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 ‘Brooklyn’

A decade-long quest to visit every Census tract in NYC!

Monday, January 7th, 2013

census-tracts

Check out this demographer’s journey, which comes from our friends at one of America’s hottest new media organizations, Narrative.ly.

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!

The latest update on the Brooklyn 2010 Census falsification scandal (Price Tag: $250K)

Thursday, July 22nd, 2010

MyTwoCensus has been informed that Census Bureau employees have been lifting information off the Internet and falsifying forms at locations throughout the country. Whistleblowers should not hesitate to contact MyTwoCensus.com immediately. Your confidentiality will be 100% maintained.

On Monday, July 19, 2010, the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform held a hearing entitled, “Is Brooklyn Being Counted? – Problems With the 2010 Census” to examine a recent incident involving two senior managers at the Brooklyn North East Local Census Office who were fired for fraudulently completing census surveys.  The hearing examined the steps the Census Bureau is taking to ensure the accuracy of the 2010 count. The New York State Congressional Delegation has been invited to participate in the hearing.

The hearing was held on Monday, July 19, 2010 at 10:00 a.m. in the courtroom of Brooklyn Borough Hall, located at 209 Joralemon Street, Brooklyn, NY.

The witnesses who testified were:

Dr. Robert M. Groves
Director
U.S. Census Bureau

Mr. Todd J. Zinser
Inspector General
U.S. Department of Commerce

Mr. Lester A. Farthing
Regional Director
U.S. Census Bureau NY Regional Census Center

Opening Statement of Chairman Edolphus Towns

Opening Statement of Subcommittee Chairman Wm. Lacy Clay

Opening Statement of Rep. Yvette Clarke

Prepared testimony of Dr. Robert Groves

Prepared testimony of Mr. Todd Zinser

According to the New York Daily News:

The bungling was first uncovered last month when two census managers were discovered faking surveys by lifting information off the Internet.

Brooklyn Northeast census manager Alvin Aviles and assistant Sonya Merritt were axed – and 4,200 questionnaires had to be redone.

Redoing the phony forms – which is almost complete – will cost taxpayers $250,000, Groves revealed.

To make matters worse, a whistleblower recently alerted officials that some of the new surveys also were fudged by workers who took their best guess when no one answered the door.

The workers estimated the number of people living in a home based on information such as names on mailboxes, Groves said at the hearing.

“This … is a clear violation of procedures,” he said.

Groves said the second snafu affected a few hundred households. He blamed the mistake on confused workers who misunderstood instructions.

The bureau is investigating whether information was faked in any other offices in Brooklyn or around the country.

He promised the bureau will come up with an accurate count and said that the recount of all 4,200 surveys will be done in a few days.

“I want to say how troubled I am that this occurred,” Groves said. “This activity violates all the principles for which the Census Bureau stands. It is an abhorrent act.”

According to Gothamist:

Census Recounters Messed Up Recount, Re-recount Planned

Those Brooklyn Census workers really don’t want to lose their jobs. After being instructed to redo more than 4,000 falsified Census forms, workers at the Brooklyn Northeast Census office botched the corrections and must complete the forms a third time.

One office worker recently alerted officials that some workers were fudging answers when people wouldn’t answer their doors—exactly what managers Alvin Aviles and Sonya Merritt did to get themselves fired and start this whole mess in the first place. The best part is the whole $250,000 SNAFU could probably have been avoided, since Census workers are allowed to leave questions blank if they cannot obtain the information by either first person or “proxy” interviews.

At a hearing yesterday regarding the first set of faked forms, Congressman Ed Towns said, “I represent a district that is comprised of a number of so-called ‘hard to count’ communities…These communities present challenges to the Census Bureau, but these challenges must be met.” Census Bureau Director Robert Groves says the second round of mistakes were caused by confused workers who misunderstood instructions, and that it should be worked out shortly. Still, he said, “I want to say how troubled I am that this occurred. This activity violates all the principles for which the Census Bureau stands. It is an abhorrent act.”

