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 ‘Minorities’ Category

UPDATE: MyTwoCensus Investigation: Census Bureau’s lack of photo IDs for employees and use of cheap black canvas bags as “uniforms” aid scammers because impersonating a Census Bureau enumerator is all too easy

Tuesday, May 4th, 2010

UPDATE: FOR THOSE WHO READ AN EARLIER VERSION OF THIS PIECE, SEE THE UPDATE  PRESENTED NEAR THE BOTTOM OF THIS ARTICLE.

On Sunday, I discovered an alarming piece of news from Washington state: Census Bureau polo shirts and black canvass bags were on sale at a local Goodwill store. As Steve Jost, the Census Bureau’s Associate Director of Communications wrote in a blog post yesterday, “Census workers will be easily identifiable: Each will have an official government badge (identifiable by the seal of the Census Bureau) and a black canvas census bags.” This should raise red flags, because by giving out these materials (that were subsequently donated) the Census Bureau is actually enabling fraud to take place. The other way that the Census Bureau has enabled fraud to take place is by failing to give its 600,000 door-to-door workers photo IDs. In a day and age where photos can be printed instantly on an office computer, this is ridiculous. The Census Bureau’s ID cards used by these employees are flimsy and extremely easy to replicate.  Yesterday, I questioned the Census Bureau’s Public Information Office about this, and received the following DENIALS from the Census Bureau:

E-mail from Stephen Robert Morse of MyTwoCensus.com: It came to my attention that  polo shirts with 2010 Census logos and black 2010 Census canvas bags have appeared in thrift shops and on Ebay – presumably these were leftover partnership materials. As you said, there are two ways to identify Census workers – by their black bag and their name badge. I am concerned that people, particularly the elderly, may be duped by scammers.  I have two questions: 1. Why, knowing that black canvas bags are used by enumerators, did the Census Bureau distribute black canvass bags with 2010 Census logos as partnership materials?  2. Why did the Census Bureau choose not to use photo identification for official Census workers? I worry about this because it is extremely easy for criminals to replicate the ID badges.

E-mail back from Michael C. Cook,  a Senior Marketing Specialist at the Census Bureau: A search of Ebay by Census staff found only Census 2000 shirts.  There are no 2010 enumerator bags or back packs currently on Ebay.  The child’s drawstring backpack for 2010 and the enumerator shoulder bag share nothing in common, not size, not logos, not shape, not dimensions, other than the color black.   If a member of the public is not certain of the identity of a census employee, they may ask for a photo ID, such as a driver’s license, or a phone number for the local census office to call and confirm the individual’s employment.

Now, this is truly a great way to dodge the questions I asked. Fortunately, I was also able to get Mr. Cook on the telephone and he said that the Census Bureau couldn’t make the photo IDs because “it had to do with the volume and the fact that there is a short amount of time between the time we identify the workers, to the time we hit the street — it wasn’t cost effective to take photos.” So the Census Bureau has no problem spending hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars on ads, but has no budget to authenticate its workers’ identities in picture form to protect people from scammers…

*Note: My one mistake in this investigation was not taking a screen capture of the black canvas 2010 Census bag that was being sold on EBay. For all I know, the Census Bureau Public Information Office could have purchased it in the time before they responded to my query. Nonetheless, most Americans wouldn’t know that Census Bureau employees only use black bags. And despite this, there is still a 2010 Census tote bag on EBay that the Census Bureau PR team scouring the internet failed to notice. This time, I took a screenshot:

I’m not saying that scammers even need Ebay or thrift stores to obtain these materials. In fact, the Census Bureau’s partnership specialists have handed millions of them out for free! Did you get any Census Bureau swag? If so, let us know in the comments section!

Here is a photo of the all-too-easy-to-replicate canvas bags and non-photo IDs used by actual 2010 Census enumerators:

UPDATE: A READER JUST SUBMITTED US A PHOTO OF A BLACK CENSUS BAG THAT WAS FOUND ON EBAY…IT LOOKS AMAZINGLY SIMILAR TO THE 2010 CENSUS BAG. IN FACT, I AM 99.99% CERTAIN THAT THE PERSON WHO LISTED IT ON EBAY PUT IT UP AS A CENSUS 2000 BAG IN ERROR. TO ME, IT APPEARS TO BE A 2010 CENSUS BAG…ANY RESPONSE TO THAT PUBLIC INFORMATION OFFICE?

Transcript from Census Bureau Press Conference

Friday, April 30th, 2010

Here’s the transcript from Census Director Robert M. Groves’ press briefing on Wednesday. Unfortunately, my microphone (on Skype) cut out at the moment that I hoped to ask Dr. Groves a series of questions, which concerned why there are still failures of the paper-based operations control system and who (if anyone) is being held accountable for these errors. I forwarded these questions to Stephen Buckner at the Census Bureau’s Public Information Office, but have still not received a reply. Dr. Groves did briefly acknowledge errors in the PBOCS during his speech, but it is unlikely that any members of the mainstream media who don’t cover 2010 Census operations regularly would know about such a system and what those errors mean. Dr. Groves said, “We continue to struggle with the software system called the paper base operation control system, but we passed, just amazingly, a wonderful threshold last week where we printed out assignments for all these enumerators. It worked. We have assignments ready for 600,000 people who are ready to hit the streets on Saturday. So we’re proceeding. Not that it is the most loved piece of software in the Census Bureau, but it’s working well enough to get the census down so far.”

STEPHEN BUCKNER: Good afternoon. Welcome to the Census Bureau’s news conference on the mail participation rates. I’d like to welcome everyone here in the room, and also those joining us online and via telephone. If you take a few moments, we have some information in your press kits, and also available online, including all the charts that Dr. Groves will be going over today as he walks you through America’s accomplishment in the mail participation rate for the 2010 census as we start to go door to door later this weekend.

Following Dr. Groves’ remarks, we will have a brief Q&A session for the media. Please state your name and organization prior to your question. We’ll try to get to as many questions as we can during the news conference. And with that, I’ll turn it over to Dr. Groves. Thank you, Dr. Groves. (Applause)

DR. ROBERT GROVES: This is the first time I’ve heard applause. Well, welcome. I’m happy to be here and happy to see friendly faces in front of me. Today is a big day for us because we announce the end of the first half of the 2010 census. And we have good news, because we can thank the American public for really the first major achievement of the 2010 census, I think. So first, I need to say why are we honoring the American public in this way, and why is this a notable achievement? You need to know something about levels of participation in surveys in this country, and in fact in the western world over the past few decades to understand how wonderful what happened really is.

For the last 20 years, response rates, the level of participation of the public in sample surveys, in all sectors, the commercial sector, the government sector and the academic sector, have been falling. In fact, in the Census Bureau’s own survey, take the American Community Survey, this very large thing that we do continuously, we’ve lost 5 percentage points from the 2000 experience to now. So when I took this job, I really expected that any achievement close to the 2000 rate was beyond each. In fact, I urge you, urge the journalists here, to call up your favorite survey researcher and ask them one question: could you achieve the response rate today that you received ten years ago on the same survey? And see what they say.

So we had low expectations on getting close to where we were in 2000. And where were we on 2000? The combined short form and long form participation rate in 2000 was 69 percent at the time we cut off for the non-response follow-up. So if we believe those lower rates, we would have expected something lower than that. The short form only rate, out of the 2000, the portion of the households that got the short form, their participation rate was about 72 percent. We chose that as a stretch goal. We were preparing for response rates between 65 and 72 percent in our simulations. Well, what happened was the American public hit that stretch goal, and it was a wonderful display, we think, of civic participation. And I can tell you, the folks at the Census Bureau are dancing down the hallways.

