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 ‘Technology’ Category

Transcript from most recent Census Bureau press conference now available…

Saturday, May 8th, 2010

Click HERE to read the transcript and/or watch the video from last Monday’s briefing at the National Press Club. Stay tuned for analysis of the transcript on Monday, particularly focusing on the failures of the paper-based operations control system (PBOCS) that Dr. Groves and reporters have discussed…

NRFU Operations: Missing binders or other materials in your area?

Thursday, May 6th, 2010

There have been numerous complaints on MyTwoCensus blogs about missing binders for NRFU (non-response follow-up) operations. Let’s try to track where this is a problem by writing your stories and locations in the comments section of this post. Thanks! SRM

Response to Census Bureau Associate Director for Communications Steve Jost’s comments on this site…Fact-checking his fact-check

Thursday, May 6th, 2010

Yesterday, Steve Jost of the Census Bureau wrote the following comment on this site. I am sure you will appreciate my response which is below his remarks:

Factcheck.

1. You are mistaken when you write that the 2000 Census lacked a multimillion dollar ad campaign. The 2000 Census was the first to use paid advertising, with a total media buy of $110 million. Adjusted for inflation, that would be $160 million in 2010 dollars.

-Steve Jost, Associate Director for Communications, US Census Bureau

@Steve Jost – It’s quite fun to fact-check your inaccurate fact-checking. And quite frankly, if you truly believe the following, it scares me that you are the associate director of a statistical agency:

I have not had the time to fully check your “fact-check”, but taking a quick glance at your assertion that $110 million in 2000 was $160 million in 2010, I almost keeled over with laughter about the level of inaccuracy. $110 million in 2000 is equivalent to actually $139 million (and change) today. Don’t believe me?

If you want to fact-check me fact-checking your fact-check, I urge you to consult your buddies at the Bureau of Labor Statistics (http://data.bls.gov/cgi-bin/cpicalc.pl) or perhaps some other folks with a better inflation calculator (http://www.usinflationcalculator.com/) who provided me with this most sound data. Let’s hope the 2010 Census statistics aren’t released to the media in such an inaccurate way.

Have a good day,

SRM

Inspector General’s report on the 2010 Census to be released later today…Here’s a sneak peak from the AP

Thursday, May 6th, 2010

The Commerce Department Inspector General’s report that will soon be publicly available may shed some light on major cost overruns at the Census Bureau. The AP obtained a copy on Wednesday, and here’s what they said about it:

WASHINGTON — A new audit questions whether the 2010 census can stick to its $15 billion budget because of computer problems that are forcing substantial overtime work.

The report from the Commerce Department inspector general’s office was obtained Wednesday by The Associated Press. It says glitches with the computer system used to manage the door-to-door count caused a 40-hour backlog of work over two weeks.

The report notes that the Census Bureau has already notched more than $1.6 million in overtime costs, and says continuing shutdowns could put the count’s accuracy at risk if census data can’t be put into the system immediately.

Census Bureau director Robert Groves says he believes the agency will stay within its budget.

Courier-Journal: Jello powder disrupts Census work in Jeffersonville

Wednesday, May 5th, 2010

H/t to Harold J. Adams of the Louisville, Kentucky Courier-Journal for the following report about one of the Census Bureau’s three data capture centers:

A red powder that prompted authorities to evacuate a Census Bureau warehouse in Jeffersonville on Tuesday morning turned out to be Jell-O.

That’s according to David Hackbarth, director of the bureau’s National Processing Center on East 10th Street.

Hackbarth said similar incidents have happened multiple times since the census began.

About 200 employees were forced to leave the warehouse about 8 a.m. after the bureau’s onsite response team could not identify the powder found along with a mailed-in census questionnaire in an envelope opened by a worker an hour earlier. The all-clear was given shortly before 1 p.m.

A 20,000-square-foot work bay was on lock-down with no one allowed in or out during the hour that census officials investigated the substance. Then it was determined to evacuate the 200 workers who had been isolated in the bay and call 911 to get help from the Jeffersonville Fire Department and the National Guard’s hazardous materials team in Louisville, Hackbarth said.