Brooklyn Ink: Passed Over, Borough Park Gets A Census Recount

Tuesday, July 13th, 2010

Here’s a great feature from a Columbia University journalism student:

By Sharyn Jackson

There was silverware to change, food to prepare, and bread to burn. One thing there wasn’t, for more than half the residents of the Borough Park section of Brooklyn, was time to fill out the 2010 census, mailed to Americans less than two weeks before Passover. The eight-day holiday commemorating ancient Jews’ exodus from Egypt requires intense preparations for the observant; because of a restrictive diet that week, houses must be scoured from top to bottom for any residual crumbs from the rest of the year. “When it comes to Passover, we put everything aside,” said Chaya Konig, 37, a Hasidic Jewish resident from Borough Park who works as an enumerator, the official name for census counters. “By the time we got to the mail after Passover, it was too late.”

The coincidence of the census’ mailing close to Passover is one reason, census officials say, that Borough Park’s mail-in response rate was less than 50 percent on average, with some tracts hovering close to 40 percent. In contrast, 55 percent of Brooklyn as a whole returned the survey, and 60 percent of all of New York City. (As of April 27, the mail-response deadline, national participation was at 72 percent.) With such a low response rate in one of New York City’s most populous neighborhoods, the census has had to revisit Borough Park residents with the help of local religious institutions and enumerators, who will finish their door-to-door efforts this week.

Due to the high birth-rate among this central Brooklyn neighborhood’s Hasidic Jewish inhabitants, the population here is expected to have increased exponentially since the last census in 2000. The New York City Department of Health has cited Borough Park as the neighborhood with the highest annual birth rate since it began keeping those statistics in 2003. With New York poised for legislative redistricting after the census results are tallied, Borough Park’s baby boom could mean more power for the Hasidic voting bloc. And with $400 billion of federal money allocated for infrastructure projects based on those results, which will be released in October, it could mean more affordable housing for this chronically overcrowded neighborhood.

“Unfortunately, the timing of the mail-out was not convenient,” said Denise da Costa Graeff, the census manager for northwest Brooklyn. “That was a major issue for this area.” Still, she said, a conflict like this one was inevitable. “I can’t speak for headquarters,” she said, “but if the national plan took into account every obstacle, we’d never get it done.”

It is not possible to cater the mailing dates to holidays, said Michael Cook, a national census spokesperson. “When we mail out the forms we totally understand that there is diversity among American residents, whether it depends upon holidays or things that are germane to their culture,” he said. But, said Cook, once the surveys reach mailboxes, Americans have roughly six weeks to fill out the form. After that, enumerators come knocking.

But the high concentration of ultra-Orthodox Jews in this neighborhood poses specific challenges even to enumeration. For one thing, women in Borough Park won’t open their doors to men they don’t know. That’s how Xiomara Luchen, 35, from the Greenwood Heights section of Brooklyn, found herself assigned to Borough Park – a place she had never even visited before. Luchen had been working for the census in nearby Sunset Park when da Costa Graeff reassigned her here in May because of a shortage of females. (The census usually assigns enumerators to work in the neighborhood in which they live.)

“I use a lot of sign language,” said Luchen, a Spanish-English interpreter and real estate agent, of dealing with the many Borough Park residents who speak Yiddish. “It’s a way to communicate.”

Luchen, who has dark hair and features, found it easier to connect with the Hasidim here than she expected. “Some people ask me, ‘Are you Jewish?’” said Luchen. “And I would say, ‘No I’m not,’ and they’d actually have a smile on their faces and say, ‘You know, you look Jewish.’”

Luchen picked up tips on the unofficial neighborhood dress code—long skirts and cardigans—from her crew leader, as well as walking around and observing the locals. “In this community,” said Luchen, “I’d rather not wear pants.”

Appearance is vital, said Chaya Konig, the Hasidic enumerator. “If you would have had this guy come with his hair standing up in a green color, they wouldn’t even open the door,” she said. We are a very close-knit community; we don’t see much of the outside world, so when we see a stranger we’re taught not to open doors.”

