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.

Posts Tagged ‘2000’

Pennsylvania to use the 2000 Census for redistricting: WHY?

Monday, February 13th, 2012

Pennsylvanians are apparently living like its 1999. Here’s what the Courthouse News Service had to say:

In January, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court said a 2011 redistricting plan establishing new districts based on fresh data from the 2010 census was unconstitutional.

That plan, proposed by the state’s five-person Legislative Reapportionment Commission, failed to adequately balance constitutional requirements that districts be compact, contiguous and roughly equal in population.

Of particular concern to the high court was a fourth requirement: that voting districts do not excessively fracture political subdivisions.

The state constitution says voting districts should divide counties, wards and municipalities only when absolutely necessary.

A group of 20 state senators who appealed the 2011 plan offered an alternative redistricting plan that, the group said, does a better job balancing these requirements, particularly when it comes to respecting the integrity of subdivisions.

In a 4-3 decision last month, the court called that plan “powerful evidence” that the commission could have done a better job balancing these factors, and remanded the plan to the commission for revision.

While the revisions are pending, the court directed Pennsylvania to govern its upcoming April 24 primary election with the 2001 redistricting plan, based on census data from 2000.

That directive prompted three federal lawsuits in late January and early February.

The plaintiffs – which include the majority leaders of the state Senate and House, the House speaker, and a Latino rights group – said it would be unconstitutional to use the old districts.

Mississippi feels that the Census Bureau “dropped the ball” on the 2010 headcount

Sunday, June 27th, 2010

Here’s the article.

MyTwoCensus Editorial: The Census Bureau PR Machine is at it again…Return rates for 2010 are not better than return rates for 2000, and here’s why

Wednesday, May 5th, 2010

In mid and late March, the return rate for the 2010 Census wasn’t looking good. In fact, it appeared that return rates from the 2000 Census (that lacked this year’s multimillion-dollar ad campaign) would exceed the 2010 Census rates. In a comment posted on this blog on March 25, 2010, Steve Jost, the Census Bureau’s Associate Director of Communications wrote “It is tricky business comparing 2010 to 2000 for lots of reasons…2000 had a Long Form and a Short Form. 2010 is a Short Form only Census.” This is an excellent and true point. (The long and short forms for the 2000 Census can be found HERE.)

In 2000, some 16% of decennial census questionnaires were “long form” versions of the census with more than 100 questions — many of which take a significant amount of time to answer. This year, the census is the shortest ever, with only 10 questions. However, since the public was informed that 72% of American households mailed back there 2010 Census forms, the Census Bureau has had no problem comparing apples to oranges as it praises this year’s participation rates over those from 2000. My point is clear: In the 2000 Census, approximately 20 million households received the long form.  Any statistician or communications expert will tell you that it is infinitely more difficult to convince someone to complete a 100+ question form than a 10 question form.

So when the Census Bureau claims that it has exceeded its 2000 return rates, let’s not kid ourselves: In 2010 it’s like every household has to learn first grade math, whereas in 2000, some 20 million households had to learn calculus.

Here are some screenshots from the official Census Bureau analysis of the 2000 Census Mail Return Rates to illustrate my point:

The chart above illustrates that those people receiving the long form in 2000 participated in the census at significantly lower levels than those people who received the short 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…)

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.

Does this lawsuit against the Census Bureau have legitimacy? Perhaps

Thursday, April 15th, 2010

H/t to former MyTwoCensus editor Emily Babay for informing me of the following lawsuit filed against the Census Bureau for its hiring practices. The Philadelphia Inquirer brings us the following:

Phila. woman at center of census lawsuit

By Jane M. Von Bergen

Paying $17.75 an hour, U.S. Census jobs, though temporary, are attractive in an economy where unemployment is stuck at 9.7 percent. But the Census Bureau’s screening policies, designed to safeguard the public, end up discriminating against minorities, according to a federal lawsuit filed Tuesday.

That’s because the bureau has set up an “arbitrary barrier to employment” for any person with an arrest record, “no matter how trivial or disconnected from the requirements of the job,” the lawsuit, filed in Manhattan, says. U.S. Commerce Secretary Gary Locke is named as the defendant.

The national suit, filed by Outten & Golden L.L.P. in New York and a coalition of public-interest organizations, seeks class-action status on behalf of those turned down for a job if they were arrested and not convicted, or convicted for an offense irrelevant to the job.

“The U.S. Census Bureau’s top priority is the safety of both our workforce and the American public,” Commerce Department spokesman Nicholas Kimball responded. “Americans must be confident that, if . . . a census taker must come to their door to count them, we’ve taken steps to ensure their safety.”