The employees were kept out of the building during the National Guard investigation.

“This makes our nineteenth incident since we started the census” in March, Hackbarth said.

In sixteen of the previous incidents, Census Bureau security was able to determine the substances were harmless without calling in outside help. Two other incidents did require National Guard help, but were also found to be harmless, Hackbarth said.

The evacuation of the warehouse temporarily suspended the processing of incoming census forms, he said, but other operations proceeded normally.

“Fortunately, we are ahead of our processing curve,” he said.

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

Tuesday, May 4th, 2010

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Essential Information: Common 2010 Census Acronyms/2010 Census Employee Handbook

Tuesday, May 4th, 2010

On this web site, particularly in the comments section, many people use acronyms and other jargon associated with the 2010 Census. MyTwoCensus has obtained both a list of acronyms — essentially a 2010 Census dictionary — and an employee handbook that you can use as you need it. I will be linking to this post in our “links” section so this information is easily accessible for all:

Common 2010 Census Acronyms (a 2010 Census dictionary)

2010 Census Employee Handbook (technically called the D590)

And even more acronyms/definitions available from the Census Bureau’s glossary: http://www.census.gov/dmd/www/glossary.html

Dr. Groves calls a software change from two years ago a “late change” in operations strategy. MyTwoCensus says this is nonsense.

Saturday, May 1st, 2010

Earlier today, the Associated Press released a short article (below) that discusses the Census Bureau’s repeated paper-based operations control system failures. In response to Census Bureau Director Robert M. Groves’ comment that, “the problems stem from a late change from a handheld device system to the paper-based system” I can simply point to a response I just received from Michael Cook, Chief of the Decennial Media Relations Branch at the Census Bureau’s Public Information Office. Cook wrote me, “The change to a paper-based NRFU operation ordered two years ago by then-Commerce Secretary Gutierrez, required us to develop PBOCS in a compressed time-frame.” Now, this makes no sense. TWO YEARS IS NOT A COMPRESSED TIME FRAME. It is a ridiculously long amount of time to use engineers to tweak and test a system to make it perfect. Once again, the Census Bureau’s IT failures are pathetic and unaccepptable in the year 2010.

LOS ANGELES — The U.S. Government Accountability Office says a computer system needed to finish the 2010 census may not be up to the job.

GAO Strategic Issues Director Robert Goldenkoff said Friday before a congressional hearing in Los Angeles that the Paper Based Operations Control System hasn’t demonstrated the ability to meet peak requirements of the census as it seeks to count residents who did not return forms by mail.

Census Director Robert Groves says in a statement that the problems stem from a late change from a handheld device system to the paper-based system.

He says the system has worked well so far but that the agency is not out of the woods yet.

The GAO says the Census Bureau is otherwise well-positioned to finish the door-to-door count, which begins Saturday.

Census Bureau IT problems remain unresolved

Friday, April 30th, 2010

Finally, a source other than MyTwoCensus.com has noticed and reported on the multitude of IT failures at the Census Bureau. H/t to Edwin Mora of CNSNews.com for the following piece…but hopefully the mainstream media — not just Conservative media outlets like CNSNews — will start to address these problems:

Census Still Struggling With IT Problems That May Affect Count’s Accuracy
Friday, April 30, 2010
By Edwin Mora


Census Bureau Director Robert M. Groves. (AP Photo/U of Mich.,Paul Jaronski)
(CNSNews.com) – The U.S. Census Bureau is still having problems with its computer system that handles the data for households that did not return a census form. However, the Census Bureau director said the system has successfully printed out the assignments for the enumerators who will conduct in-person interviews with households that did not mail in their forms.

“We continue to struggle with the software system called the paper-based operation control system, but we passed, just amazingly, a wonderful threshold last week where we printed out assignments for all these enumerators,” said Census Bureau Director Robert Groves. “It worked.”