Census enumerator Xiomara Luchen goes door-to-door in the Borough Park section of BrooklynCensus enumerator Xiomara Luchen goes door-to-door in the Borough Park section of Brooklyn (Sharyn Jackson/ The Brooklyn Ink) (more…)

MyTwoCensus Editorial: Brooklyn scandal is just the tip of the iceberg

Monday, July 12th, 2010

What happened last month at the Brooklyn LCO was indeed unfortunate. But let us not be naive: Data collection inaccuracies and falsifications are happening throughout the entire New York Regional Area and possibly the entire nation, though perhaps on a smaller scale than in Brooklyn.

There are many luxury rental and condominum buildings where real estate management companies have a strict “no enumerator” policy, as well as tenement buildings  and brownstones where it is impossible to gain access. There are also one or two family houses where it is unclear how many people live there and a knowledgeable proxy could not be located.

For these units, some enumerators went to public search records on the Internet or merely wrote the names off the mailboxes. The mid and upper level census managers encouraged field staff to use techniques to “guesstimate,” creating major operational ambiguity for the once in a decade headcount.

What was acceptable inside the questionnaire was another problem. Most enumerators tried to get all the information but those who went to a proxy who gave them little, no, or inaccurate information, finished their areas quickly. These same field staff were rewarded with more work and allowed to clean up districts that were lagging behind.

These cases are the same ones where quality assurance suspects poor data collection practices or data falsification. However, in some cases re-interview staff are unable to locate the respondent to verify whether the interview was actually conducted and prove it definitively. Many other quality assurance managers are told to “just pass it” or are afraid to accuse enumerators of poor quality work, fearing that they will be stepping on people’s toes.

For two years municipalities and city officials preached about the beauty of the census through media and print advertising. They encouraged people to send back their census forms saying it was the only way to ensure that their residents were counted and for their community to receive the federal funding it was entitled to.

But these city officials did little in the way in forcing real estate management companies and reluctant respondents to cooperate when their participation was required. The fact that the Census Bureau and Department of Commerce made empty threats to fine people for not cooperating and then did not follow through on it shows how poorly 2010 Census data has been managed.

The offices in the five boroughs of New York will be the last in the nation to finish NRFU, whereas most areas were done weeks ago. The few career census employees who valued a fair and accurate count and finished last can not be proud of their work. Those responsible for promoting the individuals won’t let them be proud. When it comes time for their annual performance reviews, the fact they finished last will be reflected poorly and jeopardize their careers.

What happened in Brooklyn should not come as a surprise. In retrospect the Census did what it usually does. It set hard line production goals, held managers and field staff accountable and fired them if they failed to meet these goals with little constructive technical support. Those who work quickly are rewarded with more work with little regard to accuracy.

I dedicate this post to the many crew leaders, field operations supervisors and LCO manager who lost their jobs because they valued a fair and accurate count.

Hearing to take place on Brooklyn scandal…

Saturday, July 10th, 2010

From the New York Daily News:

BY MICHAEL MCAULIFF

The chairman of the House Oversight Committee has set a hearing into the Brooklyn Census office that dummied up thousands of questionnaires, prompting the firing of two managers and do-overs for 10,000 family surveys.

edtowns.jpg

Rep. Ed Towns, whose district is next door to the Northeast Brooklyn Census office that used the Internet and phone books to fill out forms, set the hearing for July 19 in Brooklyn’s Borough Hall.

“Given my commitment to the success of the 2010 Census, this recent problem is particularly troubling,” said Towns, who ironically held an earlier hearing in the very census office that later became a problem.

“Any attempt to compromise the integrity of the census is simply unacceptable given what is at stake for our community,” Towns said of the shenanigans first reported by the Daily News. “I am holding this hearing to ensure that the Census Bureau is following all of the necessary steps to accurately count every resident in Brooklyn.”

Among those invited to testify are Census Director Robert Groves, Commerce Department Inspector General Todd Zinser, and Tony Farthing, the census regional director.

