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.

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In case you missed it…Friday’s NYT Editorial

Monday, May 18th, 2009

Just as MyTwoCensus was reporting live from Washington about the Robert Groves’ confirmation hearing, The New York Times published an unsigned staff editorial titled, “Building a Better Census Bureau.” Here it is:

After years of mismanagement by the Bush administration and months of fumbles by the Obama team, the Census Bureau may be getting back on track for the 2010 count. On Friday, the Senate is scheduled to hold a confirmation hearing for Robert M. Groves, President Obama’s superb nominee to run the bureau.

A University of Michigan sociologist and a leading authority on survey methodology, Mr. Groves served as the bureau’s associate director from 1990 to 1992. With the 2010 census less than a year away — and at high risk of failure — the Senate should quickly confirm this top-notch nominee so he can get to work.

Congress also must do more to revitalize the bureau, which has long suffered from inadequate financing and political meddling and, as a result, weakened leadership.

A bipartisan bill pending in the House would help resolve those problems. It would take the Census Bureau out of the Commerce Department and establish it as an independent agency, akin to NASA or the National Science Foundation. It would also extend the bureau director’s term to five years so that census preparations are not upended by the presidential election cycle.

Seven former bureau directors from both parties have signed a letter in support of the measures. The census is a 10-year project, they noted. But as part of the Commerce Department, it is subject to budget decisions that change annually, resulting in chronic underfunding, especially in the project’s crucial planning phase.

The former directors also asserted that Congressional oversight would be improved if the Census Bureau were independent and could deal directly with Congress. Independence would also put bureau officials in a stronger position to push back against undue meddling by the White House or Congress, such as attempts to politicize hiring decisions or spin scientific data.

The census is vital to democracy — and to American citizens. It is used to decide the number of representatives from each state, draw Congressional districts and allocate federal aid. It and other bureau surveys also supply the underlying data for an array of government statistics on education, crime, health and the economy.

To do its important job well, the Census Bureau needs a strong leader, like Mr. Groves, and it needs to be an independent agency.

Confirmation Showdown: The McHenry Memo

Wednesday, May 13th, 2009

This was leaked to MyTwoCensus from a Congressional insider:

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Breaking News from South Carolina: GOP uses “fake” census for fundraising scheme

Tuesday, May 5th, 2009

We hoped that the GOP learned a thing or two after their robocalls backfired prior to the 2008 presidential election, but apparently no such lesson has been learned as they’re up to such shenanigans again in Pennsylvania. Taking the deception one step further, the GOP recently started mailing “fake” census forms to people in South Carolina to raise money for the party. Our calls to national GOP leaders and South Carolina GOP officials have not yet been returned since it is after business hours. We hope to quickly determine how widespread these mailings are and to whom they have been sent (only  to registered party members or to the general public). The Anderson, South Carolina Independent Mail broke this most shocking story:

3rd District ‘Census’ form is actually GOP fundraiser

A fundraising letter sent by the Republic Party National Committee that appears to be an official U.S. Census form for the state’s 3rd Congressional District is not endorsed by U.S. Rep. Gresham Barrett, a spokesman said.

The letter, and accompanying “census” form, also seeks donations for “strengthening our Party for the 2009-2010 elections.”

Emily Tyne, a spokesman for the congressman in Washington, D.C., referred questions to Barrett’s gubernatorial campaign spokesman.

“He wouldn’t have anything to do with that,” said Jim Dyke, a spokesman for the Barrett campaign.

“He would hope there wouldn’t be any confusion about this Republican Party fundraiser and the actual census,” Dyke said. “The census obviously is of great importance.”

The GOP “census” includes questions on a range of issues and appears to be an official document. On the envelope is the wording “Do Not Destroy Official Document.”

The form inside includes the words “2009 Congressional District Census,” “Census Tracking Code,” and “Census Document Registered To:” and is similar to an official census questionnaire.

Each section contains questions, and Section V, under “Census Certification and Reply,” asks for donations from $25 to $500 or “other.”

At the end of the document are the words “Paid for by the Republican National Committee.”

Dyke said Barrett “didn’t have any control over it.”

B.J. Welborn, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Census Bureau, said official census documents have a phone number for recipients to call to verify the mailing or ask questions. Census workers usually go door to door and have a badge and a hand-held computer, she said, but the agency does mail some questionnaires.