The Census director made the comments at a press briefing on the Census participation rate, which took place at the National Press Club in Washington on Thursday.

Groves said the Bureau is not fond of its paper-based operation control system (PBOCS), which is used to manage the non-response follow-up (NRFU). The NRFU, set to begin May 1, is the Census’ largest operation and involves census workers personally interviewing millions of people nationwide who did not respond to the mailed Census questionnaire.

“Slightly more than 72 percent of U.S. households believed to be occupied mailed back their 2010 Census forms, the same rate that was achieved in 2000,” the U.S. Census Bureau announced on Apr. 28.

“Not that it is the most loved piece of software in the Census Bureau, but it’s working well enough to get the census down so far,” said Groves.

“We have assignments ready for 600,000 people who are ready to hit the streets on Saturday,” he added. “So we’re proceeding.”

According to a Mar. 25 Government Accountability Office report entitled, “Data Collection is Under Way, But Reliability of Key Information Technology Systems Remains a Risk,” the Census Bureau was experiencing problems with two IT systems, one of which is the paper-based operation control system that Groves mentioned during the press conference.

The GAO reported last February that “key IT systems — most notably an automated system used to manage field data collection known as the Paper-Based Operations Control System (PBOCS) and a personnel and payroll processing system called the Decennial Applicant Personnel and Payroll System (DAPPS) — were experiencing significant performance issues.”

On Thursday, Robert Goldenkoff, the director of strategic issues for the GAO and author of the March 25 GAO report on the IT problems affecting the Census, told CNSNews.com:  “The [paper based] operational control system used to manage the field follow-up operation was still having stability issues last week; the Census Bureau continues to work on it.”

On Mar. 25, Judith Gordon, the principal assistant inspector general for Audit and Evaluation at the Department of Commerce, which runs the Census Bureau, testified about the IT problems affecting the Census before Congress, saying that the Census’ decennial count’s accuracy was “at risk” because of IT issues.

“IT problems place the efficiency and accuracy of Non-Response Follow-Up at risk and final decennial costs remain uncertain,” Gordon told lawmakers, and as CNSNews.com reported. Gordon had testified before a subcommittee on the Census of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee.

In the same Mar. 25 GAO report, Goldenkoff revealed that “an estimated 50 million housing units out of a mail-out universe of about 120 million” would be non-respondents and would require an in-person follow-up to count. The operating budget for the NRFU is $2.7 billion.

Article 1, Section 2 of the U.S. Constitution calls for a decennial enumeration (census) of the American people to be used for allocating U.S. House seats among the states.

Census Bureau Press Release: Door-to-Door Visits Begin

Friday, April 30th, 2010

Census Takers to Follow Up with About 48 Million Households Nationwide

WASHINGTON, April 30 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ — About 635,000 2010 Census takers across the nation begin going door to door tomorrow to follow up with households that either didn’t mail back their form or didn’t receive one. An estimated 48 million addresses will be visited through July 10.

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

“America’s had a very successful first half of the 2010 Census, where more than 72 percent of the nation’s households mailed back their census forms,” U.S. Census Bureau Director Robert M. Groves said. “But achieving a complete and accurate census requires us to now go door to door to count all the remaining households we’ve not heard back from.”

If a 2010 Census worker knocks on your door, here are some ways to verify that person is a legitimate census taker:

  • The census taker must present an ID badge that contains a Department of Commerce watermark and expiration date.  The census taker may also be carrying a black canvass bag with a Census Bureau logo.
  • The census taker will provide you with supervisor contact information and/or the local census office phone number for verification, if asked.
  • The census taker will only ask you the questions that appear on the 2010 Census form.
  • Transcript from Census Bureau Press Conference

    Friday, April 30th, 2010

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Contractors still robbing America’s tax dollars: Harris Corp. reports huge earnings as 2010 systems fail miserably