Kimball declined to comment on the suit.

One of the two lead plaintiffs, Evelyn Houser, 69, of North Philadelphia, thinks she is qualified to fill one of the 1.2 million census positions. That’s because Houser worked for the census before, in 1990.

“What’s the difference between then and now?” she asked in an interview Tuesday. “It’s like a slap in the face.”

The difference, said her lawyer, Sharon Dietrich with Community Legal Services in Philadelphia, is the government’s cumbersome screening process.

Computers kick back any application with an arrest record, requiring more documentation, but the Census Bureau doesn’t make it clear what documentation is required, Dietrich said.

The discrimination occurs because the arrest and conviction rates of African Americans, Latinos and Native Americans exceed those of whites, the suit says. Compounding the problem, it says, is that one in three arrests do not lead to prosecution or conviction, yet the bureau’s system does not readily distinguish between arrests and convictions.

“The processes are screening out any kind of criminal case, no matter what,” Dietrich said.

“If you were arrested years ago for a minor offense, you are asked to comply with the same burdensome process as if you had been released from jail last week after committing a murder,” she said,

Plaintiffs’ attorney Samuel Miller, of Outten & Golden, estimates that as many as one million applicants may have been caught up in the process, with tens of thousands unfairly deterred or excluded from employment.

In 1981, Houser was a 39-year-old mother raising four children on welfare and food stamps. Her monthly check was several days away, but she was out of food when, going outside to take out the trash, she found a check next to the Dumpster.

“I went home and told my kids, ‘God sent me a piece of paper that says we’re going to eat tonight.’ ”

Houser shouldn’t have done it, but she tried to cash the check. She was arrested. Instead of being convicted, she was placed in alternative rehabilitation program. Her record remains clean, Dietrich said.

In 1990, Houser got a job with the census. Last year, she decided to apply again and passed a qualifying test.

A month or so later, the Census Bureau sent her a letter, asking her for documentation. The way she read it, her fingerprints would suffice, so she had them taken and sent them in the next day.

The bureau rejected her because, it said, she hadn’t sent the right documentation. Dietrich called the bureau’s communications confusing.

Since then, Houser has been involved in a long appeals process, which culminated in the filing of the suit.

Houser, who lives in subsidized housing, estimated that 25 percent of her working-age neighbors are unemployed. They are “just existing,” she said. “It’s just survival.”

She’s helping her neighbors find a path to employment, Houser said. “I’m a little gray-haired old lady and I’m trying to lead them in a better way.”

MyTwoCensus Investigation: 2010 Census Response Rates Lag Behind Response Rates From 2000

Thursday, March 25th, 2010

Correction/Update:

1. I may have misheard Dr. Groves at the Wednesday Press conference when I wrote that he said 2010 response rates were as good as they were in 2000.

2. However, this doesn’t take away from the fact that 2010 response rates are significantly WORSE than they were in 2000. My suspicions were also raised today when I learned that the response rate increased by 14% in one day. This means that some 25 million forms were processed in the past 24 hours, which is historically unheard of!

I apologize for any inaccuracies, but I stand behind the data and statistics that I am reporting, and furthermore, other than the one statement above, I stand by the rest of my claims. I was likely confused when I heard Dr. Groves say “We’re off to a pretty good start.”

Though we don’t have the full transcript yet (we will publish it here as soon as we get it), Census Director Robert M. Groves made claims at yesterday’s press conference that mail response rates for the 2010 Census were ahead of/on par with what they were in 2000. These claims are false for the following reasons…

According to Appendix F of this document from the 2000 Census, http://www.census.gov/pred/www/rpts/A.7.a.pdf, the mail return rate was at 42% ten days after the major questionnaire mailing period began on 3/13/2000. But in 2010, ten days after the process started on 3/15, the  participation rate is at only 20%. Here are screenshots from the 2000 report and from 2010Census.gov to check out the data:

Now, look at the mailback rate for 2010 on 3/25 (This year the mailing started on 3/15. In 2000 it started on 3/13.):

*ALSO, PLEASE  KEEP IN MIND THAT THE 2010 CENSUS FORM IS WAY SHORTER/EASIER TO COMPLETE THAN THE ONE FROM 2000!

