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 ‘Public Relations’ Category

Sending a 2010 Census totem pole from Alaska to Washington – On your dime!

Monday, August 2nd, 2010

UPDATE: Steve Jost just wrote the following to me:

The image you posted is not that of the 2010 Census Totem.  You can see the totem in this video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ny0-29Ig-FY

Since you have prejudged the value of this important promotional effort before knowing anything about the cost, I’m doubtful the following will be of much solace to you.

In early 2010 while plans were being made for the first enumeration in Noorvik, Alaska, one of the oldest native organizations in the state made a significant gesture. The Alaska Native Brotherhood passed a resolution supporting the Census and forming the creation of a totem pole to mark this significant event.  Our Seattle Region put together a plan to commission the art, and have it travel Alaska and Washington State tribal events for several months  to promote participation in the 2010 Census.  The totem pole is a storytelling icon steeped in the culture and traditions of the Alaska Native and Northwest Pacific Coastal peoples. It is an immediately recognizable symbol to the native people throughout America’s largest state.

The art was commissioned at a cost of $20,000.  The cost to have it travel across the country for permanent display at Census is $3,111.   We believe strongly that this has been a very effective promotional investment that symbolizes the Census Bureau’s constitutional mandate to ensure a complete count of all tribal lands, especially the 564 Federally recognized tribes.  The response to the Census Totem encouraged us to find a permanent home for it here at our headquarters along with other historical Census artifacts.

Now, this must be one of the most flagrant instances of waste that I have ever read about. A “totem pole” that has been created to celebrate the 2010 Census is traveling thousands of miles from Juneau, Alaska to Washington D.C. I’ve already e-mailed Steve Jost at the Census Bureau to find out some more info about the cost of this commission and the transportation of this object. Here’s the report from the Juneau Empire:

JUNEAU – For the first time in history, the 2010 Census commissioned Sitka carver Tommy Joseph to design and carve a totem pole specifically for the Census. Since its completion this spring, the totem pole has traveled throughout many communities in Southeast Alaska during the census data collection process. The totem is currently on display at Goldbelt’s Mt. Roberts Tramway in Juneau.

A celebration and dedication will be held as the totem begins its journey to its new home at the Census Bureau’s headquarters near Washington, D.C. All are invited to attend the celebration beginning at 9:30 a.m. on Monday, Aug. 2 at the Mount Roberts Tramway. Meet the artist, enjoy traditional songs and dances performed by the Children of All Nations, and join the event with other special guests.

WSJ: Alternative methods of counting for the Census Bureau

Monday, August 2nd, 2010

Here’s a great article from the Wall Street Journal…Be careful, otherwise you might end up like William Rickenbacker:

By CARL BIALIK

Even in a mandatory census, there are conscientious objectors.

Completing a census form is required by law, but census takers haven’t been able to get any information from more than 500,000 U.S. households this year. While census evaders theoretically can be fined up to $5,000, in practice they are rarely penalized—none were in 2010 or in 2000—for fear of creating a public backlash.

[NUMBGUY] Eddie Rickenbacker Papers, Auburn University Library Special CollectionsWilliam Rickenbacker was fined $100 for refusing to respond to a 1960 census questionnaire, making him one of the few Americans to ever face a penalty for noncompliance.

Instead, the Census Bureau combines threats of penalties with painstaking follow-up over the phone and in person, including interviews with neighbors of nonresponding households. That approach, backed by rapidly rising spending for advertising and census workers, yields near-complete coverage of the U.S. population.

That balancing act is costly, but it yields better statistics than a voluntary census, statisticians say. Calling a survey mandatory boosts participation significantly, they argue, even when enforcement is limited. That is why some data experts in Canada are assailing the government’s new plan to make many census questions there optional.

But as the 2010 U.S. decennial census winds down, a number of critics say even more reliable demographic data could be obtained at far less cost. They point to a system in some European countries that links personal identification numbers to government records on births, deaths, housing and other characteristics. That allows for an annual census rather than waiting every 10 years, and eliminates much of the error experts say arises when people self-report their information.

“The statistical systems in the Netherlands and Germany are much better than our statistical system, because they have a registration system,” said Kenneth Prewitt, the director of the Census Bureau during the 2000 census and now a professor of public affairs at Columbia University. (more…)

Orlando workers walk off the job

Saturday, July 31st, 2010

The Orlando Sentinel brings us the following story:

3 census workers quit, citing waste and inefficiency

Census complaintFormer census worker Andy Miller, who quit over procedures he considered wasteful and illogical, in front of the Volusia County office of the U.S. Census Bureau –with his complaint papers in hand– in Daytona Beach, Tuesday, July 27, 2010. (JOE BURBANK, ORLANDO SENTINEL / July 27, 2010)

By Jeff Kunerth, Orlando Sentinel7:39 p.m. EDT, July 29, 2010

As the 2010 census winds down, three Volusia County census takers couldn’t wait for the latest phase of the headcount to end. They walked off the job three days after they started, adding to the complaints that the effort is wasteful, inefficient and frustrating.