There are a lot of neat things about that; 28 states met or exceeded their 2000 rate, that’s cool. Some of these are pretty large states; Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Michigan, New York, Pennsylvania and Texas. In addition, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico exceeded their 2000 rate. There are 11 other states within 1 percentage point of their 200 rate. North Carolina and South Carolina are kind of the poster children of 2010. They exceeded their rate in 2000 by 8 percentage points, just off the charts, so as they say these days, need a special shout out, I think. And there are thousands of jurisdictions around the country that have exceeded their 2000 rate.

Let me just give you a sense of this. In your press kit, I think you have notes that seven of the ten most populous counties equaled or surpassed their 2000 rates. Eight of the ten most populous cities did that, likewise. So once again, this is, I think, a congratulations due to the American public for their act of civic participation. And we are grateful and happy to report that.

It might be good to ask the question of why, why was that rate achieved? And the first thing that I want to point out are some hard data we have. The first unambiguous result in the why, I think, has to do with the replacement form. So if you look at this chart, let me help you read this chart. And for those of you on the phone, this is a chart that’s labeled 2010 average mail back participation rates for census tracks by assignment of 2010 replacement form. So it’s a busy graph, I’ll help you read it.

The X axis here is a day, sort of the life cycle of the mail out/mail back process. The Y axis is the participation rate. So the first thing you’ll see is that all of the lines rise as you go from left to right as the mail back rate built over days. Now, there are a lot of different lines here. The solid lines are from the 2010 data. The dashed, or dotted, lines are from 2000. There are three groups of lines color coded. The red line are those tracks that got replacement forms in a blanket fashion. If you lived in that track, whether you returned the form or not, you got a replacement form. The green line are tracks that were targeted. If you yourself did not return a form, you got a replacement form. If your neighbor did, they did not. And then finally, the blue line are the tracks where no replacement form was given.

Look at the dashed lines first. We targeted for blanket treatment the toughest tracks. They had low response rates in 2000. That’s the lowest line, the red dashed line, is low. And the green line were the targeted tracks. They had sort of medium participation rates. But you can see, both of those are pretty far below the blue. So we targeted the replacement form to those areas that tended in 2000 to have low participation rates.

What happened? Well, this replacement form worked. It’s just unambiguous in the data. Let your eyes focus on the solid red line. Look how after the blanket replacement mailing was complete around the 3rd of April, it starts pumping up. It just gets higher than the dashed line and stays higher. And then notice how the green line, solid green line, starts getting higher after the target replacement form. In fact, I can tell you, the green line is still pumping out cases as w speak. This is a good thing for the 2010 census because now let your eye go to the dashed lines and just look at the difference in height between the blue dashed line and the red dashed line. That variability in participation rate is not good for a census. We’d like everybody to have the same participation rate. We squeezed together those lines to this replacement form.

So the first question, why did we get a good participation rate, is the replacement form worked, and it worked in a wonderful way to reduce the variability in response rates. There’s another reason, and we have some data on this but it’s not as hard as these data; we think the advertising and the partnership worked. I think in prior discussions we’ve had, we showed you how the awareness of the census rose dramatically as the advertising and partnership campaigns evolved. That seems unambiguous, that that was a good reason why.

And then there are other things that have to do with judgments. I just told you that the participation rate in 2000 for the combined short and long form was 69 percent. And for the short form only was 72 percent. We’re pretty sure the short form was a great idea based on that comparison. We don’t have an empirical comparison of the long and short form in this census, but one clear, I’d be willing to make this speculation, one clear answer to the question why a high rate of participation rate, or why a high rate of participation, is that the short form reduced the burden on the American public and they cooperated at higher rates.

We are going to do tons of other analysis over the coming weeks to figure out other answers to the question why did this seem to work. That’s our job in order to prepare for the 2010 census. But those are the early findings on the reasons for success.

I want to turn to another issue, and that is the patterns of response rate. You can see on the map that we showed earlier that there’s variability in the response. If you just look at the colors, the colors are related to different response rates. Red is really good, blue is bad, and you can see how the colors vary. We’ve been publishing this map every day on the web, a lot of you have been watching it. You start looking at a map like that and you begin to make up hypotheses about geography as the cause of the participation rate. We’re pretty sure that’s a misinterpretation of this. And I want to give you a sense of the patterns of response.

You know that for several decades, the Census Bureau has tracked differential under counts. When the whole census is finished, differential under counts by race, ethnicity and age, and the patterns are very clear over decade after decade, that younger people, that minority groups, tend to be disproportionately missed in the census. I can tell you day by day, we were watching those differences on participation rates in this first half of the census to see if we were seeing those patterns.

The classic patterns emerge in 2010, they’re there. But the biggest drivers in the participation rate are not race and ethnicity in the 2010 census, but a variety of other indicators. And I wanted to give you a sense of what those look like. A lot of them are indicators of the socioeconomic status of the area. So let me describe what this is. This breaks the census tracks. There are about 65,000 census tracks in the country, into four groups of equal size by the rate of vacancy in the area. What proportion of the houses were vacant based on American community survey data over the past three years? So the X axis here separates all of the census tracks into four groups, from low vacancy rate to high vacancy rate.

The Y axis here is the participation rate. The pattern is beautifully monatomic, as they say, in the statistics business. It goes down with each added quartile from 76 percent way down to 64 percent. Tracks that have high vacancy rates tended to have low participation rates. And it’s a pretty strong effect.

Let me show you the next one. This does a similar sort of thing. It breaks the tracks into four groups by their level of percentage of multi-unit structures. And on the X axis, you see what those rates are. Similar sort of finding; pretty strong effects from 77 percent participation rate down to 64 percent. Tracks that have a lot of multi-unit structures or mobile homes versus those that have single family structures had lower participation rates.

Let’s look at the next one. Renter occupied housing units, same sort of divisions on the X axis, participation rate on the Y axis, moving from 77 to 64. Census tracks, neighborhoods with a lot of rental units had lower participation rates. Let’s look at the next one. Education. We can identify the proportion of people on the tracks with less than a high school degree, same sort to pattern. Tracks that have a lot of people with low education tend to have lower participation rates. And is that the final one? One more, poverty. The American community survey allows us to estimate the proportion of households under poverty threshold; 77 to 64, same thing.

Now in your press kit are other graphs that look at ethnicity and race. You’ll look at those and see smaller effects across those groups than you see across the socioeconomic indicators. Was this present in prior censuses? I suspect it was. Did we have the right data to do this sort of analysis? Now, this is a wonderful benefit of the American community survey that we can track in almost real time other indicators. These are the strongest drivers to participation rate, not the race, ethnicity indicators. But they’re pretty powerful drivers, as you see.

So we can say that tracks that have high rental units, low education, low income, are disproportionately where our non-response follow-up workload is. Those are the neighborhoods that we will be visiting disproportionately in the coming weeks.

I want to say just a bit about our current operations and then open it up for questions. We are proceeding on all sorts of operations now. I’m happy to report that every operation we’ve done since addressing canvassing in summer of 2009 are on time and on budget. Those are going well. We continue to struggle with the software system called the paper base operation control system, but we passed, just amazingly, a wonderful threshold last week where we printed out assignments for all these enumerators. It worked. We have assignments ready for 600,000 people who are ready to hit the streets on Saturday. So we’re proceeding. Not that it is the most loved piece of software in the Census Bureau, but it’s working well enough to get the census down so far.