Fact-Checking “20 Million” People Checked American On The 2000 Census

Monday, March 22nd, 2010

As MyTwoCensus suspected, 20 million people did NOT check “American” as their race on the 2000 Census form. The folks who claimed this  were mistaken. In 2000, 20 million people checked “American” as their ancestry. Here’s the full official response to our inquiry from the Census Bureau:

The data you are referring to (20 million “American” responses) come from
the Census 2000 question on Ancestry, not the race question or the Hispanic
origin question.  ”Ancestry” is a different question and concept from race
and Hispanic origin, and is collected in a different manner (open ended
question; sample of the population).

Ancestry refers to ethnic origin, descent, roots, heritage, or place of
birth of the person or the person’s ancestors.  The question on Ancestry
was not intended to measure the respondent’s degree of attachment to a
particular group, but simply to establish that the respondent had a
connection to and self-identified with a particular ethnic group.  The
American Community Survey’s ancestry question separately identifies and
publishes estimates of the population who identify as solely “American,”
and this information is available annual basis.

The Census 2000 report, “Ancestry: 2000″ <
www.census.gov/prod/2004pubs/c2kbr-35.pdf> contains the following
information (page 3) –

Seven percent of the U.S. population reported their ancestry as American.
The number who reported American and no other ancestry increased from 12.4
million in 1990 to 20.2 million in 2000, the largest numerical growth of
any group during the 1990s (Footnote: American was considered a valid
ancestry response when it was the only ancestry provided by a respondent.).
This figure represents an increase of 63 percent, as the proportion rose
from 5.0 percent to 7.2 percent of the population.

So again, the 20 million “American” responses come from the question on
Ancestry, not the race question or the Hispanic origin question, and
“ancestry” is a different concept from race and Hispanic origin.

MyTwoCensus Editorial: The “advance letter” mailing appears to have gone off (almost) smoothly…

Thursday, March 11th, 2010

Despite the threat of service cutbacks and job losses at the US Postal Service that were announced in recent days, the mailing of approximately 100 million “advance letters” appears to have gone off with only a few minor glitches. (See previous post about city names and zip codes being inaccurate in St. Louis!) Yes, this whole mass mailing concept should seem like a fairly simple process, but after the major printing debacle that occurred in 2000 (that could have been fatal to the advance letter process), we taking nothing for granted. Despite some small levels of populist discontent about the Census Bureau “wasting money,” the lack of discussion about the advance letter should be treated as a good thing, in that people are now generally aware that their 2010 Census form will arrive in the mail in one week. Let’s just hope that next week’s mailing, which is clearly the most important one in terms of obtaining data (and saving taxpayers money in the long run) is also a process marked by accuracy and efficiency.

Census could shape corporate strategy

Friday, January 8th, 2010

Besides states seeking funding and representation in Congress and workers seeking temporary employment, another group stands to benefit from the 2010 Census: corporations.

The Economist reports that businesses plan to use census data to help them make decisions about where to open stores and what to stock. Target, for example, tells the magazine that it began offering more Spanish-language children’s books and hair products for African Americans after seeing data from the 2000 Census.

And due to the economy, more firms than ever are expected to utilize census data:

According to Zain Raj, the boss of Euro RSCG Discovery, a marketing firm, even more companies than normal will be poring over the census this year. The recession has made them reluctant to expand without good market data, he argues, yet it has also caused them to cut back on research, making the free census data all the more vital.

And some experts predict that this year’s data will lead more companies to push micro-targeted ad campaigns:

Peter Francese, a demographer at Ogilvy & Mather, an advertising agency, thinks the 2010 census will permanently change marketing. When companies analyse the census data, they will see that cities, and even some neighbourhoods, are so diverse now that broad advertising campaigns are no longer suitable. Mass-market advertising, he says, will become “extinct”. Marketers will instead have to focus on reaching specific households—just as the Census Bureau is preparing to do.

The Census Bureau has about 47,000 corporate partners that are helping to market the census, more than double the number in 2000, according to the Economist. It’s clear that the businesses, too, have a stake in the data.

“Negro” has been on census forms for 60 years

Friday, January 8th, 2010

News organizations across the country have reported on the controversy surrounding the word “Negro” on forms for the 2010 Census.

But a Census Bureau official tells NPR that “Negro” has been on the forms since at least 1950.

NPR also reports that 56,175 respondents wrote in “Negro” on their forms in the 2000 Census, even though the word was also included as a response choice.

One of our commenters asked when the Census Bureau last studied the wording for the question, which asks about race, and when we might see some new data. The Bureau told NPR it would examine the effects of removing “Negro” this year.

Iranian Americans urged to specify ethnicity in Census

Tuesday, December 29th, 2009

We’ve written about the extensive (but controversial) outreach to encourage Latinos to participate in the 2010 Census — and now, Iranian Americans are also the target of outreach efforts.