    Thursday, April 29th, 2010

    Yup, it’s true. We hate the Harris Corporation. These people stole $800 million from United States taxpayers, and I hope that their stock drops considerably when people and the media get wind of this. Hopefully members of Congress stop kowtowing to this horrible corporation and start blacklisting them from receiving government contracts because of their tumultuous history of poor performance. (To the multitude of Harris Corp. employees who, according to Google Analytics, regularly read this blog, maybe your company should take some action to correct its mistakes now before the feds do it for you!)  Here’s a press release about their latest earnings:

    Harris Corporation Reports Strong Third Quarter Orders, Revenue and Earnings

    Increases Fiscal 2010 Guidance; Expects Higher Revenue and Earnings in Fiscal 2011

    MELBOURNE, Fla., April 28, 2010 /PRNewswire via COMTEX/ — Harris Corporation /quotes/comstock/13*!hrs/quotes/nls/hrs (HRS 51.97, +2.18, +4.38%) reported GAAP income from continuing operations for the third quarter of fiscal 2010 of $166 million, or $1.27 per diluted share, compared with $136 million, or $1.02 per diluted share, in the prior-year quarter. Excluding acquisition-related costs, non-GAAP income from continuing operations in the third quarter of fiscal 2010 was $170 million, or $1.30 per diluted share, compared with $136 million, or $1.02 per diluted share, in the prior-year quarter. Revenue for the third quarter of fiscal 2010 was $1.33 billion, compared with $1.21 billion for the third quarter of fiscal 2009. Orders in the third quarter were $1.45 billion, compared with $1.03 billion in the prior-year quarter. A reconciliation of GAAP to non-GAAP financial measures is provided in Tables 5 through 7, along with the accompanying notes.

    “Earnings in the third quarter increased 25 percent, reflecting continued excellent operating performance in RF Communications and Government Communications Systems,” said Howard L. Lance, chairman, president and chief executive officer. “Revenue increased 10 percent for the company, and higher orders across all of our segments should continue to drive double-digit revenue growth in the fourth quarter. Our strategy of investing in new technology and applications to solve our customers’ complex, mission-critical, and quickly evolving communications and information technology needs is working. Higher orders, strong backlog and a robust opportunity pipeline should position Harris for achieving another year of higher revenue and earnings in fiscal 2011.”

    Increased Earnings Guidance

    The company has increased its guidance for non-GAAP income from continuing operations for fiscal 2010 to a range of $4.35 to $4.45 per diluted share ($4.23 to $4.33 per diluted share on a GAAP basis). This increase compares with a previous range of $4.25 to $4.35 per diluted share ($4.13 to $4.23 per diluted share on a GAAP basis). Fiscal 2010 non-GAAP earnings guidance excludes acquisition-related costs. Revenue in fiscal 2010 is still expected to be in a range of $5.2 to $5.3 billion.

    Guidance for fiscal 2011 earnings is being initiated in a range of $4.55 to $4.65 per diluted share, representing a year-over-year increase of 3 to 6 percent, compared with the mid-point of fiscal 2010 non-GAAP guidance. Fiscal 2011 revenue is expected to be in a range of $5.5 to $5.6 billion, representing a year-over-year increase of 5 to 7 percent compared with the mid-point of fiscal 2010 guidance.

    RF Communications

    Third quarter orders for the RF Communications segment totaled $656 million, including $488 million in the Tactical Radio Communications business and $168 million in the Public Safety and Professional Communications business. At the end of the third quarter, total backlog in RF Communications was $1.50 billion, including $1.01 billion in the Tactical Radio Communications business and $489 million in the Public Safety and Professional Communications business.

    Revenue for RF Communications in the third quarter was $551 million, compared with $439 million in the prior-year quarter. Revenue included $429 million in Tactical Radio Communications, driven primarily by deliveries to the U.S. Army, Marine Corps and Air Force. Revenue in Public Safety and Professional Communications was $122 million.

    Operating income for RF Communications was $205 million in the third quarter, compared with $151 million in the prior-year quarter. Non-GAAP operating income, which excludes acquisition-related costs, was $208 million. Non-GAAP operating margin was very strong at 37.8 percent due to favorable product mix, cost-reduction actions implemented in the second half of fiscal 2009, and operational efficiencies.