“What we send out is very clearly identifiable,” Welborn said.

“I couldn’t really comment on the GOP (letter),” she said. “We just want to make sure what is from us. If it is a mail survey, it is pretty easy to identify that it is from the U.S. government.”

People with questions can go to www.census.gov, she said. Two census offices opened in South Carolina in 2008 to supervise the current address canvassing operation, according to a statement. The phone numbers are (843) 323-4000 in Charleston and (803) 239-5012 in Columbia. Six more local census offices will open in the state to support 2010 census operations.

A U.S. Postal Service inspector did not respond by press time. An Anderson County Republican Party official did not return a phone message.


Note: MyTwoCensus is hoping to obtain an original copy/scan of the documents and envelopes discussed above. Please send any information/tips to MyTwoCensus @ MyTwoCensus.com.

MyTwoCensus Exclusive Part 3: Identity Theft, Scams, and the Census Bureau

Wednesday, April 8th, 2009

3 million Americans are set to receive bonuses this year as they are being asked to turn in  a 301-question form to the Census Bureau, called the American Community Survey (click here to download this 76-page monstrosity), instead of the typical “it-takes-less-than-ten-minutes-to-complete survey” that the other 300 million Americans out there will take. The American Community Survey is a replacement for “the long form,” which, from 1930-2000 was a lengthy survey sent to one in every six households that asked questions about everything from property taxes and indoor plumbing to education, ancestry and commuting patterns. But don’t think that everyone who received this new American Community Survey in the mail isn’t suspicious of its legitimacy, especially in this era of identity theft. Here’s the report from the Treasure Coast Palm newspaper:

— Vero Beach resident Robert Di Santi got a packet in the mail from the U.S. Department of Commerce, U.S. Census Bureau.

He was a little concerned about the invasiveness of some of the 301 questions, touching on topics from marriage to income. And he wondered if the material was actually from the government because the census is normally conducted once a decade.

“I requested information from Sen. Martinez and Rep. Posey about the propriety of this request,” said Di Santi, who thought it might be a scam.

In this era of identity theft, Census officials said Di Santi, and others who have received the packet, shouldn’t worry.

The Vero Beach resident’s home was one of about 7,000 Treasure Coast residences that will receive the packet this year. The Census annually sends out 3 million of its American Community Surveys to randomly selected residential addresses nationwide this decade. About 1-in-40 homes are selected to complete the mandatory survey. Failure to complete the survey could result in a $100 to $5,000 fine.

The questionnaire is a new method of conducting the long form of the census, now called the American Community Survey, that had been part of the once-a-decade roundup of facts about Americans.

In the 2000 survey, one in six residences received a long form. In the 2010 census, conducted April 1, everyone will receive what had been called the short form.

The downside of only doing the long form once every 10 years is the data gets out of date pretty quickly, said Shelly Lowe, Census Bureau public information officer. Since various programs rely upon set formulas for allocations of money and grants, it was decided to switch the long form to the annual survey.

“As part of the census, (American Community Surveys) data help determine how over $300 billion in federal tax dollars are distributed back to state and local areas,” Lowe said. “That’s why it’s important to fill it out and send it back if you receive it.”

The survey questions are similar to what was in the long form, but by being done annually, the survey provides a moving picture of the changes across the American landscape, Lowe said. The representative sample taken by the survey is also used to determine how federal dollars are distributed.

The Census Bureau will send a letter telling residents they have been selected for the survey. If a household selected for the survey doesn’t respond, a census employee will call or visit the address to conduct the survey.

How the American Community Survey data is used

Ethic origin: Used by the Public Health Service Act to identify segments of the population that might not be getting adequate medical services.

Marital status: Used by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development to determine areas eligible for Low Income Housing Tax Credits.

Grandparents as primary caregivers: Used by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to administer the Temporary Assistance to Needy Families program.

English language ability: Used to assist with voting per the Voting Rights Act.

Educational attainment: Used to distribute money to school districts for adult education.

Residence one year ago: Used by federal programs concerned with employment, housing, education and the elderly.

Commute to work: Used as the basis for state and metropolitan planning transit planning.

Plumbing and kitchen facilities: Used by federal programs that distribute housing grants to state and local areas.