According to the Los Angeles Times, this year’s outreach campaign is the first time Iranian Americans have been encouraged to specifically identify themselves as Iranians on their Census forms.

The protests that followed the reelection of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad  are expected to help. Since the 1979 Iranian hostage crisis, the LAT reports, Iranian Americans have been reluctant to identify themselves. But that’s changed since this summer:

“It has created a sea change in the way Americans view Iranians,” said Reza Aslan, author of “How to Win a Cosmic War,” who moved to the U.S. from Iran in 1979. “No doubt about it, it’s now cool to be Iranian.”

Some hailed it as a sort of coming out for Iranian Americans. The hope is that the effects of that change will be seen in the census count next year.

“It was a sort of boost or a shot in the arm,” [Census Bureau partnership specialist Nadia] Babayi said, because people were encouraged to say that they were Iranian. They weren’t hiding anymore.”

After the Iranian hostage crisis in 1979, many Iranian Americans and expatriates chose to keep a low profile in what some saw as a hostile environment. The 1991 film “Not Without My Daughter” was blamed for helping to cast a negative light on Iranian men. Starring Sally Field, it depicted an American woman and her daughter fleeing Iran and an abusive husband. And in 2002, then-President Bush declared Iran a member of the “Axis of Evil.”

About 300,000 Iranians were counted in the 2000 Census, a figure thought to be highly underreported. The U.S. government classifies Iranians as “white” and some didn’t know they could specify in the “other” category that they were Iranian.

Which states need to improve their Census response rates?

Sunday, December 27th, 2009

Census forms won’t reach homes until March, but the Census Bureau is already publicizing a three-stage advertising campaign aimed, in part, at encouraging people to fill out their forms and cooperate with Census workers.

So, in which states should the Census Bureau concentrate its efforts?

A look at the response rates from the 2000 and 1990 censuses show that, in general, the same states had low numbers in both years.

Alaska had the lowest response rate in both 2000 (56 percent) and 1999 (52 percent). South Carolina had the next-worse response rate in both years, with 58 percent in 2000 and 56 percent in 1990. (Puerto Rico, a U.S. territory, had a response rate of just 53-percent in 2000).

At the other end, Iowa had the best response rate in 2000 with 76 percent, followed by Minnesota, Nebraska and Wisconsin at 75 percent. In 1990, Wisconsin topped the list with a 77-percent response rate. Iowa and Minnesota tied for second-best at 76 percent.

The national response rate was 67 percent in 2000 and 65 in 1990. The Census Bureau is predicting a drop in the response rate, to 64 percent, for the 2010 Census.

More areas with low response rates include Washington, D.C. (60 percent in 2000, 56 percent in 1990), Louisiana (60 percent in 2000, 58 percent in 1990), Hawaii (60 percent in 2000, 62 percent in 1990), Vermont (60 percent in 2000, 64 percent in 1990) and Maine (61 percent in 2000, 58 percent in 1990).

Other states with high response rates were South Dakota (74 percent in both years), Virginia (72 percent in 2000, 70 percent in 1990), North Dakota (72 percent both years) and Ohio (72 percent in 2000, 75 percent in 1990).

This county-by-county map shows a more detailed breakdown of response rates from the 2000 Census.

Some states are already striving to improve their performance from the last count. The Herald in Rock Hill, S.C., reported that the state will have heavier marketing and outreach efforts in the 10 or 12 counties that had the lowest response rates in 2000.

“Some people just don’t understand the importance of the census,” Michael Sponhour, spokesman for the State Budget and Control Board, told the paper.

The Suitland Files: Inside The Census Bureau (Part 2)

Thursday, November 12th, 2009

I apologize for taking so long to post the second half of the series that I started nearly two weeks ago, but I’ve been traveling extensively and things were getting quite hectic. Without further ado, I present to you an inside look into my meeting with top communications/public relations/press officials at the Census Bureau’s HQ in Washington, DC:

After making idle chit-chat about Europe, climate change, and Dr. Groves’ travel habits (like any good reporter, I try to extract information wherever possible) for more than half an hour with two private security guards inside their security booth on the perimeter of the Census Bureau’s fenced off headquarters (they refused to let me sit on a bench outside even though it was a warm day…), I was greeted by Derick Moore (who Steve Jost authorizes to make the official Census Bureau comments on MyTwoCensus posts) and Eun Kim, a new Census Bureau PR official who until very recently was a DC reporter for Gannett (hmmm…I wonder why she jumped over to the dark side…).