I want to remind everyone that we have another press conference on Monday. And this is really a press conference to look forward to the non-response follow-up process. It’s a gigantic effort. It’s a complicated effort. We want to make sure you have all the facts that we do about how it’s going. We’ll talk about that. It’s important to note that although we report this mail back rate as if we’ve reached a final stage, this is really the end of the first half and that the census is not over. We will have a disposition on 100 percent of the units that we have on our list, those who didn’t get forms will be visited. Those who got forms and didn’t mail them out will be visited. We will collect information on everyone before we’re through, and that’s the second half that we’re now beginning. So I want to stop at this point and entertain questions. (more…)

Ed O’Keefe reports on Census Bureau’s final stats on mailback “participation” rates

Thursday, April 29th, 2010

H/t to Ed O’Keefe of The Washington Post:

72% of households responded to 2010 Census

Take a gander at the documents Groves shared with reporters at his announcement earlier today:

The 2010 Census response rate matched returns for the 2000 Census, the U.S. Census Bureau said Wednesday.

Seventy-two percent of American households returned questionnaires by last week and 28 states had higher response rates than 10 years ago. Seven of the 10 most populous counties matched their 2000 response rates as did eight of the 10 most populous cities, the Census Bureau said.

Census Director Robert Groves estimated that between 46 million and 49 million households did not return questionnaires. Temporary census takers hired by the agency will hit the streets starting this week and will visit those addresses up to six times to get answers. The agency will further outline those plans at a news conference Monday.

Groves said he anticipates critics will question why this year’s results only matched the 2000 response rates despite a multimillion-dollar advertising and outreach campaign, but he called this year’s results “unbelievable” because survey response rates have dropped significantly in the past decade.

Socioeconomic concerns rather than race or ethnicity appeared to drive lower response rates, Groves said. Less-educated, lower-income households appeared to respond less. The nation’s foreclosure crisis also contributed to the lower rates, he said.

The total cost of 2010 Census operations — budgeted for about $14 billion — will be known once officials get a complete tally of households that did not respond, Groves said.

Thus far, is the 2010 Census a success or failure?

Wednesday, April 28th, 2010

Obviously, for me, the jury is still out on the above question. But on Monday, Ed O’Keefe of the Washington Post tackled this question:

At least 72 percent of American households returned their forms to the U.S. Census Bureau this year, matching returns for the 2000 headcount. Final numbers will be announced on Wednesday and Obama administration officials cheered the early numbers late last week as evidence of successful outreach efforts.

But a leading Republican Census critic phoned The Eye within minutes of Friday’s announcement and raised an interesting point:

“This census cost more than double what the census cost in 2000,” said Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah). He finds it curious that officials would be happy to only match 2000 figures despite a 2010 budget that was more than three times what was spent ten years ago.

“They spent $300 million on advertising that a lot of us were critical of and they’re getting poor results in the places we know we have problems,” he said, referring to a controversial Census Bureau Super Bowl ad panned by critics.

The agency’s 2010 budget was the same as 2000 on an inflation-adjusted basis, said Census Bureau spokesman Steven Jost.

“We spent just 5 percent more in equivalent dollars this year on a population that was 10 percent bigger,” he said in an e-mail. The 2000 Census was also the first conducted with a paid advertising campaign, so 2010′s headcount needed an equally robust ad strategy to stay even with previous numbers, he said.

In his e-mail Jost listed other reasons for only breaking even with 2000: The country has grown in size and diversity since 2000 and the last headcount was conducted at a time of economic prosperity when Americans had a better opinion of government.

“Most observers of the census during the last several years predicted these factors would make the job tougher in 2010 but so far the public has got us off to a great start,” Jost said, noting that the second part of Census operations kicks off soon when census takers start knocking on doors.

So who’s right? Chaffetz or Jost?

Leave your thoughts in the comments section below

Korean translation errors on 2010 Census form irk some in New York

Tuesday, April 27th, 2010

We must have missed the following report when it was originally published two weeks ago. Nonetheless, it is still interesting to learn about these problems as MyTwoCensus.com has repeatedly criticized the Census Bureau and its contractor Diplomatic Language Services for doing a shoddy job. Thanks to the Queens Courier in New York for the following:

Slam errors in census forms

Koreans, Chinese, Latinos complain

BY VICTOR G. MIMONI
Wednesday, April 14, 2010 2:06 PM EDT

Assemblymember Grace Meng says she’s “angered” over translation errors in the Korean version of 2010 census forms and communications trouble on the Census’ language hotline.

Meng is one of several lawmakers who have called on the Asian community to respond to the census forms. “We have stated over and over again that our schools, hospitals, housing, transportation, police and other services depend on the census,” she said.

But now, constituents have told her that where the English language form asks for “County,” the Korean form asks “Country;” instead of “State” the Korean form asks “Province.”

“It’s confusing. In Asia, ‘Province’ has a specific meaning,” she said, speculating that people who get stumped on a question might not mail in the form.

Meng also complained that some Chinese and Koreans in her district said that the persons on the hotline “do not speak their native language fluently.”

“Someone didn’t understand ‘House Number’ and the help line operator could only explain what ‘house’ and ‘number’ meant,” Meng recounted. “They couldn’t or wouldn’t explain that it meant the address,” she said.

Northeast Queens Census Supervisor Nan Min was distressed. “I heard about the forms – they came out of Washington months ago,” she said, powerless to do anything about it. Min explained that the toll free help number directs to the Washington, D.C. area.

“We have a local help line number – 347-783-1049 – that is staffed with people from around Flushing,” said Min, who is fluent in Korean, Spanish and Portuguese.

“We have speakers of at least four of the more popular Chinese dialects, Korean and other languages spoken around this area,” she added. “We’ve been working hard – we’re 10 percent ahead of the response in the last census.”

Some people, especially in the Hispanic community, have expressed confusion about questions 8 and 9, relating to “origin” and “race,” but Min explained that you can check all boxes that apply to you. “We want you to self-identify – write-in or check off what it takes to describe yourself.”

“I can’t comment on that,” regional census supervisor Patricia Valle told The Queens Courier, promising to contact the supervisors at the language hotline.

Brazil’s Census is way more technologically advanced than ours. This is pathetic.

Tuesday, April 27th, 2010

It is a pretty pathetic and sad story when a developing nation’s ability to integrate technology with governance far exceeds our own. Brazil’s strategy saves massive amounts of both time and money. Yet, this is something that I’ve discussed for quite some time with regard to other nations, like Australia. Here’s some news from Brazil which makes you wonder why more people who made decisions about the 2010 Census in the mid 2000s weren’t fired on the spot:

The Harvard Business Review‘s Daily Stat for Tuesday, April 6, 2010, highlighted a disruptive innovation in, of all things, census-taking. According to the publication:

    It’s a national census of hundreds of millions of people across 8 million square kilometers, using a workforce of 230,000 and budget of $1.4 billion. The 2010 U.S. Census? No, it’s Brazil’s 2010 census. The current U.S. headcount, by contrast, requires 3.8 million workers and $14 billion. Census takers in Brazil use PDAs and laptops; those in the U.S. still rely mainly on paper. – Source: Instituto Brasileiro de Geografia e Estatístic

While the United States tends to be seen as the technology innovation capital of the world, it seems we’re falling down in “government services innovation.” Doesn’t the US Census fall under the administration’s social innovation program? What other program is intended to have an impact on every single citizen of the US, if not this one?

On any corner of a typical US city, one can buy GPS-enabled, off-the-shelf, 3G-powered mobile devices, with local storage for data collection and Web-enabled connections to the back office. In short, the perfect mobile device for census collections is almost a commodity.