Not how you want to start your holiday weekend…Bedbugs infest LCO 2226 in Brooklyn

Wednesday, June 30th, 2010

Subject: Bed bugs at LCO 2226

Message Body:
The bed bugs are not just in the admin area of the LCO 2226 office. They are all over.  Someone in the IT room was napping (when working the night shift) and woke up with their stomach all eaten up.

One worker ended up bringing them home and the office won’t pay to deal with the employees home infestation.

No one wants to go to the office anymore to work because they don’t want to get bed bugs.  Its awful.

Other media outlets report on the Brooklyn scandal…

Sunday, June 27th, 2010

We are glad to see the New York Times and New York Daily News reporting about the Census Bureau’s latest scandal in Brooklyn. At this point, the big question is whether the individuals involved with this data fabrication effort will be formally charged with crimes. Hopefully by Monday we will know the answer…

Census Bureau re-interviewing thousands of people in Brooklyn

Friday, June 25th, 2010

Well, folks, you heard it here first. (Don’t forget that!) Now, let’s hope that the New York news organizations will pick up on the following info. As usual the Census Bureau releases critical information on a Friday afternoon in the summer time hoping that the media mavens in New York are already on their way to the Hamptons and will forget about this by Monday. How much will this operation cost taxpayers? Will the fired officials be charged with crimes? Here’s a Census Bureau Press Release:

Brooklyn Households May Get Additional Visit From Census Bureau

Quality checks reveal work must be redone to ensure complete accurate count

WASHINGTON, June 25 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ — The U.S. Census Bureau today announced that checks on the quality of some of the work in the Brooklyn North East local census office (LCO) have led to a replacement of the management of that office, and to the judgment that at least 10,000 household interviews will have to be redone to ensure a complete and accurate count.

(Logo: http://photos.prnewswire.com/prnh/20090226/CENSUSLOGO)

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

“I want to stress that our highest priority is to get a complete and accurate count in 2010 for Brooklyn, and while I regret some of the work must be redone, I’m sure the people of Brooklyn share in the goal of getting this right,” said Regional Director Tony Farthing.

Census officials from the New York Regional Office and the Suitland, Maryland headquarters visited the LCO this week following up on concerns raised by some employees in the LCO that the management there was not following established procedures. Senior managers confirmed that a variety of training and processing standards had recently been neglected in the LCO.  The New York Regional Office has replaced the LCO management with two experienced managers who are very familiar with the communities in the affected area. The systematic review of processing steps continues, and may lead to more household re-interviews. A physical inspection of a sample of census questionnaires pointed to a recent breakdown and failure to follow quality standards that must be met by every local census office.

Regional Director Tony Farthing said that the new LCO team will be in the field beginning this weekend to ensure all enumerator interviews are conducted properly and that any suspect interviews will be redone with new interviews of the households. He said he felt confident all the work can be completed before the end of door to door enumeration, but that work would continue until the Bureau is satisfied of the quality.

Editor’s note: News releases, reports and data tables are available on the Census Bureau’s home page. Go to http://www.census.gov and click on “Releases.”

New York has more people than ever…but many are not being counted

Thursday, June 24th, 2010

Though the New York Times reported that New York now has 8.4 million people according to 2009 Census Bureau estimates, MyTwoCensus is hoping that Sam Roberts and his colleagues at the Times will be able to investigate the likely undercount of New York City stemming from the fact that 2010 Census enumerators are finding themselves unable to access buildings because of doormen and other security restrictions. This is a problem that has been reported to MyTwoCensus.com on many occasions. And it doesn’t seem to be getting fixed any time soon. Will NRFU operations end before this problem is solved? Will Census Bureau officials resort to the illegal/unconstitutional practice of guesstimating how many people live in each building and then make up false information about the ages and races of the occupants?

If you have answers, don’t hesitate to let us know!