    New orders for tactical radio communication systems in the quarter were driven by:

    accelerating customer adoption of the company’s next-generation Falcon III(R) radios in U.S. and international markets;

    equipping the military’s 6,644 M-ATVs (Mine Resistant Ambush Protected All-Terrain Vehicles); and

    strengthening international demand.

    Demand has increased for the company’s JTRS-approved, Falcon III family of ground tactical radios. At the end of the third quarter year-to-date Falcon III orders totaled $620 million. The field-proven radios are providing warfighters with unprecedented situational awareness, bringing new applications such as streaming video for the first time to the tactical edge of the battlefield.

    Major Falcon III radio wins in the third quarter included a $73 million order from the U.S. Marines for Falcon III AN/PRC-117G multiband manpack radio systems to provide high-speed networking applications such as streaming video and a $12 million order from the U.S. Marines to upgrade existing Falcon III AN/VRC-110 multiband, multimode vehicular tactical radio systems from 20-watt to 50-watt systems to improve communications over longer distances and enhance reliability in rough terrain. Harris also received a $74 million order for Falcon III AN/PRC-152(C) multiband handheld radio systems in vehicular adapters to equip the military’s new 6,644 M-ATVs. Following the close of the quarter, Harris received a $20 million order from a Department of Defense customer for Falcon III AN/PRC-117G multiband manpack radio systems.

    Other significant U.S. orders in the third quarter included a $78 million order for Falcon II(R) AN/VRC-104 high-frequency (HF) tactical radio systems also to equip the military’s 6,644 M-ATVs. Following the close of the quarter, Harris received a $101 million order for Falcon II AN/PRC-117F multiband vehicular radios to equip the next phase of M-ATV purchases and to retrofit other existing MRAP vehicles.

    International tactical radio wins in the third quarter included a $112 million order from the Australian Department of Defence that was predominantly Falcon III AN/PRC-152(C) multiband handheld radios to provide next-generation battlefield networking capabilities. Other major international orders included a $44 million order for Falcon II RF-5800H HF radio systems from a country in Asia, and a $10 million order for Falcon II RF-5800H HF radio systems from the Iraq Ministry of Interior.

    In the Public Safety and Professional Communications business, Harris was awarded orders totaling $100 million to upgrade the Miami-Dade County public communications infrastructure to a modern, P25 standards-based digital radio system. The flexible system platform will serve more than 80 agencies and 32,000 users, increasing functionality and improving interoperability among first responders and other radio system users. Also, a $13 million order was received in the quarter for our OpenSky(R) system to connect employees at a Texas-based public utility serving 50 counties.

    Following the close of the quarter, Harris received an order from the New York State Police for 1,100 Unity(TM) XG-100P multiband radios. The Unity radios will provide interoperability between the state police and local, metro and county law enforcement organizations. In a single radio, the state police will be able to communicate with local systems that are conventional or digital, and that operate on the various VHF, UHF, 700 MHz or 800 MHz bands.

    Government Communications Systems

    Third quarter revenue for the Government Communications Systems segment was $666 million, compared with $649 million in the prior-year quarter. Operating income was $90 million in the third quarter, compared with $74 million in the prior-year quarter. Operating margin was strong at 13.6 percent and reflected continued excellent program performance and award fees.

    Revenue increased for the Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellite-Series R Ground Segment (GOES-R GS) weather program for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the Modernization of Enterprise Terminals (MET) program for the U. S. Army, the IT services relocation program for the U.S. Southern Command (USSOUTHCOM) and several classified programs for national intelligence customers. Revenue also benefited from several small, recent acquisitions related primarily to the new growth initiatives of Cyber Integrated Solutions and Healthcare Solutions. Revenue from the Field Data Collection Automation (FDCA) program for the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2010 census declined as the program nears completion.

    Official Census Bureau “Participation Rate” Stats/Trends/Data Available Here

    Thursday, April 29th, 2010

    Check out this slideshow depicting recent data/trends that was shown at yesterday’s Census Bureau press conference (transcript of the press conference coming here ASAP).

