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 ‘Operations’ Category

Census worker details encounter prior to fatal police shooting

Monday, July 26th, 2010

Check out this news from the Appeal-Democrat about a California woman who was shot to death by police after some sort of incident with a Census Bureau employee:

By Rob Young

The fiance of a woman shot to death by Yuba City police is no longer charged with assaulting a U.S. Census Bureau worker.

The worker, Jeannette Sager, gave her deposition Wednesday in Sutter County Superior Court because she will be unable to attend an Aug. 27 preliminary hearing for the fiance, Lionel Craig Patterson, said Deputy District Attorney Cameron King.

Victoria Helen Roger-Vasselin was shot May 20 at her home in the 700 block of Mariner Loop after allegedly pointing a shotgun at police.

Patterson is still charged with assaulting officers with a gun, King said after the hearing.

Sager said Patterson answered the door at Roger-Vasselin’s home, then slammed it, saying “We don’t want any.”

When she rang the bell again, Patterson answered and was more receptive when he realized she was a census worker. But then Roger-Vasselin, smelling strongly of alcohol, appeared behind him and told him not to talk, Sager said.

When Patterson told her it was a census worker, Roger-Vasselin said, “We’re not doing that,” Sager said.

Patterson seemed to become hostile again and said, “Yeah, we’re not doing that,” Sager said. Sager said she apologized for interrupting their evening, explained that it would take only a few minutes to answer the questions, and that she would be sent back later if the answers weren’t provided.

Roger-Vasselin said, “Oh, really,” and pointed a dark-colored gun at her, raising it to near-shoulder level. Patterson took her hand and raised it so the gun was no longer pointing at her, Sager said.

“I was looking at her face. I thought she looked smug,” Sager said.

Sager said she backed away from the door, then ran. As she ran, Patterson yelled, “Do you think you want to come back now?” she said.

“It sounded like he was trying to provoke me in some way,” she said.

Sager said she sat in her car and cried for a couple of minutes before calling her supervisor, then drove to her home a few minutes away. But she decided not to go inside because her mother was there and would be upset by what happened she said.

Instead, Sager said, she drove to the Yuba City Marshalls store, then to Target, but didn’t go inside either store because her supervisors were calling.

A supervisor called police, who had Sager meet two officers at her house. The officers had her look at gun photos on the Internet to try and find one like the one Roger-Vasselin held. They said they were waiting for backup before going to Roger-Vasselin’s house and that Sager might be needed for a “field line-up” if there were an arrest, Sager said.

About 11:30 p.m., two other officers came and said she was needed at the Police Department “because of the way things went down at the house. They didn’t say what,” Sager said.

Patterson’s attorney, Jesse Santana, cross-examined Sager.

Sager told Santana it was still light when she arrived at Roger-Vasselin’s house, although the front porch was dim. She was wearing a U.S. Census Bureau identification card on a lanyard around her neck and was carrying a bag labeled “U.S. Census” in 2-inch letters but wasn’t sure if the label was showing, she said. (more…)

Will Microsoft rescue Florida’s census count?

Monday, July 26th, 2010

Most likely this effort is a “too little too late” scenario, but be sure to check out how Microsoft is trying to assist in enumeration efforts in Florida.

One theory is that Florida may use Micrsoft-gathered data down the road to demand a re-count or re-enumeration. A Census Bureau insider tells me the following about this topic:

1. It’s advertising.

2. To its credit, Census is less invested in Microsoft products than it could be. So Microsoft has less to lose by alienating the Census Bureau.
IBM and Oracle have BIG contracts with the Census Bureau; they probably wanted nothing to  do with Florida’s software development project.

3. FL residents deserve an apathy prize for the lack of participation in My Florida Census.

4. Do not rule out the possibility of a hidden, evil social engineering agenda on Microsoft’s part.

5. Apple revenues outpaced Microsoft’s last quarter; Microsoft is fading.

6. The failed handheld computer ran a Windows Mobile operating system. May have contributed to development problems and subsequent failure.