A rumor grows in Brooklyn

Tuesday, June 22nd, 2010

Latest Update:

I currently work at Brooklyn LCO 2225. I read on your blog (in the comments section) that someone stated that Jenny Ortiz-Bowman was among the two people fired recently from our office for helping with the faslification. This is untrue. Ms. Ortiz-Bowman has not worked in our office in months and was not part of the falsification of EQ’s. That was someone else. It was the manager who took Jenny’s place, Sonya Merritt, who got fired last week. Jenny was not part of it. In fact, she got fired months ago because she did not want to rush her operation and wanted to do things right.
-Anonymous

UPDATES:

1. Subject: bed bug infestation

Message Body:

rumors aren’t the only thing growing in brooklyn.  at lco 2226, the staff in the admin department are all sitting on plastic covered chairs.  the exterminator brought in the bug sniffing dog and confirmed their department is infested with blood sucking bed bugs.  you can’t make this up!

2. From the comments section:

“Let’s put names to these two losers….Mr ALVIN AVILES and MS JENNY ORTIZ – BOWMAN…..supervised by AREA Manager MS DARLENE LOPEZ…let the games begin LOL”

Any truth to this submission?

Subject: Brooklyn LCOM fired for falsifying EQ’s

Message Body:
At the RCC rumors are flying about an LCOM in Brooklyn that was fired for falsifying EQ’s, payroll and D-291′s.  Please investigate

Must-Read: New York’s 2010 Census nightmare

Monday, June 7th, 2010

The following report comes from a Census Bureau official whose identity has been confirmed but will remain anonymous as she is a current Census Bureau employee:

The five boroughs of New York City and its diversified population of eight million have long eluded demographers and census employees in producing an accurate count. Having worked in three censuses now and living in New York for almost my entire adult life I notice that the socioeconomic spectrum of New Yorkers has widened, making the poor poorer and the rich richer. In the last ten years there is an influx of immigrants; some legal some illegal. It makes what was once a one family home in Queens, Brooklyn and The Bronx a two or even three family home. These people are living in converted basements or the second story of the houses some legal some illegal. On the other end of the spectrum, luxury rentals and condominiums have become even more exclusive with price tags in the millions of dollars. In both cases the immigrants and residents of these upscale housing units and their exclusive real estate management companies have ignored repeated attempts by phone or mail to allow enumeration.  Even in the face of a fine, the management companies are adamant about their policy and would willingly pay the fine rather than to allow enumerators to count their residents. The problem is the Census’ Bureau’s threat of a fine is merely used as a scare tactic. When a real estate mogul calls their bluff the actual fine like many other Census Bureau promises is empty.

As native New Yorkers we anticipated these problems. And sitting through four days of verbatim training where someone read through a book, we knew that it wasn’t as simple as the script made it to be to persuade these respondents about the importance of the census and their participation. As a group we brainstormed and created techniques through trial and error to get those who were non-responsive to fill out our questionnaires. Some of these tactics included: sending another enumerator of a different race or creed after several visits with no contact; leaving blank enumerator questionnaires under their door allowing them the privacy of completing it in their own home. One of us even went as far as sending well dressed suits or female fashion models to coerce participation. But all this takes time and money. All of which with 15 billion price tag the Census Bureau doesn’t have.

With inaccurate workload estimation models and front loading the Census Bureau overrecruited, overhired on many operations in preparation for the final major operation: non-response followup. One of the major costs was the paper based operational control system PBOCS which has been the subject of intense scrutiny by media, Congress and employees because of its inability to check out, check out and ship questionnaires and generate management reports. The managers who are monitoring productivity and costs are trained to believe if the reports don’t show it’s done then it isn’t done. With only erroneous reports to rely on, headquarters and regional offices are using a take no prisoners do whatever it takes attitude to pressure temporary employees to complete the task. PBOCS also moves assignment areas fooling LCO managers and field staff into thinking they have more or less work than they have. And ultimately this may have long term geography problems when the Census is completed and used for congressional redistricting.