Andy Miller, 54, of Daytona Beach said he quit after being told by his supervisor to return three times to a vacant house that he verified with a real-estate agent had been empty for more than six months.

“It was clear to me the Realtor had the information, but I was told, ‘No, go back. You might find someone who was living there that the Realtor didn’t know about,’” Miller said.

The same instructions — go back three more times — applied to an apartment above a store; the owner said the apartment was used for storage and was unoccupied. Miller also was told to go back another three times to a home where a relative of the homeowner provided all the information by proxy.

“If you get the person who lived there, you don’t have to go back. But if you get a proxy, you had to go back,” Miller said.

A Census Bureau spokeswoman said the check-back-three-times routine is standard procedure to make sure the census takers get the best information possible.

“That is the policy we expect people to follow,” said Pamela Page-Bellis. “We don’t want people to take the easy way out. They are to gather the most accurate information possible.”

Miller was told the same thing by his supervisor when he appealed what he considered absurd and illogical instructions. That was when Miller and two others in an eight-person crew walked out July 10 — three days into their summer job of checking for vacant houses and addresses that should be deleted.

Jeanne Tanke said she walked out with Miller because she was frustrated with the policy of going back to a vacant apartment or condo three times before being permitted to talk to the building manager about whether anyone was living in the units. In some cases, the same addresses had been visited three times by the door-to-door enumerators in the previous phase of the census.

“It didn’t seem logical to me that we kept knocking on the door when nobody answers, but we can’t ask the manager until we’ve been there three times,” said Tanke, 71.

The third person who quit said he objected in particular to having to go back three times to empty houses that are verifiably empty.

“It’s just inefficiency. That’s all it is,” said the 68-year-old retired sales manager who didn’t want his name used for fear it would jeopardize any future employment by the government.

All three former census takers worked during the manpower-intensive, door-to-door part of the census that ended in May. Thousands of enumerators were laid off, but they were among those chosen to continue in the slimmed-down follow-up efforts that started June 28 and are scheduled for completion by Aug. 25.

What the Census Bureau defends as being as thorough and accurate as possible, Miller and the others regard as a system designed to take as much time as possible. The attitude of managers, they said, was that the three-visit rule was a good way to make the job last longer.

“They alluded to this can take three days or three weeks. It’s up to us,” said the retired sales manager. “I don’t feel right about padding hours.”

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

Friday, July 30th, 2010

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

07/18/2010

ATTENTION : 2010 Census Managers

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

ACTION: Please share the information with the appropriate field staff

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

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

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

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

07/15/2010

ATTENTION : 2010 Census Managers

SUBJECT: MaRCS NRFU users account maintenance

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

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

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

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

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

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

07/09/2010

ATTENTION : 2010 Census Managers

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

ACTION: Please share the information with the appropriate field staff

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

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

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

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

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

ATTENTION : 2010 Census Managers

SUBJECT:

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

ACTION: Please share the information with the appropriate field staff

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

ATTENTION : 2010 Census Managers

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

ACTION: Please share the information with the appropriate field staff

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Yesterday’s New York Times editorial is a farce and here’s why…

Wednesday, July 28th, 2010

Yesterday, the New York Times ran the following editorial:

The 2010 census, in its final stages, has apparently been a success — something not thought possible just a couple years ago, when unsteady management, political interference and other problems threatened to derail the effort. The count was salvaged only after last-minute scrambling and major new spending — and after new leaders were put in place by the Obama administration.

For a time, it seemed as if Congress would learn the lessons from the near disaster of 2010. In March, a bipartisan group of House and Senate lawmakers introduced a bill to improve the census, mainly by giving the bureau director more power to run the agency without interference. In April, the Senate committee in charge of the census unanimously passed the bill. The bill has not gone anywhere since then.

Why does that matter, when the next count is a decade away? The best chance for passing a bill is now, when public awareness of the census is high. And the sooner reform is passed, the better, because census planning, done right, is a decade-long project.

The administration, which had to rescue the current census, should certainly know that. But it is the administration that appears to be standing in the way.

At a hearing this spring, one of the bill’s co-sponsors, Senator Thomas Carper, Democrat of Delaware, said that Commerce Secretary Gary Locke had complained about a provision giving the director greater independence to communicate directly with the commerce secretary and Congress about problems with the census. He said Mr. Locke also objected to giving the director greater influence over the bureau’s budget.

Mr. Carper suggested that independence to communicate was nonnegotiable, but a compromise on the budget could be found. There is no sign of progress.