7. Very interesting report: “During the redistricting process in 2001, the Florida House of Representatives learned that certain areas seemed to have more voters than the 2000 census had recorded for the voting-age population. That discovery led the House to conclude that Florida’s population had been undercounted during the 2000 census.”

8. “An accurate aerial image…” Too bad the Census Bureau did not think of making better use of aerial images for the Address Canvassing operation.

9. “By using Bing Maps, the application presents highly accurate images of streets and addresses, which are often more accurate than census roads.”
Just horrible that the private sector claims their geodata is better than the Census Bureau’s.  Why hasn’t Groves massacred some Census Bureau managers for this? How much of the blame does Harris deserve for their sizable role in 2010 Census geography? Why hasn’t the Census Bureau’s management addressed this amazing claim?

And perhaps most importantly…

10. What does the State of Florida know about the Census 2000 Hialeah recount that we don’t?

Is the 2010 Census road tour still happening?

Saturday, July 24th, 2010

Even though nearly all enumerations have been completed at this point, a reader submitted a photo to us from the Whiting, Indiana Pierogi Festival (yum!) that implies partnership/outreach efforts are ongoing. MyTwoCensus.com seeks to determine why money is still being spent on partnership/road tour activities. Take a look at your tax dollars, still at work:

Field Verification: Your comments please

Friday, July 23rd, 2010

As a reader noted to me, the Vacant/Delete thread is morphing into the Field Verification thread. Let’s start a new thread here to specifically focus on Field Verification thoughts, complaints, etc.

Enjoy the weekend!

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.”

ABC affiliate says Fresno Census Bureau faces discrimination complaints

Thursday, July 22nd, 2010

FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) — Federal investigators are looking at the Fresno offices of the U.S. Census Bureau after receiving a number of employee complaints.

Investigators with the Commerce Department have been examining Fresno-area operations for the past several months. The complaints range from discrimination and bad management.

Investigators say two Caucasian workers who were let go say Hispanic employees were routinely favored for assignments over older, white workers.

The woman who oversees the Fresno Census offices says the census has been managed professionally and according to agency policies.

The Census Bureau’s most up-to-date Freedom of Information Act request log…

Tuesday, July 20th, 2010

MyTwoCensus requested a list of all FOIA requests received by the Census Bureau and here is a list of them as provided by the Census Bureau’s Freedom of Information Act office:

Most up-to-date FOIA log

Please leave your thoughts in the comments section.

A former Census Bureau employee speaks out…

Sunday, July 18th, 2010

A letter from the Lake County Record-Bee has drawn our attention.  A former enumerator writes:

Hello, I am (or was) a census enumerator and wrote a letter to Dr. Groves, The chief director of the 2010 Census, however I am unable to find his address or e-mail address, so I wanted to share my thoughts with others. It’s about my recent experience with working for the census bureau.

If I could reach Dr. Groves I would tell him the following: Hello, Dr. Groves, this is enumerator No. 3749397 coming to you out of area No. 2714. CL No. 0504.

I have been searching for someone who could address my concerns regarding the way the completion of NRFU was handled; the employment status of most of us enumerators.

It would seem a majority of us were told we would be participating in the completion of what my crew leader called “phase two” and would not be out of a job come July 22. I myself even received an extension of said temporary employment in my mailbox just a few days thereafter, and therefore remained unconcerned with procuring another job, career or any such form of income, assuming I would be continuing onto the next phase of the census and would be rather busy in the following months.

Now, personally, I have not received any further communication from office No. 2714 in regards to my continued or discontinued employment, and have made several attempts to contact them, in which case they have simply told me to ask my crew leader, who did not have any information at all.”….”I have just called my crew leader worried, as my last check will be coming in the mail this Wednesday and it will simply not be enough to get us through the month, and she informed me that if I was not called on Friday I would not be working Monday. It appears the bureau had called and selected workers completely at random, much like some sort of sick lottery and I was simply unlucky. Despite receiving an extension and the assurance of my crew leader, and others, despite being a hard and dependable worker most unlike the rest of my team and despite pushing and waiting for some form of contact from the Census Bureau, I am now unemployed and yet, technically employed until Aug. 22 thanks to your worthless extension.”