Since PBOCS doesn’t work correctly and fails to handle the workload, The Census Bureau runs on a more is better attitude. The solution is hire more employees for manually counting and reviewing enumerator questionnaires when they should have slowed enumerator production. Local Census offices have gone from a simple 9am-5:30pm operation to running three shifts 24 hours a day seven days a week with triple to quadruple what their staffing authorizations originally allowed. This compounded the bottleneck, increased the backlog of questionnaires waiting to be checked in and slowed the re -interview and quality assurance phase. There is overwhelming suspicion of data falsification and false proxies but by the time this is figured out the operation will end and the enumerators already released for lack of work.

Now what was originally touted as the most accurate decennial count ever has quickly turned into a race to meet production goals and wrap up the operation as quickly as possible with procedural changes.  We have enumerators, telephone clerks in the LCO, and enumerators from other LCOs taking interviews ignoring the fact that PBOCS will only let you check it in under an enumerator and that if data falsification is happening it will be difficult to find the culprit. What were originally any six personal and telephone visits is now three visits go to a proxy. What used to be try to get the household member because he knows his own name, sex, age, DOB, Hispanic origin and race and whether he rents or owns has become going to a proxy on a first visit and sometimes writing don’t know on most if not all of those questions. Sadly this actually passes the office review portion and nothing in the enumerator procedures disallows that. If a respondent refuses and a proxy is able to give any of the information no matter how knowledgeable he/she is that doesn’t constitute marking it as a refusal, skewing the accuracy of the data.

The incentives of career census employees at RCC and headquarters are in contradiction with each enumerator who wants our city to be accurately counted. The career census employees’ evaluation of performance is purely based on numbers how many cases are completed with little regard to the demography or difficulty of enumerating the population. Their expectation is that the enumeration of traditionally undercounted minorities of Bedford Stuyvesant be just as quick as the white, upper middle class of Upper West Side of Manhattan. The very same agency whose motto has always been the leading source of data about the nation’s people and economy has become a competition between area managers and local census offices.

The leadership in the local census offices isn’t the strongest either. Those who made hiring decisions in New York RCC had every chance to hire the best managers but instead resorted to nepotism to make decisions. When it was clear these decisions were poor the career census employees terminated LCO managers’ employment to cover it up. But then found another disappointing replacement. In an attempt to bring operations up to speed the Census Bureau flew in managers from Denver into Manhattan and headquarters to Staten Island.

The goal is for enumerators to get as many cases in and clerks process work as quickly as possible doing whatever it takes to get the job done, otherwise there will be a formal written reprimand and termination of their employment. It is the chest beating, gorilla apelike attitude of the managers that will ultimately be the demise of New York City.

Lester Farthing, the Regional Director and his managers of the New York Regional Census Center have no intention of an accurate count in the five boroughs. Instead their goal is to appease headquarters, finish as quickly as possible so that the career census employees will be viewed as productive team players who are not questioning the possible inaccuracy of this count. As one of our area managers will say “it’s a hot mess.” I only hope the mayor of our great city Michael Bloomberg, city census coordinator Stacey Cumberbatch, politicians and congressmen are reading this letter and will intervene because ultimately it is the city that will suffer for the next ten years. They were quick to make public announcements touting the importance of participating in the census by returning the forms. But have yet to do anything to persuade non cooperative households and real estate management companies to allow enumerators in to complete their job. The sad reality is that it may be too little too late.

With the way the census works can any of us ever trust census data again?

Breaking News: Firing people from New York and hiring people from Denver, Colorado to replace them…

Wednesday, June 2nd, 2010

In the past week, many New York City Census Bureau employees have been terminated. MyTwoCensus.com has received substantial evidence from two individuals who have alerted us that since the Denver, Colorado region was ahead of schedule, they have since flown workers to New York, put them at hotels, paid them per diems, and provided meals for them. Yes, you are reading this correctly. A city of 8 million people does not have enough competence to complete a task, so the Census Bureau has recruited folks from Denver to help them get the job done. If this isn’t inefficiency, what is? More details coming ASAP.

Note: If you know more about this, please get in touch with me or leave a note in the comments section with details. Thanks!