But it seems the US Census Bureau made the classic Innovator’s Dilemma mistake of choosing the slow, safe (and expensive) player, while the consumer mobile world blew by.

The supplier in question is Harris Corp. (NYSE: HRS), which started work on the mobile census project in 2006. It turns out that four years is an eternity in the modern mobile world, and Harris simply couldn’t match the speed of the market with its own proprietary, custom-built devices.

In contrast to the US approach to having custom devices built, Brazil partnered with LG Electronics Inc. (London: LGLD; Korea: 6657.KS) , as noted in TechTicker: “Brazil will start taking its population census in the second half of this year and to ensure a smooth and efficient counting, the Instituto Brasileiro de Geografia e Estatistica (IBGE) has roped in LG to supply 150,000 GM750 phones.”

The GM750 is ruggedized and comes with its own application; but otherwise, the core phone itself is a device anyone with $100 or less could buy at the corner mobile store.

You may be thinking, who really cares? Perhaps we all should. According to CNN, Hermann Habermann, a former deputy director of the Census Bureau, thinks that without handheld data collection via mobile phone, the government is missing out on a chance to get information more quickly and cheaply than through the mail.

The technology would also help to better identify which Census tract a home is in, which determines an area’s representation in Congress and the distribution of more than $435 billion in federal funds every year. With GPS, according to CNN, the Census Bureau’s Daniel Weinberg, assistant director for the decennial census, anticipated placing residences within a 0.5 percent error rate into the correct tract. Without GPS, the Census Bureau places approximately 5 percent of residences in the wrong tract.

Unfortunately, with the fallback to paper, the error rate is likely to remain, as is the (inadvertent) mis-distribution of funds. While a 4.5 percent error differential may not seem like much, when you’re distributing billions of dollars each percentage point is quite significant in its effect on the local and state economies.

Lessons learned? Pay attention to the trends happening in parallel to your “normal” business and technology world — or you may find that your technological innovation has been disrupted by the fast movers you couldn’t be bothered to notice.

Whether in private, public, government, or other spaces, look around, and you’ll see disruption creeping up on you. Be aware of the technology environment and evolve! Or suffer the costs.

— Dan Keldsen is a Principal and Strategic Advisor at Information Architected.

The Weirdest Night of My Life’ — Counting the Homeless for the Census

Tuesday, April 27th, 2010

There has been a shockingly small amount of media attention devoted to counting the nation’s homeless. Here’s a first person account that I discovered on the 2010 Census operation to count the homeless:

Being counted for the 2010 census is easy enough, so long as you have an actual home with an address.

But the many homeless Americans get counted the old-fashioned way: by a fresh-faced gang of folks in their 20s in bright orange vests who travel in packs, walking under bridges and into tent cities, even into the woods as part of their sworn duties.

We caught up with Trevor (whose actual name was changed to protect his job), a census worker who found himself part of the agency’s TNSOL initiative — which stands for “targeted non-shelter outdoor location,” and which means your first half-hour on the job could well involve running into your guide while he’s masturbating in an alley.

Read on for highlights from Trevor’s trip into the trenches of the TNSOL.

Strength in Numbers, and No Need for a Handshake
“It was absolutely the weirdest night of my life,” Trevor says of TNSOL, which took place on March 31 throughout the country.

Trevor, like the vast majority of census workers, is a temp who was hired by another temp, and trained by still others — all of which is to say that there was no real way for him to be properly prepared for what he was about to encounter.

When the night started, Trevor and his fellow workers — the team worked as a group of eight, which he suspects may have been out of a “strength in numbers” approach to work that has some obvious risks, rather than out of a true need for eight people to do the job — caught up with their homeless guide. Who was, in fact, masturbating in the alley they’d been told they’d find him in.

“It took me a little while to figure out what he was doing,” he said. “And at that point we were already on our way.”

Just a Few Simple Questions
Even with awkward introductions out of the way, Trevor says the weirdness was just beginning:

“We only had three questions that we had to answer to make it a complete form — their name, their age, and their race. A lot of people don’t really know how old they are. One girl filled it out herself after taking a hit from her crack pipe, and she got it all wrong. We had to fill that one out again. But it’s really interesting — a lot of people were really approachable, because it doesn’t happen often that some nice person walks up and says, ‘Hi, what’s your name?’ A lot of them wanted to talk to us, they were excited about just being treated like a person.”

“Can You Spare Some …”
If you don’t have a job that involves specifically working with homeless people, your experience with them is probably restricted to the basic: being asked for change. So we asked — did that happen to the census workers, too?

“Oh, yeah. But we’re not allowed to give it to them. I felt kind of bad. A lot of them just need some sane, human interaction, but some wanted to know what they were going to get out of this.”

“I had this one guy come up to me while we were waiting for a food van. He was really sweet, and he was telling me all about how he just wanted to go see his family, how he was an alcoholic, and he just needs help. He asked me if I could help him, and I said, ‘Just tell me what I can do.’ And he said, ‘Can you get me a beer?’ I told him, ‘No — we’re friends now, dude, and friends don’t listen to a friend tell you that they’re an alcoholic and then go get them a beer.’”

The “no bribery” rule was a mandate from Uncle Sam, but Trevor explained that his masturbating guide backed that up.

“There’s a different law among the homeless people,” he said. “You don’t want to go around just offering people things, because it’s disrespectful. Which is too bad,” he adds. “Because our big plan was to bring a bag of hamburgers, just in case we needed some extra help.”

Which is funny, because we hear the lack of free hamburgers is exactly why Glenn Beck and Michelle Bachmann urged their census boycott, too.

MyTwoCensus Editorial: My Mad Men moment…What 2010 Census ads should have said…

Thursday, April 22nd, 2010

I’m a few years behind the rest of the world as I only recently started watching Mad Men, the hit TV series about the world of advertising. The show got me thinking about many things related to the 2010 Census ad campaign. Rather than advertising with “Portrait of America” themes, Christopher Guest nonsense, and other ads that seem to be unclear, unpointed, and uninteresting flops. Why not go straight to the numbers? The simple ad campaign I would have created for the Census Bureau would have gone as follows:

Cost to mail back your census form: 42 cents.

Cost to send a Census Bureau employee to your house if you fail to return your form: $57.

Amount of federal money at stake if you aren’t counted: $1,333.*

Total amount of available funding that you are community should get its fair share of: $400 BILLION.

2010 Census – Mail it back and Participate.

(Back in February, Census Bureau Communications Director Steve Jost told readers of this blog — see the comments section — that the Census Bureau and Draftfcb were in the process of creating a 2010 Census ad competition for the public to compete in…clearly that never happened!)

*The Census Bureau uses the term $400 billion for the total amount of money at stake. $400 billion divided by 300 milli0n people (an approximation of America’s population) is $1,333 per person. Some estimates determine that it is about $3,000 per person missed. Shelley Lowe of the Census Bureau’s Public Information Office said of the per person figure, “We don’t calculate that, but other organizations have attempted to.”

On the Closing of the Be Counted and Questionnaire Assistance Centers . . . and Beyond

Thursday, April 22nd, 2010

The following press release represents the opinions of the Latino Census Network, not MyTwoCensus.com:
by the Latino Census Network (April 21, 2010)

The Latino Census Network has received a number of inquiries about the closing of the Census Bureau’s Be Counted and Questionnaire Assistance Centers. Members of the New York City Council have written to the Census Directors asking that these centers be kept open for an additional 30 days. Other have expressed surprise that these centers have closed.

