected in the 2010 census. Reporter Adelaide Chen has more.

*                                    *                                    *

ADELAIDE CHEN:  In Oakland, there’s a Burmese Mission Baptist church that’s been established only within the last decade. It has a special service to accommodate the Karen and Karenni ethnic minority groups that speak their own languages. Not all of the people who use the service are Christian, but as newcomers to the US, they come here to adapt, socialize and access social services.

After the service, families sit drinking ohn-no-kauk-swe, a traditional chicken coconut noodle soup with chilies. Pastor Aye Aye Thaw assists newcomer Me Reh in filling out a census form in English. Reh just arrived three months ago so the English capital letters that the pastor writes on his form are unfamiliar to him.

So you’re asking him to pull out his ID?

AYE AYE THAW: Yeah, because I need the house number. Because they do not know their house number.  And they do not know their apartment number.

Thaw understands how counting Burmese Refugees can be difficult for a census worker. She knows the Burmese don’t use last names.  She knows the people from refugee camps are not likely to have birthdates. Like in this case, the IDs of both Me Reh and his wife list theirs as January first.

See it says Jan 1 for both IDs.

AYE AYE THAW:  All are like that. At first I’m surprising too but now I’m used to that.

Thaw says when they tried filling out the forms for the first time, they were all puzzled by one question: The one about their ethnic group. To say you’re “Burmese” is to say you’re a part of the dominant ethnic group back home, often associated with the military junta. And at least a third of Karennis have been displaced by the military presence in their home state. Some of which resettled here as refugees and joined Thaw’s fellowship. So, she decided to list both groups.

AYE AYE THAW: I want to make sure that’s why I want them to fill it up with Burma and then Karenni.

There are about 20 major ethnic groups within the country known as Burma. So when it comes to the census, it’s especially hard to get an accurate count.

CARL KATCHER: To be honest, there’s a lot of ethnic issues in Burma.

Carl Katcher’s family immigrated to the U.S. from Burma in the seventies:

CARL KATCHER: As far as I understand, most of the Karens, most of the ethnic groups will just be filling out their group as the particular group. Whether it be, you know-Kachin, Shan, Karen, or Karenni.

So those ethnic groups might not make it to the final count. Mary Nicely, the government liaison of the census committee for the people of Burma, says in the last census her population was undercounted, and she’s concerned it could happen again.

MARY NICELY: And that’s why we’ve been working so hard to try to pull it together this time around because the only support services these people have are churches, family, and if they’re lucky they can get some sort of assistance and someone can help them.