After clearing a round of metal detectors, I made my way up the elevator with my two aforementioned handlers. I was led to a waiting room where I made some chit chat with Derick and Eun who each told me about their careers in private sector media. (I pray every day that the allure of a solid government salary with good benefits doesn’t one day catch up with me too…) Steve Jost, chowing down on a sandwich and french fries, returned and had us follow him into his office. We all sat down, with me at the head of the table. With white hair and a bit of scruff on his face, Jost wasn’t the devilish and egotistical Nazi I expected he might be, but rather a jovial guy who immediately poked fun at my comments about him on this site. I replied that I made those comments when I was thousands of miles away in the safety of my own home, and I had never expected to be sitting down with him in person. But I had no regrets. My job is to be a watchdog, and a vigilant watchdog I will be.

Last to arrive at our meeting was Stephen Buckner, the mouthpiece of the 2010 Census (spokesman) who had the boyish charm of a high school quarterback. I’m sure that fifteen years ago he easily cruised his way to a victory during elections for homecoming king.

Jost was the leader of this round-table, so between french fries he started firing off all of the positive accomplishments that he and his team have made, while clearly avoiding any of the shortcomings. Here’s a rundown of the most interesting things that he said:

1. High unemployment rates and homeowners losing their homes to foreclosure will cause problems with the 2010 Census.

2. The hardest group to count is “young, unattached people” who move frequently, only have cell phones, are between jobs or studies, etc. — NOT immigrants or minorities, as one might expect from all of the Census Bureau’s hard-to-count group advertising…(MyTwoCensus will investigate this further in the near future!)

3. The Census Bureau has created a series of ads using pop music…get ready to find these on your TV screens starting in early January.

4. The participation rate in the Census increased for the first time since 1970 in 2000, despite general trends that fewer and fewer people are involved in civic activities like voting, performing jury duty, etc. Hopefully they can once again reverse this trend in 2010.

5. 95% of media consumers will be reached multiple times by 2010 Census advertising campaigns.

6. 53% of 2010 Census advertising is local. 47% is national. (Note: MyTwoCensus has not heard back yet as to whether our proposal to let the Census Bureau advertise for the 2010 Census on this site was accepted…)

7. Spoiler Alert: Sesame Street will be featuring a 2010 Census storyline via The Count and Rosita characters.

8. 2010.Census.gov was redesigned.

9. Though 173 forms of social media have been integrated with Census Bureau awareness efforts, no I-Phone Application has been created for the 2010 Census.

10. The 2010 Census forms will be mailed to all households in America (hopefully) on March 17, 2010. (Let’s hope drunken St. Patty’s day revelers don’t interfere with the efforts of the U.S. Postal Service…)

11. When selecting advertisements for the 2010 Census, the Census Bureau asks the creative directors of 12 different advertising firms to submit proposals via a “creative rumble.”

12. Hopefully there won’t be a repeat of the 2000 Advance Letter Debacle in 2010…

13. There will be extra Census Bureau staff in New Orleans to personally hand deliver 2010 Census questionnaires to every household.

14. The address canvassing portion of the 2010 Census provided data that there are approximately 134 million individual housing units in the US, down from original estimates of 140 million.

15. Many addresses in places like Las Vegas where construction on homes was started but never finished have been deleted from the 2010 Census rolls.

16. Very, very, very few people hired to work for the Census Bureau as temporary workers have quit during the 2009-2010 cycle, as other jobs are extremely scarce.

17. On November 17 at 9:30am, Dr. Robert M. Groves will be holding his next monthly “State of the 2010 Census” address…

I was given some handouts (drawings of a 2010 Census logo on a NASCAR racecar that will be unveiled soon), portions of powerpoints (that showed me data about levels of Census participation), and had the opportunity to see one of the hip-hop music based commercials that was recently shot in LA and will soon be airing nationwide. It was a smooth operation, and my questions were answered well. Were the answers necessarily honest? No. But did the PR team effectively do their jobs to give give off the image of squeaky clean 2010 Census communications operations? Absolutely.

The Census Bureau’s Unintentional Jobs-For-Felons Program

Thursday, October 15th, 2009

The following piece was written by David Allburn, who owns National Fingerprints, LLC and does not represent the views of Stephen Robert Morse or MyTwoCensus.com.  It should be noted that the Census Bureau rejected David’s unsolicited proposal to integrate his company’s services into 2010 Census security procedures.

