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 ‘2020’

WSJ: Alternative methods of counting for the Census Bureau

Monday, August 2nd, 2010

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

By CARL BIALIK

Even in a mandatory census, there are conscientious objectors.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Rumor: Film crews in Brooklyn preparing for the 2020 Census

Friday, July 23rd, 2010

Warning: This is not science fiction.

Despite the multitude of scandals and troubles in Brooklyn, MyTwoCensus has learned that a camera crew (presumably a PR team) was sent from the Census Bureau to Brooklyn to prepare for the 2020 Census. Jeez. Anyone have more info on who these folks are and what they are up to? Thanks!

Will this census be our last?

Monday, July 12th, 2010

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

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

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

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

To 2020 and beyond…

Thursday, July 8th, 2010

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

Daily Sound Off: Contender for Worst Local Census Office

Tuesday, June 1st, 2010

Today’s Daily Sound Off comes from Georgia:

From a contender to the title of “The Worst LCO in the Nation”

Well, it looks like the U. S. Census finally got the PBOCS software working. The solution, reduce the number of users from 10 to 2. This means it will take 5 times longer to key the volumes of returned enumerator questionnaires that have been stacked into boxes waiting for a clerk to key them.

While we are on the subject of questionnaires I would like to explain the process in our LCO (local census office), Macon Georgia.

!. Enumerators turn in their completed questionnaires to their crew leader who reviews them for completeness and then initials showing his approval. Enumerators are experiencing a large number of irate people that do not want to participate and have discovered it is easier to call the residence vacant of cannot locate than it is to try and get the information. No one likes to be chewed out and in a way I don’t blame them. A large percent of the population don’t trust the Census and wish to be left alone.

Residents are handing the Census envelopes they received in the mail to the enumerator and telling them to leave. These envelopes are not being mailed but are being thrown into boxes. At least if they were mailed, the people might be counted.

2. The crew leader brings them to the office where clerks log the receipt of “X” number of questionnaires.

3. Then they are given to clerks for review of completeness. We have about 30 clerks on three shifts doing this. Those that fail are returned to the crew leader for rework. The return rate is about 50% because Crew leaders are not reviewing, just initialing, and sometime not initialing. What company would pay for this amount of poor performance and then pay more to the same people to do the work again and even worse allow it to continue?

4.  Once the clerk begins keying another 20% of the forms are pulled out to be returned to the crew leader because the clerks did a poor job of their review. Another 20% to 30% of the questionnaires are sent to Data Collection office with incomplete information

5.  Where are the managers and supervisors? What are they doing about it? Well last month, the Area Manager took over the office but after two weeks she could not make a difference even with the assistance of three RT’s so they assigned another area manager who left two RT’s with us and one is acting LCOM (LCO manager) after firing the LCOM.  The acting LCOM can barely speak English and neither knows enough to do anything but contribute to the turmoil. They think the solution is to see how many people they can make miserable by denying them food and drink in their work area and not allowing them to leave except for a two 15 minute breaks and a 30 minute lunch. They must raise their hand when they need more work or have to go to the bathroom.  Next there is a field operations manager who has 3 office supervisors and 7 field office supervisors to help her. All are poorly trained and most are not supervisor material, The solution is to add two more Field Office Supervisors (both have less than 30 days experience) to supervise the office operations supervisors. To the Census, more is usually the solution not accountability for their actions. The same people that did poor work during Address Canvassing, and Group Quarters are still being paid to make a mess of Non Response Follow Up. These RT’s will not listen to those managers that years of supervisor experience and know how to solve the problem.  We probably will soon have a new set of RT’s and another Area Manager because nothing is improving.

6. Finally there is shipping of the questionnaires. The Census Bureau with their infinite wisdom decided to take some strain off the PBOCS by moving shipping to a DAPPS based program. This seems like a good idea but in doing so removed the checks and balance that PBOCS had which prevented questionnaires from being shipped without being checked-in. Now any questionnaire can be shipped. What a mess we are going to have.

Conclusion:

Management is the source of all problems within the Census; i.e., I should say the lack of management and it starts at the top. The U.S. Census has grown to be a management nightmare and will need serious restructure if it is to survive. All the public relations, TV commercials, nor increased spending can cure the festering sores.

I sense that these problems are common place throughout the nation. With all the problems that have come to light, we are previewing the Death of the Census because the problems will ultimately make 2020 Census impossible. How can the Secretary of Commerce keep a straight face when he presents the results to President Obama on December 31, 2010?

Dr. Groves deflects discussion of 2010 Census in interview and talks about 2020 instead….

Saturday, May 15th, 2010

The Census Bureau’s PR and spin team is at it again. What better way for Census Director Robert M. Groves to avoid talking about the failures of the 2010 Census than to discuss the 2020 Census? Even more shocking is the mainstream media’s failure to report on the Census Bureau problems and jump all over the quote from the interview with Federal News Radio:

Director Robert Groves told Federal News Radio the Bureau is already planning to test using the Internet using the American Community Survey (ACS).

“One of the things I’m committed to,” said Groves, “is to using the surveys, especially the American Community Survey as a platform to test various ideas for 2020.”

No way! In the year 2020, the Census Bureau plans to use, get this, the INTERNET! That’s only like 10 years behind what all the rest of the developed nations are doing!