Daily Sound Off: Instant Termination

Sunday, May 30th, 2010

Here’s today’s Daily Sound Off:

On 5/28 at 8:43 PM we in the Brooklyn Central LCO 2223 received frantic calls to turn in our binders and EQs as there was no more work… how could this be when some of us had more than 20 addresses where we had not yet counted the people? How could this be when friends of ours were being hired to BEGIN their jobs with the Census bureau? We have been working tirelessly for three weeks and now this? Can someone please tell us what is going on?

Photo of the Day: 2010 Census jobs still available

Monday, May 10th, 2010

I took this screen capture last week…

New York City Council Wants 2010 Census Extension

Sunday, April 18th, 2010

Will this be another effort of New York City Mayor Michael “Third Term” Bloomberg trying to avoid regulations and change them to meet his favor?

From Blackstarnews.com:

On Monday, April 19 at 10 AM in Council Chambers, the Committees on Community Development, Governmental Operations and Civil Rights will hold a joint hearing on NYC’s Census 2010 efforts and a resolution sponsored by Council Members Vann and Brewer. The resolution calls upon the U.S. Census Bureau to extend and/or reopen its April 15 deadline for accepting “mail-in” census forms and to keep both its Questionnaire Assistance Centers and Be Counted Sites open for an additional 30 days.

In New York City, only 56 percent of households have returned their census form to date. New York City has a uniquely hard-to-count population because of its large immigrant population, diversity in housing and areas of concentrated poverty. Brooklyn is performing the worst of the city’s boroughs with a response rate of only 51 percent.

There have been several reports of households receiving multiple census forms, receiving the form late or receiving no form at all.

Hipsters respond: Don’t blame us for low response rates…blame the Hassidic Jews!

Friday, April 16th, 2010

In response to my postings about hipsters failing to complete their census forms in Brooklyn, a hipster blog has refuted these claims and has instead shifted the blame for low response rates to the neighboring Hasidic Jewish community — yet also notes that the 2010 Census forms were mailed out during the week-long Passover holiday:

Stop Blaming Hipsters for the Census

Census copy.jpg

Hey NPR, next time you run a piece entitled “New York’s Hipsters Too Cool for the Census,” you should maybe do more than talk to three people in a record store?

Sure, as Brian pointed out last week, Williamsburg’s response rates are super low. But check out the actual data available on the Census 2010 Map. The Census return rates for the “hip” parts of Williamsburg are about on par with those for the rest of the city. It’s the Hassidic areas that have a super low rate of return (see screenshot above). Which the NPR story mentioned, kind of, at the end of the piece, after focusing on those crazy kids with their “wacky bikes” and “ironic mustaches.”

So yeah, some of us are lazy assholes who haven’t mailed their forms in yet (like, ok, I *might* have just mailed mine in this morning). But come on – we’re no more lazy than the rest of this city.

UPDATE: Aaron Short, over at A Short Story blog, points out that one reason the Hassidic return rate might be so low is because the forms were mailed out during… Passover.

So what we’re saying is that it’s nobody’s fault, really.

Too cool for the census

Thursday, April 15th, 2010

I’ve already posted about NPR’s survey of hipsters who don’t complete their 2010 Census forms in Brooklyn, but this piece from the Alaska Dispatch (a citizen journalism site)  is too good not to republish here:

By Maia Nolan

Much has been made lately of Alaska’s lackluster rate of participation in the 2010 census. But it turns out there’s at least one demographic that’s significantly worse than Alaskans: Hipsters.

In the capital city of hipsterdom, the Williamsburg neighborhood of Brooklyn, N.Y., census participation is right around 30 percent — more than 20 percent below Alaska’s current statewide rate — according to a recent NPR report. The reason? Um, like, whatever.

“I guess it’s laziness and like, what’s the point?” a 20-something record store employee, Nate Stark, told NPR’s Scott Simon. “When it comes down to it, nobody wants to fill out like another form that’s just like getting sent to your house that really relatively has nothing to do with your life.”

Another Williamsburger, Jamie Lilly, told Simon:


“You know, on a personal note, maybe some people, they figure what’s the point to be counted if you don’t count for much anyway? If we don’t count, why be counted?”