Census, employment rate wind down

Friday, July 16th, 2010

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

The Divine Impermanence of Being a Census Worker

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.

The EEO data I have been waiting for has arrived…

Wednesday, July 14th, 2010

Thanks to Michael Cook of the Census Bureau’s Public Information Office, I was able to obtain the most up-to-date data on EEO complaints. I have been waiting for the Census Bureau to get me this data for a long time now, and I’m glad that it’s here. As you will see, the number of complaints related to the decennial census is quite large. If you filed a complaint, please comment here about how the process has turned out for you and what your experience has been like:

Decennial NO FEAR Act data for 2009 and the first two quarters of 2010

Buy official 2010 Census employee gear on EBay.com

Wednesday, July 14th, 2010

Thanks to the reader who noted this in the comments section of a previous post. I have railed on the Census Bureau for a while now about how easy it is for scammers or other individuals to find 2010 Census paraphernalia because the Census Bureau didn’t use proper identifying information for its employees:

Brooklyn Ink: Passed Over, Borough Park Gets A Census Recount

Tuesday, July 13th, 2010

Here’s a great feature from a Columbia University journalism student:

By Sharyn Jackson

There was silverware to change, food to prepare, and bread to burn. One thing there wasn’t, for more than half the residents of the Borough Park section of Brooklyn, was time to fill out the 2010 census, mailed to Americans less than two weeks before Passover. The eight-day holiday commemorating ancient Jews’ exodus from Egypt requires intense preparations for the observant; because of a restrictive diet that week, houses must be scoured from top to bottom for any residual crumbs from the rest of the year. “When it comes to Passover, we put everything aside,” said Chaya Konig, 37, a Hasidic Jewish resident from Borough Park who works as an enumerator, the official name for census counters. “By the time we got to the mail after Passover, it was too late.”

The coincidence of the census’ mailing close to Passover is one reason, census officials say, that Borough Park’s mail-in response rate was less than 50 percent on average, with some tracts hovering close to 40 percent. In contrast, 55 percent of Brooklyn as a whole returned the survey, and 60 percent of all of New York City. (As of April 27, the mail-response deadline, national participation was at 72 percent.) With such a low response rate in one of New York City’s most populous neighborhoods, the census has had to revisit Borough Park residents with the help of local religious institutions and enumerators, who will finish their door-to-door efforts this week.

Due to the high birth-rate among this central Brooklyn neighborhood’s Hasidic Jewish inhabitants, the population here is expected to have increased exponentially since the last census in 2000. The New York City Department of Health has cited Borough Park as the neighborhood with the highest annual birth rate since it began keeping those statistics in 2003. With New York poised for legislative redistricting after the census results are tallied, Borough Park’s baby boom could mean more power for the Hasidic voting bloc. And with $400 billion of federal money allocated for infrastructure projects based on those results, which will be released in October, it could mean more affordable housing for this chronically overcrowded neighborhood.

“Unfortunately, the timing of the mail-out was not convenient,” said Denise da Costa Graeff, the census manager for northwest Brooklyn. “That was a major issue for this area.” Still, she said, a conflict like this one was inevitable. “I can’t speak for headquarters,” she said, “but if the national plan took into account every obstacle, we’d never get it done.”

It is not possible to cater the mailing dates to holidays, said Michael Cook, a national census spokesperson. “When we mail out the forms we totally understand that there is diversity among American residents, whether it depends upon holidays or things that are germane to their culture,” he said. But, said Cook, once the surveys reach mailboxes, Americans have roughly six weeks to fill out the form. After that, enumerators come knocking.

