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 ‘American Community Survey’

MyTwoCensus Editorial: Sign this MyTwoCensus Petition: Ensure that the Census Bureau’s American Community Survey is not eliminated

Tuesday, May 22nd, 2012

UPDATE: Click HERE for the petition!

As the founder and executive editor of MyTwoCensus.com, I am astounded that the GOP, the political party that consistently claims to be pro-business, recently voted to nix an operation, the Census Bureau’s American Community Survey, that provides enormous sums of data that help American businesses.

Rep. Daniel Webster (R-FL) is a career politician and a big fat idiot (who is apparently just as ignorantly conservative as his namesake fellow politician). If only he had more business experience, it’s doubtful that he would be calling the American Community Survey “intrusive,” “an inappropriate use of taxpayer dollars,” “unconstitutional,” and “the very picture of what’s wrong in D.C.” (Ironically, it Webster’s salary that is a waste of tax payer dollars, intrusive, and what’s wrong in D.C.)

For those unfamiliar with the American Community Survey, it is, according to Wikipedia, “an ongoing statistical survey by the U.S. Census Bureau, sent to approximately 250,000 addresses monthly (or 3 million per year). It regularly gathers information previously contained only in the long form of the decennial census. It is the largest survey other than the decennial census that the Census Bureau administers.”

While the survey is currently listed as mandatory, I person has ever been prosecuted for not completing it. (Perhaps the Census Bureau should make it optional to appease critics.)

Yes, the Census Bureau should move to an online survey from its current paper-based system to save taxpayers significant sums of money (and put the US Postal Service one step closer to its grave), but that doesn’t mean that the treasure trove of data that will be lost is any less valuable.

As the Washington Post’s editorial board accurately wrote, “Every year, the Census Bureau asks 3 million American households to answer questions on age, race, housing and health to produce timely information about localities, states and the country at large. This arrangement began as a bipartisan improvement on the decennial census. Yet last week the Republican-led House voted to kill the ACS. This is among the most shortsighted measures we have seen in this Congress, which is saying a lot.”

The Post continues, “Businesses deciding whether to sell tractors or tricycles want to know how many people live in a given area, whether they mostly live in apartments or houses, with how many children, and how far they travel to work. Consumers then get access to goods and services they desire. Municipal planners determining whether to build a new senior center need to know where the elderly live in their town, and if they have family around to care for them. Government agencies targeting $400 billion in annual anti-poverty, health-care or highway spending require granular data on things such as local incomes. Lawmakers debating health-care policy should have up-to-date information on how many people are uninsured, and where they are concentrated.”

In response to this legislation, I have started a petition to alert the United States Senate of this unthinkably stupid legislation that has already been passed by the House of Representatives.

Data releases begin; more to come

Wednesday, September 29th, 2010

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

“We’re going to be releasing a lot of population data in the coming months,” Census Bureau Director Robert Groves said last week at a meeting with reporters. “There is a potential for confusion.” (See a full schedule below.)

Indeed. For example, the ranks of the nation’s poor rose last year, according to Census statistics released Tuesday.

Those stats come from the American Community Survey, a questionnaire randomly sent on an annual basis to households nationwide. The survey helps determine the status of 40 different topic areas, including annual income, housing levels, educational attainment, family structure, commute times and the number of disabled people.

Some conservative activists and Republican lawmakers wrongly assumed that these questions were part of the 2010 Census forms. But no, the ACS replaced the old census “long form” that was randomly sent to some households in the past. (And yes, skeptics: It is constitutional for the Census Bureau to ask questions beyond a simple count of people.)

In December the Census Bureau will release ACS statistics based on data collected between 2005 and 2009 for geographic areas of all sizes. A third set of ACS data collected between 2007 and 2009 and covering all areas with populations of 20,000 or more will be released in January.

The results of the 10-question decennial census forms completed earlier this year will be released in December, as required by the U.S. Constitution. (Article 1, Section 2 states that “[An] enumeration shall be made within three years after the first meeting of the Congress of the United States, and within every subsequent term of ten years, in such manner as they shall by law direct.”)

The December release will include the nation’s new total population figures and state-by-state congressional apportionment information. Other information on redistricting will be released in February or March.