The Census Bureau informs us that these centers had been scheduled to close on April 19th from the start. Because these were established through contracts with community-based organizations and other institutions through contracts, it would be difficult to extend these agreements at this point.

The Census Bureau’s focus now is on their Non-Response Follow-up (NRFU). Door-to-door census taking occurs starting May 1nd through June and early July 2010. Local census takers will visit households that did not mail back a census form. All census takers carry an official badge and a shoulder bag – both with the Department of Commerce seal – and a binder. During a visit, census takers will show ID and hand respondents an information sheet explaining that their answers are confidential. The census taker will complete the questionnaire, which should take about 10 minutes. If no one is home, a “notice of visit” will be left at the door inviting the resident to call the census taker to complete the form over the phone.

With the mail-in participation so close now to the 2000 Census rates at the national level, the Census Bureau no doubt sees this mail-in part of the process a success. It is expected that in the next week or so, additional Census forms will come in, making it possible that the 2000 participation rate will be matched. Given all of the factors that make this 2010 Census more challenging than the last (9/11, greater anti-immigrant sentiment, etc.), this level of mail-in participation is considered a success, at least at the national level.

Title 13, U.S. Code, requires that the apportionment population counts for each state be delivered to the President within nine months of the census date, by December 31. 2010. According to Title 2, U.S. Code, within one week of the opening of the next session of the Congress, the President must report to the Clerk of the House of Representatives the apportionment population counts for each state and the number of Representatives to which each state is entitled. Also according to Title 2, U.S. Code, within 15 days, the Clerk of the House must inform each state governor of the number of representatives to which each state is entitled.

The legislatures in each state are responsible for geographically defining the boundaries of their congressional and other election districts–a process known as redistricting–and more detailed census results are used for these purposes. Public Law 94-171, enacted by Congress in December 1975, requires the Census Bureau to provide state legislatures with the small area census population tabulations necessary for legislative redistricting. The Census Bureau must transmit the total population tabulations to the states by April 1, 2011.

FYI: http://www.censusdiscriminationlawsuit.com/

Wednesday, April 21st, 2010

The above site provides details about the recent class action hiring lawsuit. Ah, America’s lawyers embracing technology to make a quick buck. Love it.

New Jersey city files lawsuit against the Census Bureau

Wednesday, April 21st, 2010

It’s getting pretty trendy to file lawsuits against the Census Bureau. Here’s another one from New Jersey:

Irvington files suit against Census bureau

By Richard Khavkine/For The Star-Ledger

April 20, 2010, 5:10AM

IRVINGTON – Residents in an apartment complex of more than 1,700 households did not receive their Census forms, and township officials, fearing the loss of millions of federal dollars, have sued the Census Bureau alleging a breach of its constitutional mandate.

The lawsuit, filed Monday in U.S. District Court, seeks a court order compelling the agency to send a team of workers to the Maple Gardens apartments, a four-tower complex near Springfield and Maple avenues that is home to about 5,000 people.

According to recent estimates, the gated community’s residents could comprise as much as 9 percent of the township’s entire population.

“I’m very concerned,” Mayor Wayne Smith said Monday. “That is a glaring omission.”

Although its ostensible purpose is to count the population, the Census also helps policy makers determine how to disburse $400 billion in federal funding each year.

“Dollars tend to be commensurate with your population,” Smith said, alluding to federal funds that help pay for facilities and services, such as road construction projects, job training centers and schools.

According to the latest American Community Survey, which tracks demographic trends between Censuses, Irvington’s population dipped to about 56,000 in 2008, a 60-year low. The township, hit hard by foreclosures, had a population of 60,695 a decade ago, according to the 2000 Census.

“Who knows what they missed in the rest of the township?” said township attorney, Marvin T. Braker, adding, “You can’t exclude that many people. It’s just fundamentally unfair.”

The suit also seeks an extension of the April 16 deadline to mail in the forms.

A Census spokeswoman said the agency has contingency plans to help it account for large swaths of populations that might have been missed, such as that cited by the township. One possible solution would be to set up a Census station in the buildings’ lobbies.

“One way we try to cover all bases would be to set up a table in the lobby,” said Yolanda Finley, who had not seen the suit and could not comment on the township’s allegation that no forms were mailed to the complex. “There are all kinds of arrangements made to count in a building that size.”

Smith, though, said he was skeptical.

“I’m not assured that what they’re going to do is going to be enough,” he said. “Whatever they need to do, they need to do more, because they made the mistake.”

According to the Census Bureau, it costs 42 cents to obtain a mailed-back Census form. Getting a household’s responses in person if residents have not mailed back the form costs upward of $57.

The township’s Census response rate is currently 44 percent, below the nation’s 69 percent rate, according to the bureau’s most recent figures.

Finley said that residents who had not received Census forms could call (866) 877-6868 to have one mailed.

Is recently convicted felon/hip-hop artist Chris Brown an ideal 2010 Census spokesman?

Monday, April 19th, 2010

At first glance, it sounds like someone who beat up his pop-star girlfriend (Rihanna) wouldn’t be the best PR spokesman for the Census Bureau, but maybe I’m out of touch with who America’s youth views as role models these days. Does anyone else out there find it disturbing that hip-hop artist Chris Brown is out there promoting the 2010 Census? In 2009, Brown pleaded guilty to felony assault of singer Rihanna and was sentenced to five years probation and six months of community service:

Hipsters respond: Don’t blame us for low response rates…blame the Hassidic Jews!

Friday, April 16th, 2010

In response to my postings about hipsters failing to complete their census forms in Brooklyn, a hipster blog has refuted these claims and has instead shifted the blame for low response rates to the neighboring Hasidic Jewish community — yet also notes that the 2010 Census forms were mailed out during the week-long Passover holiday:

Stop Blaming Hipsters for the Census

Census copy.jpg

Hey NPR, next time you run a piece entitled “New York’s Hipsters Too Cool for the Census,” you should maybe do more than talk to three people in a record store?

Sure, as Brian pointed out last week, Williamsburg’s response rates are super low. But check out the actual data available on the Census 2010 Map. The Census return rates for the “hip” parts of Williamsburg are about on par with those for the rest of the city. It’s the Hassidic areas that have a super low rate of return (see screenshot above). Which the NPR story mentioned, kind of, at the end of the piece, after focusing on those crazy kids with their “wacky bikes” and “ironic mustaches.”

So yeah, some of us are lazy assholes who haven’t mailed their forms in yet (like, ok, I *might* have just mailed mine in this morning). But come on – we’re no more lazy than the rest of this city.

UPDATE: Aaron Short, over at A Short Story blog, points out that one reason the Hassidic return rate might be so low is because the forms were mailed out during… Passover.

So what we’re saying is that it’s nobody’s fault, really.

Census Bureau Officials: The Questionnaire Assistance Center and “Be Counted” site debacles

Monday, April 12th, 2010

Update from the authors in response to comments: The QAC Representative’s duty station is the QAC site so they are not paid for mileage to and from the QAC site. For field staff their duty station is their home so they are paid milage to and from training (enumerators, crew leaders and field operations supervisors, partnership assistants and recruiting assistants) If they exceed eight hours a day in training the rest of the hours go into overtime. However if they are under 40 hours a week whether they receive overtime rate pay is not known.

A group of Census Bureau officials who have requested anonymity (but have had their identities verified by MyTwoCensus.com) shared the following report with us about Questionnaire Assistance Centers and Be Counted sites:

We are a team of recruiting assistants partnership assistants, clerks and questionnaire assistance center representatives who worked with the Questionnaire Assistance Centers and pooled together our resources to write you this article. We hope this article will answer many of the questions communities have about the Questionnaire Assistance Centers (QAC) and Be Counted (BC) sites.