But the high concentration of ultra-Orthodox Jews in this neighborhood poses specific challenges even to enumeration. For one thing, women in Borough Park won’t open their doors to men they don’t know. That’s how Xiomara Luchen, 35, from the Greenwood Heights section of Brooklyn, found herself assigned to Borough Park – a place she had never even visited before. Luchen had been working for the census in nearby Sunset Park when da Costa Graeff reassigned her here in May because of a shortage of females. (The census usually assigns enumerators to work in the neighborhood in which they live.)

“I use a lot of sign language,” said Luchen, a Spanish-English interpreter and real estate agent, of dealing with the many Borough Park residents who speak Yiddish. “It’s a way to communicate.”

Luchen, who has dark hair and features, found it easier to connect with the Hasidim here than she expected. “Some people ask me, ‘Are you Jewish?’” said Luchen. “And I would say, ‘No I’m not,’ and they’d actually have a smile on their faces and say, ‘You know, you look Jewish.’”

Luchen picked up tips on the unofficial neighborhood dress code—long skirts and cardigans—from her crew leader, as well as walking around and observing the locals. “In this community,” said Luchen, “I’d rather not wear pants.”

Appearance is vital, said Chaya Konig, the Hasidic enumerator. “If you would have had this guy come with his hair standing up in a green color, they wouldn’t even open the door,” she said. We are a very close-knit community; we don’t see much of the outside world, so when we see a stranger we’re taught not to open doors.”

Census enumerator Xiomara Luchen goes door-to-door in the Borough Park section of BrooklynCensus enumerator Xiomara Luchen goes door-to-door in the Borough Park section of Brooklyn (Sharyn Jackson/ The Brooklyn Ink) (more…)

MyTwoCensus Editorial: Brooklyn scandal is just the tip of the iceberg

Monday, July 12th, 2010

What happened last month at the Brooklyn LCO was indeed unfortunate. But let us not be naive: Data collection inaccuracies and falsifications are happening throughout the entire New York Regional Area and possibly the entire nation, though perhaps on a smaller scale than in Brooklyn.

There are many luxury rental and condominum buildings where real estate management companies have a strict “no enumerator” policy, as well as tenement buildings  and brownstones where it is impossible to gain access. There are also one or two family houses where it is unclear how many people live there and a knowledgeable proxy could not be located.

For these units, some enumerators went to public search records on the Internet or merely wrote the names off the mailboxes. The mid and upper level census managers encouraged field staff to use techniques to “guesstimate,” creating major operational ambiguity for the once in a decade headcount.

What was acceptable inside the questionnaire was another problem. Most enumerators tried to get all the information but those who went to a proxy who gave them little, no, or inaccurate information, finished their areas quickly. These same field staff were rewarded with more work and allowed to clean up districts that were lagging behind.

These cases are the same ones where quality assurance suspects poor data collection practices or data falsification. However, in some cases re-interview staff are unable to locate the respondent to verify whether the interview was actually conducted and prove it definitively. Many other quality assurance managers are told to “just pass it” or are afraid to accuse enumerators of poor quality work, fearing that they will be stepping on people’s toes.

For two years municipalities and city officials preached about the beauty of the census through media and print advertising. They encouraged people to send back their census forms saying it was the only way to ensure that their residents were counted and for their community to receive the federal funding it was entitled to.

But these city officials did little in the way in forcing real estate management companies and reluctant respondents to cooperate when their participation was required. The fact that the Census Bureau and Department of Commerce made empty threats to fine people for not cooperating and then did not follow through on it shows how poorly 2010 Census data has been managed.

The offices in the five boroughs of New York will be the last in the nation to finish NRFU, whereas most areas were done weeks ago. The few career census employees who valued a fair and accurate count and finished last can not be proud of their work. Those responsible for promoting the individuals won’t let them be proud. When it comes time for their annual performance reviews, the fact they finished last will be reflected poorly and jeopardize their careers.