UPCOMING CENSUS BUREAU RELEASES:

OCTOBER:
2009 American Community Survey estimates

DECEMBER:
2010 Census state counts

Census Bureau demographic analysis

2005-2009 American Community Survey estimates

JANUARY:
2007-2009 American Community Survey estimates

FEBRUARY TO MARCH:
Redistricting data from the 2010 Census

Why the 2010 Census matters

Monday, January 4th, 2010

Sacramento Bee editorial writer Pia Lopez has a piece today responding to SacBee commenters and politicians like Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.) who want to boycott the census.

It’s a good read, and a reminder that the Census is about more than funding and congressional representation. Here’s Lopez’s central argument (check out the full piece here):

The U.S. census provides an essential portrait of who we are as a people and how we live – from 1790 to the present.

The census gives us a person-by-person, family-by-family, street-by-street, community-by-community, state-by-state set of details about Americans. It is not just “America by the Numbers” – an impersonal compendium of population numbers for a statistical atlas.

Lopez used census information to look into her own family history — and what she found is pretty interesting. The 1900 Census reveals that her great-grandfather was the only boarder on a New York City block of Swedish, Irish and German immigrants. Most could speak English, read and write, but not everyone could.

The census, she writes, gives us details about how Americans lived — and protects privacy because the page-by-page details aren’t disclosed until 72 years later. Lopez encourages those who receive the in-depth American Community Survey to willingly fill it out:

If you get that longer questionnaire, which delves into 40 topic areas – including such things as income, citizenship, disability, plumbing and heating in the house, telephone service, family relationships and educational attainment – just remember that the information won’t be released until 2082. And when it is, it will provide indispensable information about technological change, standard of living and the work people do.

In the short-term, the 2010 Census is crucial for fairly appropriating funds and ensuring just representation in Congress. But for future historians and regular people who want to know their family’s past, it provides a comprehensive yet specific look at American society. The story of Lopez’s great-grandfather is just one of the millions that show the value of the census.

Trouble Brewing in California

Tuesday, September 29th, 2009

The following is a letter from the state of California’s 2010 Census office to Commerce Secretary Gary Locke in Washington. (In other related news, 2010 Census boycotts have kick-started in California):

September 28, 2009

Director Katague Sends Letter to U.S. Department of Commerce Secretary Locke on Advance Letter

Director Ditas Katague today sent the following letter to Secretary Gary Locke urging reconsideration of the U.S. Census Bureau’s English-only Advance Letter policy:

September 28, 2009

The Honorable Gary Locke

Secretary of Commerce

U.S. Department of Commerce

1401 Constitution Avenue, Northwest

Washington, DC 20230

Dear Secretary Locke:

It has come to my attention that the U.S. Census Bureau has made the policy decision to send the Advance Letter in English-only in March 2010.  The Advance Letter is one of the first official communications coming directly from the U.S. Census Bureau for the decennial census.  By not including any in-language instructions or messages, I believe you are missing a huge opportunity to engage limited or non-proficient English speaking households in preparing them for the arrival of the census questionnaire.

I strongly urge you to reconsider this decision, as this decision risks completely missing the opportunity to communicate with those Hard-to-Count populations in our state.  Hundreds of languages other than English are spoken at home in California.  Based on 2008 American Community Survey (ACS) data, only 19,646,489 out of more than 30 million Californians speak only English .  That leaves millions and millions of California residents that could effectively not receive advance notice of the decennial census.

Lastly, we believe that any investment in sending a multi-lingual Advance Letter to Californians will ultimately serve to increase the Mail Back Response Rate (MRR), which will decrease the amount of Non-Response Follow-Up (NRFU) the Bureau conducts.  This could save valuable time and taxpayer money.

Again, I strongly urge you to reconsider your English-only Advance Letter policy immediately so that operations are not impacted and to ensure all Californians are counted.

Respectfully,

Ditas Katague
Director, 2010 Census Statewide Outreach

Governor’s Office of Planning and Research

cc:     The Honorable Nancy Pelosi

The Honorable Diane Feinstein

The Honorable Barbara Boxer

Robert Groves, U.S. Census Bureau Director

B16001. LANGUAGE SPOKEN AT HOME BY ABILITY TO SPEAK ENGLISH FOR THE POPULATION 5 YEARS AND OVER

Universe:  POPULATION 5 YEARS AND OVER

Data Set: 2008 American Community Survey 1-Year Estimates

Census Bureau Press Release: Frequently Asked Questions on Death of William E. Sparkman, Jr.

Friday, September 25th, 2009

Frequently Asked Questions on Death of William E. Sparkman, Jr.