In the next few weeks, Mr. Carper’s staff will issue a report on the bill to help other senators as they consider the legislation. The bill is a brief 11 pages and it is uncontested, at least on Capitol Hill. How much help do the other senators really need?

Mr. Carper should speed up the report. If the administration still has problems with the bill, it should make them public and allow the process to move forward openly. Basic reform of the census is needed, and the time to make those changes is slipping away.

MyTwoCensus analysis:

The first part of this editorial labels the 2010 Census a “success” but never states why it is considered as such. Perhaps this is based on the cursory observation of the participation/response rates that were similar to those of 2000. This may be a “success” when taking a quick glance at figures, but let us remember that the Census Bureau’s budget for 2010 was infinitely larger than it was in 2000. (And it took home an extra $1 billion in funding from the stimulus package.)

The second half of this disjointed editorial has a bit of validity, though it isn’t articulated well. Yes, it would be better for America for the Census Bureau Director to have a fixed term that ends in a year that is in between Presidential election years. But Gary Locke has legitimate concerns, and those must be addressed before rushing a bill through committee. The same Senate that can’t pass Climate legislation that’s been on the table forever shouldn’t be expected to jump on legislation related to the 2020 Census.

And here’s a little caveat/prediction for the New York Times: When the mainstream media learns just how much of a mess the 2010 Census was in some parts of the country, and in particular New York (where a dense concentration of media moguls and reporters utterly failed to cover the giant mess that is the New York regional census office) they will be begging for re-enumerations, recounts, and heads to be put on the chopping block. MyTwoCensus.com will elaborate more on this information in the coming days and weeks.

Note: An earlier version of this post questioned why President Obama hadn’t signed a bill seeking to reform the GOP’s “census” mailers. I referred to a blog post that I wrote on May 18, 2010. I subsequently learned from comments on this post that President Obama signed the bill on May 24. I was never made aware of this action by President Obama until today and I apologize for the confusion. Those people who refer to a bill from April should know that the GOP found a loophole in this legislation and continued to issue deceptive mailers. Furthermore, the comment about President Obama was just an aside from a post that focuses on many other important matters which I hope are not overshadowed by my simple error.

Another census lawsuit; this one focuses on race

Wednesday, July 28th, 2010

From Giselle Springer-Douglas, the Seattle correspondent for Examiner.com:

A potentially controversial lawsuit filed in federal court alleges that on both the 2000 and 2010 Census forms, the U.S. Census Bureau’s and the Office of Management and Budget’s “representation of race was false, misleading, deceptive, and, therefore, fraudulent,” and that its “negligence contributes to a historical and sustained pattern of personally-mediated, institutional, and internalized racism in this country…”

The lawsuit, Koe v. U.S. Census Bureau, focuses on the 2000 and 2010 Census forms because the plaintiff, using the pseudonym “Jane Koe,” states that she participated in those Census periods by completing and returning the Census forms.

In her complaint, Koe requests a number of remedies, including a petition that the court order the defendants to notify every recipient of the 2010 Census form that “race in this country is defined by the Office of Management and Budget, reflects a social definition of race, and in no way conforms to any biological, anthropological or genetic criteria.”

In framing her complaint, Koe claims that verbiage on the 2000 Census site in a section entitled “Questions and Answers for Census 2000 Data on Race” acknowledges that race is merely a social construct (a concept that is the artifact of a particular group rather than the product of science).

Koe says that she had, up until recently, believed “race was a concept grounded in scientific fact” and attributes this belief partly to “the federal government’s historical propagation of the genetics-based race ‘fact.’” Koe argues that, “By failing to explicitly correct this erroneous belief, despite knowing that the general populace believes race to be based on scientific fact, the Defendants’ representation of race was false, misleading, deceptive and, therefore, fraudulent.”

As Koe is presently representing herself, the complaint is currently undergoing judicial review—a process that is standard for complaints filed by self-represented plaintiffs.

A copy of the complaint, originally filed July 14, 2010 in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Washington (case 10-CV-1142), can be found on Seattle, WA-based group I Am Malan’s website at http://www.iammalan.org/greatracecase.htm.

The MyTwoCensus.com verdict: This sounds like a farce that won’t go anywhere. Case closed?

MyTwoCensus Scoop: Census Bureau regional partnership coordinator running as a Democrat for New York State Assemblyman while still on the job

Tuesday, July 27th, 2010

UPDATE: At 10:00, a credible e-mail came in to the MyTwoCensus inbox stating that Mr. Dominguez was upset at his office. At 10:50, I spoke with Steve Jost, Associate Director of the Census Bureau, who informed me that Mr. Dominguez is no longer employed by the Census Bureau. Presumably, he was fired as a result of this scoop.