What happened in Brooklyn should not come as a surprise. In retrospect the Census did what it usually does. It set hard line production goals, held managers and field staff accountable and fired them if they failed to meet these goals with little constructive technical support. Those who work quickly are rewarded with more work with little regard to accuracy.

I dedicate this post to the many crew leaders, field operations supervisors and LCO manager who lost their jobs because they valued a fair and accurate count.

Will this census be our last?

Monday, July 12th, 2010

Two days ago, the BBC reported that the UK’s 2011 Census may the that nation’s last:

In future, data could be gathered from records held by the Post Office, local government and credit checking agencies – thought to be more effective.

The government said it was “examining” whether changes could be made but no decision had been reached.

This is an interesting development, particularly as funds for the 2020 Census will soon be allocated. Though pro-immigration groups and organizations like the ACLU feel that forcing everyone in America to register with the government would be problematic, many nations already have national identity cards, which, if implemented in the US, would make creating a “portrait of America” that much easier.

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.

Transcript from Census Bureau Director’s latest press briefing…

Friday, July 9th, 2010

Here’s the transcript and info from the latest press briefing. Here are some quotes of interest from Dr. Robert M. Groves:

1. On the second risk—the software systems, the new management team—I can say
honestly now that, although we had a very shaky start with these software systems, with
management interventions that were wisely done from this team, with enormous
dedication from a bunch of software engineers, we have successfully processed
47,000,000 forms through this software system that was designed to do that. It worked. It
wasn’t pretty, but it worked, and we have successfully completed that phase. We have a
few tail-end things that we’re finishing up.

2. The first operation is the biggest we’ll operate, and that’s called Coverage Follow-Up.
That actually began in mid-April, and it should finish up by August 13th. We’re calling on
about 7.5 million households. This is exploiting an innovation in the 2010 Census. If you
remember your form, there were two questions. One, is there someone at your house right
now who normally doesn’t live there? And then for every person you reported, we asked
the question, does this person sometimes live elsewhere? For the houses that checked one
of those boxes, we’re going to call back and make sure, make double sure, that we’ve
counted people once and only once. It is these complicated households where people are
coming and going and living there sometimes and not other times that pose real
challenges to get accurate counts, so we’re calling back on those.

3. The second operation, The Vacant/Delete Check, is about the same size, about 8,000,000
households, and what we’re doing there is going back on a set of households that we’ve
visited over the past few weeks where, when an enumerator went up and knocked on the
door, they determined, he or she determined, that that house was vacant on April 1. We
want to make sure that’s right. We’re going to double check that. We’re going to go back
to that house and redetermine [sic] whether that’s a correct designation for the house.
And then there are other houses on our list that went out over the past few weeks, and
when they went out to locate the house, they saw an empty lot, the house had been
destroyed, or they couldn’t find the house. It looked like our list was inappropriate. And
they marked that as a Delete. We’re going to go back out to those and make sure we got
that right before we finalize the operation.

4. The third operation is called Field Verification. It will began August 6th and it will go
through early September. This is really our last operation in terms of time. It’s pretty
small. We’re going to about 400,000 addresses. This is a check on a set of cases that is,
itself, the result of our efforts to count everyone. So, in March and April, if you didn’t get
a form, we said you could go to a local facility and pick up what we call a Be Counted
form. People did that. Not too many people, but people did it. And on that form we asked
you to write your address. We’ve examined every one of those forms already. And
sometimes, when we look at the address, we can’t match it to anything we have on our
list. On those kinds of cases, we’re going to go back out. We’re going out to that house
and we’re going to make sure we can find it. We can understand the address, we know
what block it’s in, and we can place it correctly in that block.

5. One another note that is useful to make. If you’re out there, or if your audience has the
following thoughts, “Gee, I don’t believe I got a mail questionnaire. I know I didn’t send
it back. I haven’t had anyone knock on my door. I’m afraid I’m not counted.” We still
have a facility for you, an 800 number. 866-872-6868. If you press the right buttons, I’m
told, rather slowly, you will get connected to an interviewer who will take your data right
on the phone. And that’s still open. That’ll be open until the end of July, roughly.