Statement from Census Bureau Director Bob Groves:

“We are all deeply saddened by the loss of our co-worker, William Sparkman. Our thoughts and prayers are with Mr. Sparkman’s family and friends. We are monitoring the developments closely.

“The work of everyone in the Census Bureau depends on the success of our field representatives. They are the front line of the work we do. Mr. Sparkman was a shining example of the hard-working men and women the Census Bureau has in the field. The work they do on a daily basis is not easy but is a great and important service to our nation.”

Q: What can you tell us about the investigation or the circumstances of Mr. Sparkman’s death?

    A:  The extent of information we have about the investigation is that the FBI is currently gathering evidence to determine whether this death was the result of foul play. Any other questions related to the investigation or the circumstances surrounding Mr. Sparkman’s death should be directed to:
    • Kyle Edelen
    • Kentucky U.S. Attorney’s Office
    • 859-685-4811

Q: When did the Census Bureau learn of Mr. Sparkman’s death?

    A:  After the Census Bureau was informed of this tragedy by the FBI on September 12, Census Bureau Director Bob Groves and local regional director Wayne Hatcher flew to Kentucky to meet with law enforcement officials and the family of Mr. Sparkman to convey our condolences and to offer any assistance they could. They also met with other Census Bureau field representatives in the area to share our grief, to thank them for their service, and to advise them to seek any counseling that they might wish to have.

Q: Are you worried about the safety of other Census Bureau staff?

    A: We have no information that this tragedy was related Mr. Sparkman’s work with the Census Bureau. Over the past decade Census employees have maintained a high level of safety on the job.
    Employees learn that safety is of the utmost importance from their first day on the job, when they receive intensive training on steps they can take to protect themselves in a variety of settings. All employees receive ongoing reminders to take safety precautions when they are in the field. That practice will continue. Violence against Census Bureau employees is extremely rare.

Q: How many people are going door to door in the field?

A: We have an ongoing workforce of approximately 5,900 field representatives who conduct the American Community Survey and other surveys the Census Bureau conducts throughout the year and throughout the decade. In the spring of 2010 we will have nearly 700,000 temporary workers in the field conducting follow-up on the 2010 Census.

Gay Marriage Data Set To Be Released

Tuesday, August 4th, 2009

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

The Census Bureau will for the first time publicly release the number of gay marriages reported in a decennial census, as it plans to release raw data about same-sex relationships in the 2010 headcount, according to new guidelines released today.

The decision reverses a Bush-era policy that prohibited the release of the data. In a legal opinion published last week, Commerce Department lawyers concluded that the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act does not prohibit the Census Bureau from publicly releasing the data, contrary to the conclusions reached by Bush administration lawyers.

Continuing current policy, the new guidelines state that software used by Census enumerators will recode answers given by same sex-partners who mark their relationship status as “husband or wife,” to “unmarried partner.” But then, in late 2011, Census officials will for the first time release the raw state-by-state data on same-sex couples that marked their relationship status as “husband or wife.”

The new policy marks a continued shift in how the Census handles declarations of same-sex partnerships. In 1990, enumerators made a practice of changing the sex of a person described as the husband or wife of a head of household to reflect the opposite sex. In 2000, the bureau instead edited the data to describe same-sex couples as “unmarried partners.”

The Census will first report same-sex marriage data later this year when it releases the 2008 American Community Survey. The results of the annual housing and population survey will include unedited responses regarding relationship status.

Republicans Encourage Bachmann to End Census Boycott

Wednesday, July 1st, 2009

The following is a press release from Rep. Patrick McHenry’s (R-NC) office:

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE Brock McCleary
July 1, 2009 Phone: (202) 225-2576
Republicans Encourage Bachmann
to End Census Boycott
WASHINGTON – Congressman Patrick McHenry (NC-10), Congressman Lynn Westmoreland (GA-3), and Congressman John Mica (FL-7), Republican members of the Census Oversight Subcommittee, released the following statement regarding Congresswoman Michele Bachmann’s boycott of the 2010 Decennial Census.

“We share Ms. Bachmann’s concerns about ACORN’s involvement in the 2010 Census and will continue pressuring the Bureau to follow their own guidelines for partnering organizations and dump ACORN.  However, we can not emphasize enough how important it is for every individual to fill out their census forms.

“Every elected representative in this country should feel a responsibility to encourage full participation in the census.  To do otherwise is to advocate for a smaller share of federal funding for our constituents.  Boycotting the constitutionally-mandated census is illogical, illegal and not in the best interest of our country.