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

    Thursday, April 29th, 2010

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

    72% of households responded to 2010 Census

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Paper-based Operations Control System failures…

    Wednesday, April 28th, 2010

    Do you have any knowledge about this? If so, please post your comments here.

    Belated Earth Day Special: The Census Bureau Waste Continues (with hard evidence attached)

    Wednesday, April 28th, 2010

    Last week, I planned to publish this piece, but the data from a New York area census office didn’t come in until yesterday…Check it out:

    Here’s the hard evidence:

    10-02 DISPOSITION OF 2010 GQAV MATERIALS (1)

    10-10 DISPOSITION OF 2010 QAC MATERIALS

    It seems like the Census didn’t know April 22nd was Earth Day. In honor of it the printers ran non stop from morning to midnight in 494 offices across the nation printing out all the address listing pages and assignment preparation for Non Response Followup.

    Cost to print NRFU Address Listing Pages of every housing unit in the United States single sided and then ship it to the National Processing Center Fed Ex Priority Overnight

    Cost to print out hundreds upon thousands of maps single sided only to not even be looked at

    Cost to print all the training materials on high quality printer quality paper

    Cost to print all the glossy recruiting brochures, partnership posters only for them to be unopened and thrown out by the palette like this everyday (see pictures below)

    –  Some food for thought. These boxes are filled with 500 brochures a piece and has been happening everyday for months and in all 494 offices everyday –

    Cost to print all the Be Counted Questionnaires which were all taken back from the Be Counted and Questionnaire Assistance Centers to be thrown away even though New York City wanted to extend the program by 30 days and some to count the estimated 500,000 illegal immigrants.(see attached disposal list)

    Cost to print all the GQV Questionnaires which we still have two palettes left. (see attached disposal list) And that is just one of the forms on the attached list to throw out…Here we go:

    10-02 DISPOSITION OF 2010 GQAV MATERIALS (1)

    10-10 DISPOSITION OF 2010 QAC MATERIALS

    Photos of materials on their way to be destroyed/recycled:

    

    Press Release: Census Bureau to Announce Final 2010 Census Mail Participation Rates

    Wednesday, April 28th, 2010

    What: As the U.S. Census Bureau prepares for the door-to-door follow-up phase of the 2010 Census, Director Robert Groves will announce how well America responded by mail to the once-a-decade census. Groves will discuss how the mail participation rates compare geographically as well as by demographic characteristics, such as home ownership, income and language spoken.

    When: Wednesday, April 28, 1 – 2 p.m. (EDT)

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

    Where: National Press Club, 13th floor

    Holeman Lounge

    529 14th Street, NW

    Washington, DC 20045

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

    Dial-in number: 888-603-8938

    Passcode: 2010 CENSUS

    Press Release: TeleTech Government Solutions Providing Hosted Cloud-Based Technology Infrastructure for 2010 Census

    Wednesday, April 28th, 2010

    Here’s another company that we will be watching over:

    ENGLEWOOD, CO, Apr 27, 2010 (MARKETWIRE via COMTEX) — TeleTech Government Solutions, LLC, a subsidiary of TeleTech Holdings, Inc.(TTEC 17.63, -0.41, -2.27%), has engineered and launched a secure telephony solution to support approximately 8,000 call center agents across five call center outsource providers for the 2010 U.S. Census. As part of this solution, TeleTech also provides custom-designed desktop applications, sophisticated workforce management tools, call recording and business intelligence across the 11 call centers supporting the project.

    TeleTech is providing these technology services for the census as a subcontractor to IBM as part of the Lockheed Martin-led Decennial Response Integration System contract. TeleTech supports inbound and outbound operations in 11 call centers nationwide to either answer questions from respondents about the 2010 census and the questionnaire or to call respondents to allow for more coverage follow-up. TeleTech’s fully redundant, secure, Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) infrastructure will enable the 11 call centers to support up to 60,000 inbound calls per hour. Call processing began on February 25 and it is estimated that TeleTech’s network will support more than 15 million calls by the time the program ends on August 14, 2010.