As you know Questionnaire Assistance Centers or QACs are places staffed by Census Bureau employees where people with a question about filling out their census form, need language assistance or believe they were not counted on their own household form can pick up a form. The only difference between QACs and BCs is that BC sites are not staffed. The intention is good but a series of poor management mistakes, lack of communication and prioritizing quantity over quality undermined the operation and will ultimately lead to an under count in the New York region.

In other regions partnership works with the local census offices but in our region they work out of the regional census center and independent of the local offices. The search for QAC and BC sites was a partnership task, however the management and staffing of these sites is done at the local census office by the Assistant Manager for Quality Assurance (AMQA). For months though, the local census office never interacted with partnership. Sometime early this year the local census offices discovered that there would not be enough QAC and BC sites and so the recruiting assistants were told to go out and in addition to recruiting applicants find potential QAC and BC sites.

At the local census office level all anyone was worried about was getting the “magic number of QAC sites” and in a mad scramble there was no regard to quality. There was little guidance given as to what would be a good QAC. Of course most community based organizations loved the idea of being a QAC because it was beneficial to the community they served. But most of these QACs were during weekday hours and some were little known organizations with no foot traffic. The big corporate giants such as chain banks who were census partners were the worst. They are featured on the 2010 Census website  as being census partners but when it came time to ask them to be a QAC they flat out refused.

In the third week of February all the local offices were told they needed to get all partners who agreed to be a QAC site confirmed by signing a conditions for donation of services and space agreement. When local census office employees went out to visit these places who had originally agreed to be a QAC some refused to sign the contract. Those who refused to sign the agreement did so because of a clause that basically says the Census Bureau retains their right to sue the partner if they do anything to screw Uncle Sam. Other partners denied knowing they agreed to be a Questionnaire Assistance Center. Many of the partners listed in the Integrated Partnership Contact Database (IPCD) which partnership used to keep track of their partners were either phantom or ones where partnership merely went to a networking event and took business cards. When crunch time came the new directive was we could accept verbal agreements and forget about the contract. Of course that lowered our legitimacy considering we had ID badges with no pictures.

The training was even worse. The QACs are staffed by census bureau employees who are trained for one day (see attached training schedule). But considering that there is two hours of administrative paperwork and an hour of fingerprinting the actual training is a half day. Many of the trainers rushed the training because they didn’t want to go into overtime. The employees are paid the overtime rate if training goes over eight hours in a single day even if you are under forty hours for the entire week.

The 2010 Census website www.2010.census.gov pulls the QAC sites’ location and hours from the Integrated Partnership Contact Database (IPCD) which is an off the shelf piece of sales management software from salesforce.com. On March 19th, the first day the QAC and BC sites were scheduled to open, the 2010 Census Website didn’t even feature all the sites, the wrong sites or the wrong hours. The following Monday headquarters pulled the website offline.

The QACs are open on average about 15 hours a week but a lot of us wanted more hours because we were paid at the clerk rate, the lowest level of LCO pay. For some of us during the first week we were sitting at places where there was either no foot traffic or the line was out the door and around the block.

In summary, the QAC/BC operation is another example of Census Bureau dumb decision number 7485840, 7485841 and so forth. 7485840: prioritizing quantity over quality of QAC sites
7485841: training QAC representatives for less than a day
7485842: using an off the shelf piece of sales management software which was overly complicated
7485843: having partnership working independently of the local census office
7485844: an agreement that tells your partner you will not waive your right to sue them

They could of done this with fewer sites and better hours. It is extremely hard to manage almost a hundred QAC sites. Some of our QACs were understaffed, some have no traffic, others are not staffed when they should be. As for partnership, they are held to no performance standards. The regional director and top managers in our region accepts what headquarters tells them to do, puppets of a huge bureaucracy and does little to advocate the special needs of the region.

When the 2010 Census ends and the Census Bureau advertises the thousands of nationwide partners that helped them by donating space and services it should be taken with a grain of salt. Most of the partners in the Integrated Partnership Contact Database aren’t really partners and even if they are they now want to back out knowing that Uncle Sam will not hold them harmless and sue them if they screw them.

Immigrants more likely than natives to participate in 2010 Census

Friday, April 9th, 2010

H/t to New America Media for the following:

Foreign-born Hispanics are more positive and knowledgeable about the 2010 U.S. Census than are native-born Hispanics, a new survey has found, suggesting that a massive advertising campaign launched earlier this year has paid off.

The survey, conducted by the Pew Hispanic Center in the second half of March, found that foreign-born Hispanics were more likely than the native born to believe that the Census is good for Hispanics, to correctly say the Census cannot be used to determine whether a person is in the country illegally, and to trust the bureau’s claim that all personal information would be kept confidential.

The foreign born were also much more likely to have seen something recently from an organization encouraging them to fill out their census form, according to a report on the study put together by Mark Hugo Lopez and Paul Taylor of the Pew Hispanic Center.

Census participation rates among Hispanics have traditionally been lower than those of other groups. In the 2000 Census, the mail return rate among Hispanic households was 69 percent, while for non-Hispanic households it was 79 percent. As part of its effort to increase participation rates among groups that have historically had low levels of census participation, the Census Bureau has spent about 20 percent of its total advertisement budget this year on paid ads aimed at the Hispanic community, mainly Spanish speakers.

While 70 percent of Hispanic adults say the census is good for U.S. Hispanics, the foreign-born were much more likely to think so — 80 percent verses 57 percent.

Foreign-born Hispanics were also more likely than native-born Hispanics to correctly say the census cannot be used to determine whether or not someone is in the country legally –69 percent versus 57 percent.

And they are more inclined than the native born to trust the Census Bureau to keep their personal information confidential. Eight-in-ten of both groups know that the bureau is required to do so; however, among those who know this, just 66 percent of the native born said they believe the bureau will abide by this requirement, compared with 80 percent of the foreign born.

Hispanics are the nation’s largest minority ethnic group. In 2008, they numbered 46.9 million, or 15.4 percent of the total U.S. population, up from 35.3 million in the 2000 Census. Among all Hispanics living in this country, 62 percent are native born and 38 percent are foreign born. Among Hispanic adults, however, just 47 percent are native born while 53 percent are foreign born.

Anti-immigration group wants 2010 Census used to find illegal immigrants

Wednesday, April 7th, 2010

Thanks to Northwestern University’s Medill News Service for the following:
By Abby Sewell
Medill News Service

WASHINGTON — An anti-immigration group has launched a push for U.S. census data to be used to enforce immigration law.

The North Carolina-based group Americans for Legal Immigration Political Action Committee called Monday for its supporters to flood congressional offices nationwide with calls to introduce legislation that would allow 2010 census data to be used to identify and deport illegal immigrants.

Immigration advocates and experts said the proposal would be unworkable and would run counter to the purpose of the census.

ALIPAC President William Gheen called his proposal a response to widespread efforts by the census to reach out to immigrant populations through measures such as Spanish-language ads.

“We can’t allow illegal aliens to steal taxpayer allocations and taxpayer representation by being counted on the census,” he said.

Rep. Roscoe Bartlett, a Republican who represents Frederick County, was among the congressional incumbents endorsed by ALIPAC in 2010. Bartlett’s spokeswoman, Lisa Wright, said to her knowledge no one had contacted the congressman’s office about the group’s proposal.

Census population figures are used, in part, to determine federal funding and congressional representation for each state.