Rafael Dominguez, a New York-based regional partnership coordinator for the US Census Bureau since early 2008 has filed a petition to run as a Democrat for Assemblyman for New York’s 82nd District. Yet, as Census Bureau Associate Director Steve Jost recently commented on a MyTwoCensus.com post, the Hatch Act, “prohibits federal employees from engaging in partisan political activities while on duty.”

The problem is not that Mr. Dominguez is running for office, the problem is that he is running for office while an employee of the federal government and campaigning on the Census Bureau/taxpayer’s dime. MyTwoCensus.com has also learned that other Census Bureau employees who are underlings of Mr. Dominguez have been performing campaign activities while on official Census Bureau duty. These employees include other partnership assistants in the New York area:  Ed LaFranco and Adrian Tapia.

New Yorkers should be entitled to a partisan-free census, and Mr. Dominguez’s overt Democratic Party affiliations require the Census Bureau to fire him immediately. MyTwoCensus has subsequently learned that Mr. Dominguez used his (massive) budget for partnership materials to fund events and organizations that will benefit his political campaign.

Admittedly, it will be difficult to prove that partnership  funding was diverted for specific purposes that relate to the campaign, but such activities should immediately be scrutinized and audited more thoroughly than they already are. (MyTwoCensus.com has learned that the New York Census Bureau’s partnership office is currently undergoing a major audit. Perhaps this audit is directly tied to Dominguez and his misuse of funds, but more likely it has to do with rampant excesses by the Census Bureau’s partnership specialists.)

Here is the photographic evidence of the campaign activities that Mr. Dominguez has been engaged in while a Census Bureau employee:

Note the Census Bureau’s extensive partnership budget that includes $120 million from the stimulus package:

Picture 14

Announcing the MyTwoCensus.com book

Monday, July 26th, 2010

This may come as a surprise, or perhaps it is the next logical step in the life of MyTwoCensus.com. I will likely be writing a book about the 2010 Census in the near future. I am hoping to interview dozens of 2010 Census employees from all regions/positions for this work. Please shoot an e-mail to mytwocensus {at} mytwocensus.com if you are interested in sharing your stories! Please provide your contact information.

Many thanks,
Stephen

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:

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.

Census Director Groves is king of the world (of advertising)

Monday, July 19th, 2010

Dr. Robert Groves, Director of the U.S. Census Bureau, delivers the opening salvo at The Advertising Research Foundation AM5.0 – AUDIENCE MEASUREMENT EARTHQUAKE. There is no singular event with greater influence on the next ten years of audience measurement and marketing than the 2010 Census. Groves presents the ultimate “insider” preview of the much-anticipated 2010 Census report to be released next year.

MyTwoCensus.com hopes to learn how much $ Dr. Groves raked in for this keynote address…

Stay tuned for Dr. Groves’ exit from the federal government followed by his immediate decision to join a Fortune 500 company as the director of Market Research…

Pew Research Center: 22% of NRFU based on proxy interviews is bad news for accuracy

Friday, July 16th, 2010

Despite yesterday’s claims by Robert M. Groves that the 2010 Census is accurate and trustworthy, the fact that 22% of NRFU interviews were done by proxies is scary. D’Vera Cohn writes the following:

As the 2010 Census information-gathering phase winds down and the Census Bureau turns to quality-checking and data-processing, Director Robert Groves offered some statistics at a recent operational briefing to assess how the national count has gone thus far. One indicator, the quality of the address list, appears to have improved since the 2000 Census. Another, the share of proxy interviews, has worsened.

The foundation of a good census is having a complete list of addresses because Americans are counted at their homes or the other places they are living. The quality of the address list is important in aiding census-takers who head out on follow-up visits to people who did not return their mailed-out questionnaires.

During the recent non-response follow-up operation, Groves said, census-takers found fewer non-existent addresses on their rounds in 2010 than their counterparts had in 2000. In 2000, 6 million non-existent addresses were deleted from the list because census-takers could not find them. In 2010, 4.1 million were deleted. During follow-up visits, census-takers also are supposed to look for addresses that are not on the official list, so they can be added. In 2010, Groves said, “we had fewer adds proportionately” compared with 2000, although he said this is not as much of a “hard quality indicator” because it could mean that census-takers did not follow procedures for including new addresses.

On another quality measure, Groves said census-takers who were trying to collect information at addresses from which census forms were not received had to rely more heavily on neighbors and building managers than was the case during the 2000 Census. In 2000, about 17% of follow-up interviews were from proxies, not from the householders themselves, compared with 22% in 2010. This is of concern because proxy data traditionally has been less accurate than information that people provide about themselves. Groves said “this fits the expectation we had with regard to the cooperation of the American public.” Some people were never home during repeated visits by census-takers; others refused to provide information about themselves.

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:

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.