6. This was a short form only census. In 2000, the short-form had a response rate about ten
percentage points than the then long-form. We were counting on this. This was part of the
success. This is really the only way we achieved that 72% mail out response rate, I’m
pretty sure. Secondly, remember we had a bilingual form that was sent to areas that were
disproportionately Spanish-only speakers. We’ve analyzed those data. That thing worked
the way we wanted it to work. It increased the return rate in high prevalence Spanish-
speaking areas, we’re pretty sure. It’s a complicated analysis that will take longer to do,
but we’re pretty sure that thing worked the way we wanted it to.

7. We have a lot of junk on the list.” We deleted about 4.1 million cases in 2010. In 2000, we deleted
6,000,000. We like that contrast. Right? It looks the list is cleaner on the Delete side.

8. In the 2000 cycle, we were able to do reinterviews [sic] on 75% of the interviewers. 75% of the
enumerators got at least one case in their workload redone and checked. We’re essentially
at 100% now; we’re 99. something. That’s a good thing. That means we can say honestly
that a piece of every Census worker’s work was redone, independently, and checked to
see if we found any departures from training guidelines. We like that result.

9. This Vacant/Delete Check will really nail that number, but right now we stand, as of today, we found about 14.3 million vacant
homes versus 9.9 in the 2000 cycle.

10. We have about 47,000,000 households, we have about 565,000
interviewers, it looks like the number of cases that we judged as so severely mismatched
that it could’ve been a fabrication incident is less than a thousand out of those 565,000.
This is, by the way, below what we expected. And we feel good about that, because we
know we’ve sampled work from every interviewer, essentially.

11. Now, the second question is about prosecution. We are not in the prosecution game, as
you know. When there are severe, endemic, large amounts of fabrication, then that’s a
matter where we would call the Inspector General, if they weren’t aware of it already.
They do an independent investigation, and then they would make a recommendation to
the relevant U.S. attorney to prosecute or not prosecute.

12. It is feasible, as the caller noted, that we would count someone both at a soup kitchen one
day and then we would visit an encampment, or a group of people sleeping under an
overpass. When we visit them in the evening, it is very common that those people are
worried about their own safety. They protect themselves in various ways, to make sure
they’re not harmed physically. It is common that when we visit those outdoor locations,
that we can’t get the names and age and race of each individual. They say essentially,
“We don’t want to talk to you.” As a last resort, in those cases, we enumerate, we count,
Person 1, Person 2–  that’s about the best we can do.

13. ANDREA ISHAL: I’m Andrea Ishal,  …(inaudible) Reporters. I wanted to follow up on
one question that came before, and then ask one of my own. You had said that there were
1,000 cases–  was that 1,000 individuals out of 585,000, or was it a thousand cases out of
the 47,000,000.

GROVES: What I wanted to say—and we’re still doing this, so I don’t know the final
numbers—but we’re confident that it will be less than 1,000 people who, in
reinterviewing cases they did, we have judged falsified those cases. That’s 1,000 out of
565,000 roughly.

14. The number, just for talking purposes, in talking about the marginal cost
of calling on a case and doing an interview is about a $57 a household or about $25 a
person. And those are numbers that we’re still working with. We’ll refine those numbers
based on our experience as soon as we collect all the data.

15. JEFF COONER:  The second question was, you were talking about being under budget,
so I wanted to know what the budget was and what we actually spent.

GROVES:  Yea, yea. Well, again, we’re not sure on this. But we’re coming in at the
Non-Response Follow-Up stage at about 70%-75%  of the budget. We’re not through
with that yet, so we’re not able to report on that. But that’s a significant cost savings,
we’re sure. The why of those cost savings are important to note, too. Part of it is our
workload was lower than we were prepared to do. These are good things. We had less
cases than we were ready to call on; that we thought we’d have to call on. The second
thing that happened was, we’re now pretty sure, that the work of this labor force that we
engaged was just smoother. We got cases in faster than we thought. We think the
productivity was greater. I’ve noted several times that we are blessed.