“The unfortunate irony is that Ms. Bachmann’s boycott only increases the likelihood that ACORN-recruited census takers will be dispatched to her constituents’ homes.  Anyone who completes and returns their census form will remove any need for a census taker to visit their residence.

“Furthermore, a boycott opens the door for partisans to statistically adjust census results.  The partisan manipulation of census data would irreparably transform the census from being the baseline of our entire statistical system into a tool used to wield political power in Washington.”

NOTE: The 2010 Decennial Census, not to be confused with the American Community Survey, will strictly utilize a short-form questionnaire for the first time ever.  Under Sections 9 and 24 of Title 13, information collected by the Census Bureau is confidential and not shared with any other federal agency.  Only an act of Congress could alter this statute.

###

The American Community Survey…”Too Nosey”

Wednesday, May 27th, 2009

Yesterday, young neo-con Meghan Clyne wrote a column in The New York Post bashing The American Community Survey that is delivered to 1 in 40 American households:

UNCLE SAM’S WAY-TOO-NOSY SURVEY

WHERE’S the outrage?

With all the recent ob sessing over the “rights” of terrorists in Guantanamo, and the idea that President Obama’s Supreme Court nominee should support “the constitutional right to privacy,” you’d expect the civil-liberties crowd to be inflamed by the federal government forcing Americans to disclose sensitive information about their finances, health and lifestyles.

You would be wrong.

Recently nearly 3 million Americans were sent the American Community Survey. An annual supplement to the decennial Census, the 28-page survey pursues obnoxious nanny-state details such as whether your home has a flush toilet, what kind of fuel you use for heat and how much you spend on everything from electricity and flood insurance to your mortgage and property taxes.

Then come the really nosy questions, ranging from your college major and your health insurance to how you spend each day at the office. The survey even asks what time you leave for work, down to the hour and minute.

It also asks whether, “because of a physical, mental or emotional condition,” you have difficulty “concentrating, remembering or making decisions,” “walking or climbing stairs,” “doing errands alone such as visiting a doctor’s office or shopping” or “dressing or bathing.”

So much for keeping government out of the bedroom. The survey also demands your current marital status; whether you’ve been married, widowed or divorced in the last 12 months, and how many times you’ve been married. If you’re a woman between the ages of 15 and 50, you must also answer whether you’ve given birth in the last 12 months. The Census Bureau says this “measure of fertility” is used to “carry out various programs required by statute, including . . . conducting research for voluntary family planning programs.” What was that about a “woman’s right to privacy”?

It’s tempting to toss the survey in the circular file, but recipients are required by law to respond. According to the Census Web site, the fine for nonparticipation can be as much as $5,000, and filing false information can pack a $500 punch.

Why all this intrusion? The Constitution allows for the “enumeration” of Americans for the purposes of taxation and apportioning political representation — but this survey isn’t part of the head-counting. The information is used by the government to spread around your tax dollars and justify federal bureaucracies; it can also be distributed to private businesses.

The feds say the data will stay secure, but after recent episodes in which personal records were compromised by the State and Veterans Affairs departments, some skepticism is understandable.

Jim Harper, a privacy expert at the Cato Institute, calls the survey “a classic example of mission creep over the decades — this constitutional need to literally count how many noses are in the United States has turned into a vast data-collection operation.” Toss in the push for the 2010 Census to be run out of the White House, and it adds up to a real intrusion into private lives, with the goal of further expanding government’s reach.

There is spirited opposition to the survey, ranging from libertarian bloggers to Rep. Ron Paul, who has called it “insulting.” Yet civil-liberties groups are strangely quiet.

NARAL didn’t respond to a request for comment and an American Civil Liberties Union spokeswoman said last week that she “couldn’t find anyone to talk.” But an organization fact sheet says the survey is not unconstitutional, adding that the Census “serves a vital role in our democracy . . . it determines apportionment for voting, as well as helps allocate other government benefits such as anti-poverty programs.”

So, we shouldn’t listen in on terrorists to save American lives — but intrusions into your privacy to support causes the left likes are just fine.

The good news is that I called the help number on my form and a Census representative finally conceded that the government was unlikely to pursue punishment if I didn’t respond, saying it would be “a waste of time and money.”

Maybe that’s enough to risk telling the government what to do with its survey. But if you do end up facing a harassing Census-taker — well, don’t count on the civil-liberties crowd for help.

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.