Interview With Robert M. Groves: Census Director focuses on putting IT to the test before the big count

Friday, November 27th, 2009

H/t to Gautham Nagesh of NextGov for the following interview with Census Bureau Director Robert M. Groves:

Since his confirmation in July, Census Bureau Director Robert Groves has found himself in charge of the costliest and most controversial census to date.

Well-publicized technology issues and budget overruns have hampered the bureau’s preparations for the 2010 count. Last month, Groves told lawmakers that the budget overruns leading to the decennial count’s $15 billion price tag were “intolerable.”

But he told Nextgov on Monday that the bureau plans to push the limits of new technology in tests scheduled for after the Thanksgiving break in hope of making sure the census goes as hitch-free as possible in April 2010.

Groves was the director of the Survey Research Center at the University of Michigan’s Institute for Social Research and served as associate director of the 1990 census in 1990. Nextgov reporter Gautham Nagesh spoke with him on Monday about the preparations for the 2010 census and the bureau’s progress on solving some of the technology problems that the Government Accountability Office and the inspector general found.

Nextgov: What is the status of the bureau’s preparations for the 2010 decennial census, especially concerning the information technology systems needed to support it?

Groves: I came in July and had not been there since 1990. There are a couple things to note on the IT side: First, I’ve been focused clearly on decennial IT issues, not on looking backwards. We have a new chief information officer, Brian McGrath, who came in weeks before me, and he was engaged in sort of the same thing I’m doing — checking the nature of the infrastructure for the decennial.

We had on our table GAO and IG reports concerning the lack of testing in an integrated way of the various subsystems used for the decennial census. We had some outside folks take a look at whether core subsystems were being tested in an integrated way.

We also have a new set of software we’re building as a result of the abandonment of the handhelds that will support paper-based nonresponse follow-up. That is the critical task on the software side I spend the most time on. After Thanksgiving we will perform a load test on systems that will be in action during nonresponse follow-up. We’re going to make sure we break the system to measure the capacity.

The other thing that’s notable from your readers’ perspective: We’re 80 percent through opening 500 different local Census offices, each of which has its own computer network issues. That was done through Harris Corp., part of the Field Data Collection Automation contract. We’ve got 400 local offices up and running, each site is its own little story. After some initial bumps that seems to be going well.

Nextgov: What was the situation like when you arrived regarding IT systems development? What in your view caused or contributed to the IT challenges at the Census Bureau?

Groves: I haven’t spent much time going back and diagnosing those problems. I have to focus on the future.

But I am a believer in certain philosophies when you develop software and hardware products for large, diverse sets of users, including that a user has to be at the table from Day One. The user has to be part of the inspection process for all the intermediate products as they are developed. The notion of writing down all the specs for complex systems and getting them right the first time, having programmers go away for a while and code those specs, that’s an approach that brings with it big risks.

In my past life in software development I have learned from a management perspective that you’ve got to get the user there all the time. They have to be part of the development. Humans can’t anticipate all the features of a software system before they see the first version of it.

But I need to emphasize that my job hasn’t been postmortem on handhelds, I have just not done that.

Nextgov: There were reports that the handhelds had some problems during address canvassing, particularly regarding their mapping function. How are you dealing with those?

Groves: There are two parts of the master address file: the geographical information that provides boundaries for aerial units and the address records. The big good news is that after this gigantic address canvassing operation, the number of records we have is very close to independent estimates of what it should be: 134 million households. That’s a good thing, based on the independent benchmark we get from sample surveys.

Now we’re going out and checking for clusters of records deleted [during address canvassing]. If you were listed in address canvassing and you noted that an address was improperly placed in a block, your job [as a canvasser] was to delete that one address and add it in the correct place [using the handheld]. We’re scrutinizing any clusters of deletes. In some regions we’ve reinspected areas that look suspicious.

Nextgov: What do they find upon reinspection?

Groves: We’re getting spotty results. It’s not a slam-dunk one way or the other. When we go out and have a whole group of addresses deleted, sometimes everything looks fine, sometimes the ones that were deleted were duplicates, and sometimes they were deleted in error. There’s no typical result.

Nextgov: The idea of using the Internet to collect responses was proposed and rejected last year, despite conducting a pilot in 2000. What’s your opinion on allowing responses online? Is that something you think should be explored for 2020?

Groves: My son filled out a questionnaire for the 2000 census on the Internet. The decision to eliminate the Internet option for 2010 was made before I got here. I haven’t diagnosed that decision. I know the most commonly cited reason is concerns about security, which are indeed real and completely legitimate.

Looking forward, I can say I can’t imagine a 2020 census without some Internet use. At the same time, in the same breath we have to know that neither you nor I have any idea what the 2020 Internet is actually going to be capable of. When I say we must have an Internet option, I must admit I’m not quite sure myself. We have to take advantage of the technology; other countries already are. In 2006, 18 percent of Canadian households responded to their census on the Internet.

Nextgov: Do you plan to serve beyond next year? Would you like to be involved in the planning for the 2020 count?

Groves: I serve at the pleasure of the president and will serve as long as he is pleased with my service. I’m terribly interested in 2020 and also interested in innovation in all of the other surveys the Census Bureau does, thousands depending on how you count. The challenge of doing economic and social measurement in this country is never-ending. The rate of innovation lets us use technology in new and important ways; it can change the way we measure the country. That pace has to pick up in any organization like the Census Bureau. I’m terribly interested in being part of that.