    In addition to being the principal provider of call center technology, TeleTech is staffing approximately 1,300 call center agents in the Stockton, Calif. and Kennesaw, Ga. call center locations who are skilled in six languages including English, Russian, Vietnamese, Chinese, Korean and Spanish and support an 18-hour day that spans from Puerto Rico to Hawaii.

    “TeleTech is proud to have been selected to support the 2010 Census,” said Mariano Tan, president of TeleTech Government Solutions. “We have been developing this solution for the census since TeleTech was selected in 2006, and believe our selection is a testament to our ability to consistently deliver industry leading technology solutions.”

    The 2010 Census forms began arriving in the mailboxes of 120 million U.S. households in early March 2010. People with questions about the form contact one of five census call centers through TeleTech’s network where agents offer Telephony Questionnaire Assistance (TQA). Callers are able to get answers to frequently asked questions and request forms through a fully automated interactive voice response system. More complex questions are automatically routed to a geographically dispersed pool of trained call center agents ready to provide questionnaire assistance. The system also features an integrated satisfaction survey to enable continuous measurement of the caller experience across the various call centers.

    After the questionnaires are returned, the Census Bureau will go through an extensive Coverage Follow-Up (CFU) data validation process. TeleTech’s technology infrastructure is expected to schedule and manage more than 8 million outbound calls allowing call center agents to reach out to respondents for the purpose of completing missing data elements or clarifying responses. By using this solution to support the validation process, the Census Bureau will be able to save the cost of sending a census taker door to door to follow-up with each household that fails to respond. TeleTech began supporting the CFU call follow-up on April 11.

    Every 10 years, the U.S. Census Bureau is tasked with surveying the entirety of the nation’s growing and changing population. Data is collected through mailed paper forms, field enumerators, and call center agents. To promote the speed, accuracy, and security of data collection, the Census Bureau is embracing an unprecedented level of information technology in 2010. For every one percentage point increase in the national participation rate by mail, taxpayers can help the Census Bureau save about $85 million in operational costs.

    ABOUT TELETECH GOVERNMENT SOLUTIONS: TeleTech Government Solutions provides full service front- and back-office business process outsourcing and customer and enterprise management services on five continents. The company helps government agencies implement large-scale solutions tailored to meet specific needs and challenges by delivering customer management, transaction-based processing, and database marketing services. TeleTech Government’s comprehensive solutions include fully managed, OnDemand services including infrastructure, software, and business intelligence, interactive voice response (IVR), self-help Web, back-office processing, fulfillment, training, staffing and other management applications. For more information visit www.teletechgovernment.com

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

    Wednesday, April 28th, 2010

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    So who’s right? Chaffetz or Jost?

    Leave your thoughts in the comments section below

    Fact Check: Is the mail participation rate a valid tool for tracking responses? Not until the following questions are answered.

    Monday, April 26th, 2010

    On Friday, the Commerce Department released a statement, “U.S. Commerce Secretary Gary Locke today congratulated the nation for its strong participation in the 2010 Census to date, as the Census Bureau released the latest mail participation data showing that 72 percent of U.S. households have mailed back their 2010 Census forms so far — the same rate the nation achieved at the end of the mail-back period during the 2000 Census.”

    But what validity does this have? None, until the Census Bureau answers the following essential questions:

    What data are used to adjust the mail response rates?  Who in the Postal Service supplies these data? To meet what specifications?  What distinguishes between unoccupied housing and Census address list errors? At what level of geographic detail?  The Census Bureau has stated the “participation rate” is “fairer”?  How is fairness defined?   Does the Postal service guarantee data consistency between and among all postal delivery service areas of the country? Or, are there big differences in what is returned to Census as undeliverable based on the quality of the address list used by the Census Bureau in each postal service area ? How does the Postal service distinguish between a bad address from the Census Bureau and a vacant house?  How does any of this get calculated in dense urban areas…..especially given the statement from the Census Bureau about “fairness” (For example, it is well known that delivery methods in multi-unit urban dwellings differ dramatically from suburban, single family residences — how does the proclaimed Census 2010 ”fairness” doctrine adjust for this)? When will the mail return rates for 2010 be calculated and how will this process differ from 2000?