Lisa Navarrete, vice president of the National Council of La Raza, a Hispanic advocacy organization, called ALIPAC an extremist group and equated taking their immigration policy proposals seriously with taking advice on affirmative action from a white supremacist group.

Gheen “is trying to solve a problem that doesn’t exist,” she said. “On the contrary, what the problem has been for years with the census is a significant undercount of Latinos.”

Census Bureau spokeswoman Samantha O’Neil had no specific comment on the ALIPAC proposal but said that the bureau is tasked with counting every resident, regardless of citizenship status. Federal law prohibits the Census Bureau from sharing personal information collected in the census with any other agency.

“We take our orders from the Constitution, and we’ve been doing it the same way since 1790,” O’Neil said.

The 2010 census did not include any questions about immigration status. ALIPAC is proposing that identifying information provided on census forms should be run against federal databases to flag potential illegal immigrants.

Audrey Singer, a senior fellow in the metropolitan policy program of the Brookings Institution, said it would be impossible to verify immigration status based on the information provided on the 2010 census.

“There’s no magical database out there that could accurately and reliably inform us about a person’s legal standing in the country,” she said. ” … On the accuracy of doing that, it would be a surefire failure, not to mention all of the legal and ethical consequences.”

Decimated Tribe Seeks Recognition Through 2010 Census

Wednesday, April 7th, 2010

A great feature and 2010 Census feel-good story from Lidia Crafts of Voice of America News:

A people thought to be dead for 500 years hope to prove they’re still very much alive, thanks to the 2010 census.

The census counts everyone in the United States, including territories like Puerto Rico. Thousands of Puerto Ricans are rediscovering their indigenous heritage and plan to ensure that the U.S. government knows about them.

On a blustery day at the Texas state capital building in Austin, members of the Taino tribe rally to raise awareness about the 2010 U.S. census. Dr. Ana María Tekina-eirú Maynard leads the group in song. She’s the tribe’s tequina suania, meaning she directs and teaches ceremonial dances to Tainos in the United States.

The Tainos greeted Columbus when he arrived on what is now the island of Hispanola.

Decimated tribe

She explains that the Tainos greeted Christopher Columbus when he landed in the New World in 1492, but the Spanish conquistadors who followed him decimated the tribe. Some Tainos managed to survive by fleeing to the mountains. But in the 1800s, Spain stopped counting indigenous people in the census of its colonies.

Tekina-eirú Maynard says that stripped thousands of full-blooded Tainos of their identity. “If you happened to be a Taino who lived up in the mountains and you weren’t in the sun a lot and maybe your skin was a little lighter, then they threw you in the ‘white’ bucket.”

Today, most history books say the Tainos were wiped out 50 years after the Spanish explorers arrived. After hundreds of years of mainstream thought that taught them the Tainos were dead, many Puerto Ricans forgot about their native ancestry.

Tainos like Tekina-eirú Maynard see the 2010 U.S. census as their chance to finally prove the history books are wrong.

“We are survivors,” she says. “We are part of the people who went into the mountains to survive when the conquistadores were massacring our people.”

Ana Maria Tekina-Eiru Maynard

Some Puerto Ricans plan to identify themselves as ‘Tainos’ in the 2010 US Census.

DNA link to the past

In 2000, a study funded by the National Science Foundation revealed that more than 60 percent of Puerto Ricans have Taino blood.

The chief, or Cacike, of the Tainos in Puerto Rico, said that study awakened a Taino consciousness in the Puerto Rican people. “The results showed that in every Puerto Rican, Taino blood runs in our veins.”

Following the study, Puerto Ricans from across the island and many living on the mainland had their DNA tested by submitting samples of their saliva. Many began to identify themselves as Taino, and they started working to restore their traditions by studying the stories passed down by their grandparents.

The Cacike’s wish now is for all Puerto Ricans to regain pride in their native heritage.

“Our history was written with Taino blood. The conquest cost the lives of three million people. Our beliefs were taken from us, and beliefs were imposed upon us at the point of sword and cannon. Today we are free,” he says. “We believe as our ancestors believed. And we know our spirituality is genuine. It’s true, like the light of the sun. It’s so true it’s like the wind. You cannot see it, but you can feel it.”

Seeking official recognition

Although thousands of people now identify as Taino, the tribe has yet to receive official government recognition or the federal benefits that accompany it. So Tekina-eirú Maynard was excited to learn about questions added to the 2010 census that will allow them to declare their indigenous heritage on paper.

Rene Renteria

Mario Garza speaks about the census at a pow-wow in Texas.

That is what Maria Rocha and Dr. Mario Garza are urging Latinos to do. The couple runs the Indigenous Cultures Institute, a Texas-based nonprofit that works to preserve native traditions.

Garza explains that on previous census forms, Latinos could only claim their race as ‘white’ or ‘non-white’. “We’re trying to educate these people that even if they identify as Hispanic, they still come from a very rich heritage and cultural background which is their indigenous part.”

The Indigenous Cultures Institute has been sponsoring pow-wows around Texas to urge Hispanics with Taino heritage to complete the 10 questions on the 2010 census form.

Rocha and Garza tell members of their audience they can still recognize their Latin American heritage on question 8, which addresses ethnicity. Question 9 is the one that asks about race. Rocha and Garza tell Latinos to check their race as ‘American Indian’ and to write in their tribal affiliation in the space provided. That’s where Puerto Ricans can identify themselves as ‘Tainos.’

Rocha says her group’s census campaign has also resonated with Latinos of other indigenous backgrounds across the U.S.

“People have a need to be out there and do something important for their ancestors,” she observes, “not just register with the government or tick off themselves as a number. This has some significance to our people.”

Ana Maria Tekina-Eiru Maynard

Ana Maria Tekina-Eiru Maynard participates in a ceremony in Puerto Rico.

Putting a people back into the history books

When Dr. Ana Maria Tekina-eirú Maynard learned how she could identify herself as Taino on the census, she sent an email explaining the process to 5,000 members of her tribe.

“There will be thousands of Tainos who will check the box and write the word Taino,” she says. “And I can’t wait until the census is done and all of this happens.”

At the Puerto Rican Cultural Center in Austin, she and her family practice aretos, or songs for ceremonial dances. Tekina-eirú Maynard wrote the songs and believes they were inspired by her ancestors. “I would sit on my back porch and these songs would just sort of come to me,” she says.

Proud heritage

Her 13-year-old son, William plays a traditional drum that Tainos from Puerto Rico made for him.

He says playing the aretos brings him closer to his indigenous heritage. “This is a very native, very pure thing, which, especially for me, I have a connection to this. It’s really like you can feel it in your heart.”

Tekina-eirú Maynard says the best thing about reconnecting with her Taino ancestry is that she can finally help her family understand their origins.

“I feel like I am putting my family back on track. After 500 years — that they had gone to the mountains to hide and hid so well that they forgot who they were — I feel that I have a chance now to put my family back to where they belong. And you have no idea how meaningful that is to me.”

That’s why Dr. Ana María Tekina-eirú Maynard says she will continue raising the voice of the people until every history book says the Tainos are still here.

Two interesting articles from Maryland and Texas about prisoners and the 2010 Census…

Sunday, April 4th, 2010

From the Herald-Mail in Maryland:

Bill would alter inmate count for Census

By ERIN JULIUS

ANNAPOLIS — Washington County might lose about 6,000 people from its legislative and congressional districts because of a bill that has been passed by both chambers of the Maryland General Assembly.

The bill excludes state inmates who were not state residents before their incarceration, and requires that prisoners be counted as residents of their last known address before prison.