To assure integrity and to comfort the public, Congress insisted on a fingerprint background check of canvassers for the 2000 census. The Bureau begged-off that time on grounds of insufficient time and funds, but promised they would do both a name-check and a fingerprint check for the 2010 census.

Next March the Bureau will mass-hire more than 500,000 canvassers to visit homes that did not fill out the form. Evident to the canvassers will be: Which homes have burglar alarms, disabled children present, an overworked single mom, expensive décor and vehicles, etc. Such “data” is not sought by the 2010 census. And it probably IS unthinkable that a census canvasser would assault or steal from homeowners during their census visit. But if a census worker was previously arrested for such crimes there is increased risk they might seek to list such unofficial “data” for use in criminal activity later. That is probably what Congress was concerned about when they insisted that former felons not be hired as canvassers.

It might have been tolerable in the 2000 census that only a couple of assaults were committed by canvassers, but the 2010 census will be different. Not just because there are a lot more felons on the street, and a lot fewer recession-jobs for them, but because the Census Bureau screening method for canvasser candidates will attract them.

Felons will automatically resort to half-century-old methods for evading the criminal history name check and fingerprint check. These obvious methods will work this time because the Bureau has chosen fingerprint procedures and policies which are a full century-old. The situation was fully described to the Census Bureau in a classified section of our August 2008 proposal. The first part, about felons getting hired, was publicized in the recent GAO report and the Senate hearing. The second part, about attracting felons to apply in the first place, was not. We begged Census program office officials to consider the impact of this on public confidence and the Bureau’s PR expenditures should it leak out. Sadly, it doesn’t have to leak. It’s evident to felons already, and will probably be left to YouTube and Jay Leno to “further advise” America about it. I hate to think of Jay Leno “interviewing” (comedians) Gilbert Gottfried as the print-taker engaged in fingerprinting applicant Fred Willard.

Knowing that bad prints generate a “you’re hired” outcome, felons will do what they already do to get a job: Use the internet to obtain fake names and buy convincing credentials that pass the name check. Now trainees, they will exploit the 100-year-old “grapple method” of fingerprint capture selected by the Bureau. In this method the Bureau’s “print-takers” grasp each of the trainee’s inked fingers one at a time and roll it onto a card like it was a rubber stamp. If several prints are blurry the print-taker has to start over. But time is limited, and the process depends on GOOD COOPERATION BY THE TRAINEE.

There is cooperation all right, but it not good. While the print-taker grasps each of the fingers, the applicant feigns helplessness, and causes the finger to squirm, tremble, or press down too hard on the card. Since there is limited time for re-takes the trainee just runs-out-the-clock. This forces the unreadable prints to be routinely shipped to the central card-scan facility where they are scanned into, and rejected by, the FBI. Since re-takes are logistically impossible, the felon gets hired as if he passed anyway, by reverting to reliance on the (fake) name check.

Our proposal warned strenuously about this vulnerability, not only for the predictable 20% rejection rate, but also for the liability: If poor print quality were to cost honest trainees their jobs, it could create a cause-of-action because the blurry prints were arguably the fault of the print-taker, not the applicant. (It appears that consideration of this risk may have caused the absurd “you’re hired” policy when prints are unreadable.) We considered this information so sensitive at the time that we packaged it into a classified section of our proposal. It showed exactly how to plug this gaping security weakness with two simple steps:

(1) The Bureau should announce that trainees are responsible for the “readability” of their own fingerprints, and that fingerprint “failure” due to un-readability (or to discovery of disqualifying criminal history), terminates the canvasser’s employment. This stops attracting ex-felons who would intentionally blur their prints, but it is manifestly unfair to honest workers whose fingerprints are blurred by the inexperienced print-takers. This is fixed by step two.

(2) The Bureau should augment its fingerprint capture by adopting part of our patented “self-capture” technique. Invented by a war veteran, the method has applicants use an extra minute or two to make their own set of “backup prints”, observed and authenticated by the print-taker. Barcoded and enclosed with the cards forwarded to the scanning center, those self-captured prints are readily available for fixing any individual print impressions found “bad.” Well tested, this gets the cards through the FBI with the same dependability as live-scanning offers, typically twenty times better than the old rubber-stamp method now in use.

For the few cases where prints are still unreadable the fault lies clearly with the applicant and not the Census Bureau’s print-taker. This forestalls thoughts of lawsuits and class actions. The method fits easily into the current logistics, gets everyone’s prints promptly evaluated by the FBI as intended, doesn’t require logistically impossible re-takes, and discourages ex-felons from trying to exploit the process.