    D’Vera Cohn of the Pew Research Center (who covered the 2000 Census for the Washington Post) has tried to explain this process:

    For the 2010 Census, the Census Bureau will use a new real-time metric, called the “mail participation rate,” to report the share of U.S. households-by state, city, county and neighborhood-that send back their completed forms. Why is this important?

    The Census Bureau hopes to count every American in the coming months, but it has a hefty financial incentive to count them quickly. Census forms arrive in most home mailboxes next week. If a household sends back its postage-paid census form, the government spends less than 50 cents in mailing costs. If the completed form does not arrive back by late April, the Census Bureau will send an enumerator to knock on the non-respondent’s door, which costs $57.

    As part of its promotional campaign to encourage households to return their forms fast, the Census Bureau plans to release mail participation rates down to the neighborhood level each weekday, from March 22 to April 26. Knowing where the problems are could help the bureau and its partner organizations—such as local governments and community groups—steer their census-encouragement efforts to the areas that could benefit most.

    The 2010 mail participation rates will be displayed daily on a recently launched Census Bureau mapping tool, where users already can see 2000 data for states, counties, cities and census tracts (neighborhood-level units of about 4,000 people). For the Bureau’s publicity campaign, the mail participation rate replaces the “mail response rate” used in the 2000 Census because, for reasons described below, officials believe the new measure will give a truer picture in places with large numbers of foreclosed and vacant homes.

    Three Different Mailback Rates

    The mail response rate, the mail participation rate and a third measure of response, the “mail return rate,” are calculated for areas where household residents are asked to mail back forms that were mailed to their homes or dropped off by a census worker. These areas include almost all of the nation’s more than 130 million households.

    The mail response rate is an unrefined measure —the percent of forms sent to households in these mailback areas that are returned to the Census Bureau. It is a preliminary measure that Census officials say somewhat understates participation, though, because many forms sent out by the Bureau cannot be mailed back — for example, those sent to vacant housing units and those where census forms could not be delivered, such as non-existent or non-residential addresses. In 2000, the final national mail response rate was 67%. (The initial mail response rate, over the first few weeks, was 65%.)

    The mail participation rate is a refined version of the mail response rate–the percent of forms sent to households in these mailback areas that are returned to the Census Bureau,  after removing from the denominator addresses where census forms are determined by the U.S. Postal Service to be “undeliverable as addressed.” Nationally, the final census mail participation rate was 72% in 2000.

    The mail participation rate is intended to exclude vacant and foreclosed homes, which have grown in number as a result of the national economic downturn. The mail participation rate also may provide an improved real-time measure of participation for areas with large numbers of seasonal homes that are unoccupied on Census Day, April 1.

    However, the new metric will not eliminate all sources of error. For example, if the owner of a vacant or seasonal home has a friend who picks up the mail, the form may not be returned as undeliverable. Some forms may be sent to home addresses whose occupants get their mail from postal boxes, and those forms may be returned by the Postal Service as undeliverable even though the home is occupied. These kinds of addresses will be on the Census Bureau’s to-do list, however, and census-takers would make sure they are properly accounted for during follow-up visits, according to Census Bureau officials.

    The mail return rate, the most precise measure of census participation, is the number of households returning a questionnaire from mailback areas mail divided by the number of occupied housing units that received questionnaires in those areas. It cannot be calculated until the end of the census counting process. At that point, officials will use data from census-takers’ follow-up visits and other sources to total the number of occupied home addresses in areas where residents mail back their forms. Once addresses are excluded from the denominator—mainly for being unoccupied, non-residential or non-existent—the rate will rise. In 2000, the mail return rate was 78%.