Way deep.

Meanwhile, my fellow Alaskans, I think we’re missing an important opportunity to polish up our image. Outsiders might look at our bottom-of-the-barrel census participation rate and chalk it up to our being backwoods rednecks who can’t dig out of our mountainside snowdrifts in time to brave polar bear attacks and coastal erosion as we hike to the post office to get our census forms in the mail, or to our resentment of gummint intrusion into our gun-toting, aerial-wolf-hunting, pot-decriminalizing libertarian lifestyles. All of which just contributes to the perpetuation of the image of Alaska as a frozen wilderness outpost where people talk with Minnesota accents and only pick up a newspaper to swat away Russian spy planes rearing their heads into our airspace.

It’s time to take a clue from our retro-glasses-and-ironic-T-shirt-wearing brethren in the ‘burg. Clearly the hipsters are on to something here: We just need to come up with a really existential-sounding reason for the state’s low return rate. Like, what’s the point? We’re not too remote to participate in the census; we’re just too cool.

And if you think it’s ridiculous to imply that Alaskans have anything to learn from hipsters, keep in mind that hipsters have been taking style clues from Alaskans for years. We’ve always known that plaid shirts, bedhead and dive bars are cool; it just took them a while to catch on.

Hipsters blamed for low census return rates in New York

Tuesday, April 13th, 2010

H/t to the New York Times and NPR for the following:

It appears that some residents of Williamsburg, Brooklyn, may be “too cool” to fill out the 2010 census. As the National Public Radio correspondent Robert Smith narrates from the enclave of hipsters — or, as some prefer, fauxhemians ortrustafarians — that boasts the city’s lowest return rate for census forms:

SMITH: The Census Bureau is spending $133 million on advertising in dozens of languages telling people that the census is their civic duty, that it helps get federal funding in their communities, but the message isn’t sinking in here in Williamsburg.

Just outside the record store, I meet Jamie Lilly. She knows the ads. She got the form but she thinks that returning it is just supporting a government that she doesn’t believe in.

Ms. JAMIE LILLY: You know, on a personal note, maybe some people, they figure what’s the point to be counted if you don’t count for much anyway? If we don’t count, why be counted?

Counting — or rather, parsing the data from others’ counts — has made Nate Silver a household name in political circles. In this week’s New York Magazine, Mr. Silver, the statistical wunderkind behind the political blogFiveThirtyEight, turns his eye toward the “livability” of New York neighborhoods, the results of which are now available in “Top 50″ form.

Front of the pack: 1) Park Slope, 2) Lower East Side, 3) Sunnyside, Queens, 4) Cobble Hill/Boerum Hill, 5) Greenpoint.

Pulling up the rear: 48) Bedford Park, the Bronx, 49) Parkchester, the Bronx, 50) Harlem.

Editorial: Those hard to count Jews…not!

Monday, June 1st, 2009

censusfloatisraelparade

Last week, MyTwoCensus criticized the Census Bureau’s lack of a parade float in San Francisco’s annual Carnaval parade, a celebration of Central American, South American, and Caribbean cultures. Thanks to the above photo, submitted to us by Sharon Udasin, ace New York-based reporter for The Jewish Week, MyTwoCensus now knows that the Census Bureau does in fact have the resources and capabilities to create such a float.  The float depicted above was paraded through the streets of Manhattan during yesterday’s Salute to Israel parade, a celebration of 61 years of Israeli independence.

Whereas many Latino/a immigrants are considered “hard to reach” because of their questionable legal status in America, this isn’t a problem amongst the Jewish and Israeli communities in New York. Even though New York’s thousands of Hasidic Jews (mostly living in Brooklyn) may speak Yiddish in their homes, nearly all of them speak fluent English and are citizens of the United States.

This begs the question: Why did the Census Bureau choose to sponsor a large float in the Israeli Independence Day parade in New York but not at the Carnaval parade in San Francisco?

To our readers: If you have been to any public events that have featured public relations efforts by the Census Bureau, please feel free to comment and share with us what you witnessed.