All that’s needed is for the Bureau to invite an amendment to the proposal. A better/faster/cheaper method, simpler than the full-blown method originally proposed, is described in the patent and is readily available and easily deployed to fit the existing logistics. Fortunately it’s neither too late nor too expensive to fix the problem.

One last thing: The Census Bureau is getting a bad rap on print-taker training. They must have trained them well, and the print-takers must be good at it, because those folks are apparently achieving the same 20% FBI reject-ratio that experienced law enforcement officers get, those few who still use that old manual card-rolling method.

State-by-state breakdown: How was the response rate in your state?

Friday, October 2nd, 2009

The following is a list of the percentages of U.S. households that returned census questionnaires in 2000 by mail or submitted information on another form, over the phone or by Internet (The nation averaged a 67 percent response rate):

- Alabama: 61 percent

- Alaska: 56 percent

- Arizona: 63 percent

- Arkansas: 64 percent

- California: 70 percent

- Colorado: 70 percent

- Connecticut: 70 percent

- Delaware: 63 percent

- District of Columbia: 60 percent

- Florida: 63 percent

- Georgia: 65 percent 

- Hawaii: 60 percent

- Idaho: 67 percent

- Illinois: 69 percent

- Indiana: 69 percent

- Iowa: 76 percent

- Kansas: 71 percent

- Kentucky: 66 percent

- Louisiana: 60 percent

- Maine: 61 percent

- Maryland: 69 percent

- Massachusetts: 69 percent

- Michigan: 71 percent

- Minnesota: 75 percent

- Mississippi: 63 percent

- Missouri: 69 percent

- Montana: 68 percent

- Nebraska: 75 percent

- Nevada: 66 percent

- New Hampshire: 67 percent

- New Jersey: 68 percent

- New Mexico: 62 percent

- New York: 63 percent

- North Carolina: 64 percent

- North Dakota: 72 percent

- Ohio: 72 percent

- Oklahoma: 64 percent

- Oregon: 68 percent

- Pennsylvania: 70 percent

- Rhode Island: 67 percent

- South Carolina: 58 percent

- South Dakota: 74 percent

- Tennessee: 65 percent

- Texas: 64 percent

- Utah: 68 percent

- Vermont 60 percent

- Virginia: 72 percent

- Washington: 66 percent

- West Virginia: 64 percent

- Wisconsin: 75 percent

- Wyoming: 66 percent

Source: U.S. Census Bureau

Will Iowa Be The Best In The Nation In 2010?

Tuesday, September 15th, 2009

A quick piece of info from Radio Iowa:

Last year’s floods could impact 2010 Census in Iowa

by Dar Danielson on September 14, 2009

Beth Henning of the State Data Center is the Iowa liaison for the U.S. Census Bureau says Iowans’ civic-mindedness played a role in the good return rate, along with a high rate of home ownership. But she says this time it’s going to be hard to count everyone who lost their homes in the floods.

Iowa had the best rate in the country for returning census forms in the 2000 Census, but last year’s floods and other factors may make it hard to repeat that good performance in the upcoming 2010 count. Seventy-six-percent of Iowans returned their forms last time, compared with 67% nationwide.

San Francisco vs. The U.S. Census Bureau

Thursday, August 20th, 2009

H/t to the San Francisco Chronicle:

City Hall takes on the U.S. Census — again!

Squaring off against the U.S. Census is nothing new for City Hall officials – and they’re doing it again this week over the “advanced letter” the census sends all U.S. residents explaining the census questionnaire several weeks before they get the real thing.

City Attorney Dennis Herrera wants the U.S. Census to have a heartPaul Chinn/The Chronicle

In 2000, the advanced letter was sent in a variety of languages including Cantonese, Mandarin, Vietnamese, Korean and Tagalog. But in February, the letter will go out in English only, with Spanish versions included in some census tracts.

That means a lot of San Francisco’s 325,000 residents who speak a language other than English may not understand what to do with the census questionnaire. And that means they may skip it altogether, go uncounted and cause the city to lose out on federal money.

City Attorney Dennis Herrera and David Chiu, president of the Board of Supervisors, have sent a letter to the census asking that it reconsider its policy change. Chiu also introduced legislation at the board calling for an inclusive advanced letter.

The city has a long history of waging battles against the census. In the 1970s, Chinese residents sued over an undercount in Chinatown. In 1990, the city sued over another undercount. In 2000, the city said the census undercounted by a whopping 100,000 people – causing the San Francisco to lose out on $30 million a year in federal funds. (The census compromised, giving the city another 34,209 people.)