About 6,000 prisoners are housed in the three state prisons south of Hagerstown, a prison spokesman said Friday.

Local jail populations are not included in the bill.

All but one of Washington County’s eight local lawmakers voted against the measure.

The change in how to count the population will be relevant in creating legislative districts for the U.S. Congress, Maryland General Assembly, and county and municipal governing bodies, according to the bill.

Del. Christopher B. Shank, R-Washington, called the bill “a blatant power grab by, predominantly, the Baltimore City delegation.” Changing how prisoners are counted will benefit the Baltimore City and Prince George’s County delegations because most of the prisoners in the state prison system are from the more urban areas of the state.

Sen. George C. Edwards, R-Garrett/Allegany/Washington, also expressed concerns. Two areas Edwards represents — Washington and Allegany counties — would be affected.

About 3,000 state prisoners are held in two facilities near Cumberland, a prison spokesman said.

Another 1,503 prisoners are held by the Bureau of Prisons at a federal facility in Cumberland, according to a fiscal note prepared by the Department of Legislative Services that was attached to the bill.

After the 2000 census, the ideal population for a General Assembly district — with a plus or minus 5 percent margin of error — is 112,691. The ideal congressional district size is 662,061.

The state legislative districts are expected to increase to about 120,000 following the 2010 census, and the congressional districts are expected to grow to about 722,425, according to the fiscal note.

Edwards believes the change in population counts — taking 4,000 people out of Allegany County’s population — could push the outlines of his district, District 1, further east into Washington County because Garrett and Allegany counties are not growing, Edwards said.

However, it’s tough to judge what will happen without the numbers, and with a margin of error of plus or minus 5 percent, things might stay as they are, he said.

It’s unfair, however, because having prison facilities in its midst puts pressure on a community’s public services, Edwards said. (more…)

Feud over counting homeless escalates: Census employee fired after taking worries to Rep. Doggett

Sunday, April 4th, 2010

The following comes from Statesman.com:

By Andrea Ball and Suzannah Gonzales

AMERICAN-STATESMAN STAFF

U.S. Rep Lloyd Doggett has stepped into a dispute between Travis County officials and U.S. census leaders over how the area’s homeless population will be counted for the 2010 census.

For weeks, the groups have been sparring over the times, methods and manpower needed to tally the area’s estimated 4,000 people living in shelters, camps, cars and hotels. But that conflict escalated this week when a census employee called Doggett to say she had been fired for raising concerns about the safety and accuracy of the count.

On Friday, Doggett called U.S. Census Bureau Director Robert Groves in Washington.

“Director Groves promised me he would investigate both the employee’s firing and review the best practices to accurately count the homeless,” Doggett said in a statement Friday.

Census officials across the country plan to count the homeless on three days: On Monday, workers will tally people in shelters. On Tuesday, they’ll count people at mobile food kitchens. And early Wednesday, they’ll head outside to camps and public places such as bridges and sidewalks.

It’s the Wednesday effort that has caused the most friction locally.

That count is planned for midnight to 7 a.m., a time local homeless advocates deem unsafe for census employees. Critics also say the census is not providing enough people or allowing enough time to ensure an accurate count.

“To count thousands of people over seven hours is unrealistic,” said Travis County Constable Bruce Elfant, a member of the Austin-Travis County Complete Count Committee. “This isn’t like going door to door.”

A faulty count would mean losing out on millions of dollars in federal money.

On Friday, Travis County Judge Sam Biscoe and Austin Mayor Lee Leffingwell sent a letter to a regional census official detailing their concerns about counting the homeless.

“Your own Census staffers estimate that the homeless population could be undercounted by as much as 40%,” the letter states. “This would mean 1,000 or more homeless residents would not be counted in Travis County, resulting in the loss of more than $15,000,000 to our community.”

Jeff Behler, deputy regional director for the U.S. Census Bureau, said the late-night hours were determined “because, in the research that was done by our staff, it was determined that would be the best time in which that population would be the least transient.”

Local leaders proposed holding an additional daytime event Thursday at the Palmer Events Center with food, music and giveaways for those who came to fill out the census forms. Census leaders said no, Elfant said.

“There appears to be very little wiggle room for communities that want to try innovative things,” Elfant said. “It’s been frustrating.”

Homeless advocates also worry that census takers could get hurt wandering into the greenbelts and wooded areas that late at night. David Gomez, who works with the homeless for Austin Travis County Integral Care, said homeless people could be sleeping, drunk, high on drugs or otherwise impaired.

In a memo obtained by the American-Statesman, U.S. Census Bureau employee Lisa Bayliff agreed.

“There are camps that have barbed wire stretched about 3-4 inches from the ground to trip intruders from easy access,” she wrote. “There are camps that are known meth labs; they have signs posted around the perimeter to warn people to go away … The timing of the operation is flawed and is willingly placing all Census employees at peril.”

Census takers, who will be wearing reflective vests and carrying flashlights, have been told not to wake up sleeping people, Behler said. They will travel in groups, try not to startle people and clearly communicate their intent, Behler said.

Earlier this month, Bayliff took her concerns to the Austin congressman, Doggett spokeswoman Sarah Dohl said.

But this week, Bayliff contacted the office to say she had been fired for speaking to Doggett, Dohl said. That prompted Doggett to call Grove.

Bayliff declined to comment. Jenna Steormann Arnold, spokeswoman for the U.S. Census Bureau in Central Texas, said she could not talk about specifics of the case.

“Yes, she no longer works for the Census Bureau, but since it is a personnel issue that deals with confidential information, we cannot discuss it,” she said.

LA Times: Native-born Californians regain majority status

Friday, April 2nd, 2010

Solid article on demographic shifts in Cali from the LA Times (Click HERE for complete article):

By Teresa Watanabe and Hector Becerra

California has long been the ultimate melting pot, with the majority of its population coming from outside the state.

Dust Bowl emigres, Asian railroad workers, high-tech entrepreneurs, Mexican laborers and war refugees from around the globe flocked to California. The majority migrant population filled the state’s myriad labor needs, challenged the schools with a cacophony of new languages and roiled its politics with immigration debates.

But, in a dramatic demographic shift, California’s narrative as the nation’s quintessential immigrant state is giving way to a new reality.

For the first time since the 19th century Gold Rush, California-born residents now make up the majority statewide and in most counties, according to a USC study released Wednesday. And experts predict even Los Angeles — long a mecca for new immigrants — will become majority California-born by the time the 2010 census is completed.

“Home-grown Californians are the anchor of our economic future,” said Dowell Myers, a USC urban planning and demography professor who coauthored the study. “But people are living in the past. They still think we are fighting off hordes of migrants.”

The study showed that California’s share of foreign-born residents grew from 15.1% in 1980 to a peak of 27.4% in 2007. This segment is estimated to decline to 26.6% in 2010.

Los Angeles County shows parallel trends, with foreign-born residents growing from 22.1% of the population in 1980 to 36.2% in 2006. That figure is expected to dip to 35% in 2010.

Meanwhile, the native Californian share of the population is projected to increase from 45.5% in 1980 to 54% in 2010 statewide. In Los Angeles, the homegrown share is expected to rise from 40.8% to 49.4% over the same period.

Myers said the recession and stricter immigration enforcement were probably two key factors driving down California’s foreign-born population, as fewer migrants are coming and more are leaving because they can’t find jobs. But even when the economy recovers, he said he expects the trend to continue because the state’s high housing costs and dramatically lower birthrates in Mexico will continue to suppress migration to California.