16. SARA HASAID: Hi, Sara Hasaid from AFP. You mentioned that the number of cases in
which you had to appeal to a landlord or a building manager to get information was
higher this time around. Can you give me any sense of actually what those figures are and
why that might be?

GROVES: I can. And it’s roughly 21% or 22% of the 47,000,000 that we went on to
knock on the door. And if you look, it’s a bit of apples and oranges. But if you look at the
2000 rate, that was about 17%, so it’s a little higher. Did you have a second question?

[off mic]

There are a lot of different reasons. This tracks trends and surveys. For those of you who
know a little about surveys, you know it’s harder to get a hold of us than it used to be.
People are at home less frequently, for a lot of complicated reasons. These 47,000,000
households, by the way, are the households that chose not to return the mail
questionnaire. These are really busy people. And so that’s part of it. And there’s a
reluctance in that contrast between 17% and 22% that we don’t know the components of
yet. People who open the door, they’re at home, but they say, “I don’t want to do this.”
And we go back repeatedly, we send different enumerators, and as a last resort, then we’ll
ask a building manager or a neighbor.

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.

To 2020 and beyond…

Thursday, July 8th, 2010

In my humble opinion, I think it is utter nonsense when journalists, other than those of the tech variety,  are already publishing pieces about the 2020 Census in their reportage. Their are so many stories about the 2010 Census that lack coverage. The implementation of technology for 2020 likely won’t even get to the drawing board stage for another 5 years as tech development is so rapid that we won’t know what is available yet.  Nonetheless, here’s some news on this topic from USA Today. Journalists are already trying to create a stir by focusing on issues like how to use the Internet in 2020 and the potential use of the controversial art of statistical sampling…

Census Bureau Press Release About Today’s Press Conference

Wednesday, July 7th, 2010

Here it is, more details and analysis coming soon:

Census Bureau Director Reports 2010 Censuson Schedule, Under Budget
Census Moves into Quality Assurance Operations to Help Ensure Complete,
Accurate Count

As census takers across the nation finish the 2010 Census door-to-door
follow-up operation, the U.S. Census Bureau has entered the quality
assurance phase, where select households around the country will be
contacted by a census worker. Three major operations occur this summer that
mark the peak of efforts to ensure data accuracy.

The 2010 Census is on schedule and significantly under budget but not
fully completed. The Census Bureau systematically re-interviews 5 percent
of the households that each census worker visits to confirm that all of the
600,000 census takers followed training protocols and produced accurate
data.

“We thank the American public for their participation in our
door-to-door follow-up phase and for their continued patience as we enter
the next vital stage of the 2010 Census,” said Census Bureau Director
Robert M. Groves. “We ask that if you are one of the few homes
re-interviewed, called or visited this summer during our quality assurance
operations, please take a few minutes to help us ensure that the 2010
Census is complete and accurate.”

Groves expressed confidence that census takers are doing a quality job,
and he reaffirmed that the current process enables the Census Bureau to
catch any errors or corner-cutting and initiate immediate corrections.

In the coverage follow-up operation, the Census Bureau calls households
to eliminate confusion about the number of people reported in a household
to make certain there are no missing or double-counted individuals. As the
nation experiences one of the highest vacancy rates in recent years, the
vacant/delete check operation requires census workers to visit households
that were listed as vacant on April 1 (Census Day) to double-check that no
individual has been left out. The field verification operation verifies the
location of addresses provided by Be Counted forms or through telephone
interviews to ensure everyone is counted in the correct location.

“Decades of census taking have taught us the importance of the quality
assurance phase, and we know crucial federal funding and congressional
apportionment relies heavily on our ability to produce an accurate census
count,” Groves said. “That is why these quality assurance operations —
inspired by our mantra to count everyone once, only once, and in the right
place — are critical to our country’s future.”