Sonny Le, a media specialist with the census, said nothing about the advanced letter has been finalized. We asked him numerous times why the language change had been floated in the first place, and he couldn’t give an answer, only saying it was “a combination of different things.”

Trouble in Florida For Hatians

Thursday, July 30th, 2009

There were significant troubles in Florida during the 2000 Census that resulted in many Census Bureau employees being fired from their jobs and a recount taken in certain areas of the state. Will there be similar problems in 2010? Many Floridians, especially minorities, fear just that. Check out the following reports from the Sun Sentinel:

When census takers visit Walter Hunter’s mostly black community in Pompano Beach next year for the big, every-10-years count, he predicts they will encounter a lot of slammed doors.

They are likely to get a similar reception in Delmond Desira’s Haitian neighborhood in Delray Beach, where many don’t understand how filling out the 10-question form would improve their lives.

Hunter and Desira live in South Florida enclaves the U.S. Census Bureau ranks among the hardest to count: pockets of Pompano Beach, Fort Lauderdale, Pembroke Park, Delray Beach and Belle Glade.

In those areas, with heavy concentrations of immigrants who don’t speak English, poor people and rental units, almost half the residents did not return mailed surveys for the last big count, in 2000.

Broward, Palm Beach and Miami-Dade are among the 50 counties in the nation with the most people living in hard-to-count areas, according to a report released in April by the Annie E. Casey Foundation, a children’s advocacy group.

This time, the Census Bureau plans to work harder to reach these people, through the schools, a more creative multi-language campaign and a shorter survey form — 10 questions that take just 10 minutes, the catch phrase goes. Volunteers will put up signs in beauty salons and convenience stores and get the word out at houses of worship and nonprofit centers.

This fall, grade-school children will study the census in math and geography classes, and they will take home census materials for their parents. In January, the Census Bureau will launch an advertising campaign in 28 languages urging participation. The form is not available in Creole, however, and critics say that will hinder the count of South Florida’s large Haitian population.

And another story:

Some of the people that make up Florida’s Haitian community may not partake in one of the most important events of this nation – the 2010 Census. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, heavily concentrated areas where Haitians live, such as Pompano Beach, Fort Lauderdale and Delray Beach are very hard to tally when it comes to the once-a-decade count. This is mainly due to the language barrier that most Haitians, many being immigrants, encounter when it comes to understanding and completing the surveys issued by the Census Bureau.

Although the Broward County‘s Census 2010 Complete Count Committee is strategizing ways to get to those who were missed back in 2000 by producing informational guides in various languages, including Creole, the actual census is not offered in Haiti’s national language. Despite the Bureau’s outreach effort, it may still have difficulty reaching these communities. As a Haitian-American, I can attest that many Haitian residents, especially those who do not speak English, will probably disregard the survey once they receive it in the mail. This is simply because they do not understand the importance and / or the basis of the Census. In other words, such a survey is considered junk mail.

I believe an effective strategy would be to educate the community on what exactly the Census is, the concept behind it and why it is imperative that they participate. Nevertheless, the fact that the Census Bureau is launching an advertising campaign in 28 languages, except for Creole, will contribute to the hindrance in the counts, at least in South Florida. While some Haitian immigrants and / or residents may rely on their English-speaking children to translate the Census survey, a majority of them will not have that advantage. Those who come to the United States together as a family, but are without relatives in the country, will be the hardest to reach.

This was very much the case for my parents, until my siblings and I came into the picture. Though they were able to survive on their own, the fact that we came around made life much easier for them. For example, learning about the Census at school allowed me to go home and look out for the surveys, as well as assist my parents in answering the questions. Now they have a better understanding of the Census and are capable of filling it out on their own.

Hopefully, the Haitian children that are starting school this fall will not only learn census in math and geography classes, but will also be able to pass on the knowledge to their parents. If not, then the Census Bureau may want to develop a new marketing campaign in Creole.

Retrospective: Statistical Sampling

Tuesday, June 23rd, 2009

The use of statistical sampling has been a hot political topic that caused a significant amount of partisan debate, discussion, and allegations prior to Robert M. Groves’ U.S. Senate confirmation hearing to become the next director of the U.S. Census Bureau. However this is not a new issue for the decennial headcount. For the readers of this blog who are interested in the history of the sampling dilemma, please check out this article from Science News Online (click here!) about the sampling debate in the days that led up to the 2000 headcount. The result of the  1999/2000 controversy was a ruling of the United States Supreme Court in the case of the Department of Commerce vs. The United States House of Representatives that banned sampling from being used in decennial census counts.