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 ‘Data’

The Reno Gazette-Journal Fact Checks the Census Bureau…

Monday, April 5th, 2010

A nice piece from Nevada:

Fact checker: Census value rounded up — way up

By Kelly Scott

Last week, a news release from Nevada Census 2010 claimed that “for every resident counted, Nevada stands to receive nearly $10,000 each year of our fair share of federal funding during the next decade.”

Being that Thursday was the once-in-a-decade census day, I decided to see how that number actually breaks down.

Reno Gazette-Journal articles have reported that the state gets “more than $900 a year per person in federal tax dollars” each year for the next decade based on census answers.

Background

The census is used to calculate the numbers for a great deal of federal funding and other things. Among the types of programs based on census results are the Washoe County School District’s free lunch program, transportation funding and money to help senior citizens. Census numbers are used to divvy up seats in the U.S. House of Representatives.

Analysis of the numbers

My first thought was that there was a rounding error in the numbers. Maybe the news release just rounded up?

Well, here’s how it breaks down according to our data guru Mark Robison:

Nevada gets $917 a year per person in federal funds because of census data. That adds up to $9,170 per person over 10 years, not $10,000 over a single year. Robison said he thinks the official state news release we received was likely an honest mistake because other promotional materials have used $10,000 per decade as the amount of additional funding the state stands to receive per person. But that still rounds up $9,170 to $10,000, when customary rounding would normally lower the figure to $9,000.

To find the source of the funds-per-resident claim, Robison dug into a SAGE Commission report sent to Gov. Jim Gibbons last year that urged the state to actually spend money on trying to get people to participate in the census because the state stood to gain more than what it likely would spend.

Here’s an excerpt from the report: “According to the Census Bureau, over $3 trillion in funding is allocated nationwide based on census figures. In 2000, the Legislative Counsel Bureau estimated that the state lost $670 per person per year for every Nevadan missed by the 2000 Census. Recently, the Legislative Counsel Bureau, Nevada State Data Center, and Nevada State Demographer came together to update that figure for 2010. Due to the combined effects of inflation and expanded federal investment returning to Nevada, their collective estimate is that Nevada will now lose $917 per person per year for every Nevadan missed in the 2010 Census.”

For the rest of the article click HERE.

Poll: Public Attitudes Toward US Census Improving

Tuesday, March 16th, 2010

H/t to the Associated Press and the Pew Research Center for the following:

WASHINGTON (AP) — With the 2010 census under way, about 1 in 10 people may not participate in the population count, with many saying they see little personal benefit from the government survey or have concerns that it may be intrusive, according to a poll released Tuesday.

The Pew Research Center poll shows marked improvement in public interest since January. At that time a poll showed 1 in 5 might not mail back the census form. Still, the new poll highlighted lingering apathy toward the head count, particularly among young adults.

”There is an increased commitment to participating in the census, but disparities remain,” said Michael Dimock, an associate director of the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press. ”These include groups who have less-certain economic situations and who are often more mobile, which poses a challenge for the census count.”

The poll comes as more than 120 million census forms arrive in mailboxes this week. The population count, conducted every 10 years, is used to distribute U.S. House seats and more than $400 billion in federal aid.

Stephen Buckner, a spokesman for the Census Bureau, said the increase in overall public awareness was heartening, noting that the government can save $1.5 billion in follow-up visits if everyone mails back their forms.

Buckner said for those who remain apathetic or reluctant to turn in their forms, the bureau will be closely monitoring mail participation rates and will increase advertising and outreach in the regions of the country that are lagging, including college campuses.

Beginning in May, the Census Bureau will also send census-takers to visit homes that do not return their forms.

”We’re aware students are historically harder to count, and we are putting things in place to get an accurate count,” he said.

Overall, nearly all of those surveyed by Pew were familiar with the census. About 87 percent reported they had already filled out their 10-question form, or definitely or probably would do so, often citing reasons that it was ”important” or a civic duty.

Still, a majority of the people said they saw little personal gain from the census (62 percent) or expressed uncertainty as to whether the government was asking for more information than it really needed (55 percent). Many also said they still weren’t confident that census information would be kept confidential and not be shared with other federal agencies for law enforcement, despite repeated assurances from Census Bureau director Robert Groves.

Broken down by age, adults 18-29 were least likely to say they would definitely or probably participate, at 71 percent. That’s compared to 86 percent for adults 30-49; 92 percent for those 50-64; and 89 percent for people 65 and older.

Hispanics also were less likely to participate compared to other racial groups, although that gap has narrowed since January.

Pew interviewed 1,500 adults by cell or home phone from March 10-14. The poll has a margin of error of plus or minus 3 percentage points, higher for subgroups.

Washington Post: Muslims Wary Of Census Participation

Wednesday, March 10th, 2010

The following piece from The Washington Post reiterates a position that MyTwoCensus.com has expressed for quite some time now, because as recently as 2004, confidential data from the decennial census was handed over to federal law enforcement officials:

By Tara Bahrampour

Tuesday, March 9, 2010; 4:02 PM

The millions of blue forms being mailed this month in the first census count since the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, do not ask about religion. But the idea of answering any questions posed by the government makes some Muslims uneasy, so community leaders are worried that many may avoid the Census altogether.

“A lot of people, they have the concern,” said Raja Mahmood, 50, a Manassas taxi driver who moved to the United States from Pakistan 25 years ago. “The majority of Muslims, they don’t want to draw attention.”

Although he plans to fill out the census form — and the Falls Church mosque he attends, Dar Al-Hijrah, has encouraged it — Mahmood said many Muslims he knows are wary about why the government, which treated them with suspicion in the years after the terrorist strike, wants to collect information about them.

“They can look for the count of how many people live here, and that’s a good thing,” he said, “but God knows what is in their heart.”

Muslim leaders have been holding forums to explain the process. Last week, the Justice Department said that information-gathering and sharing provisions of the Patriot Act do not override federal confidentiality laws related to the Census, with stiff penalties for sharing information about an individual.

“That would go a long way toward calming fears,” said Ibrahim Hooper, spokesman for the Washington-based Council on American-Islamic Relations.

Still, community leaders say they understand why people might be cautious. Many remember the trepidation that arose after 9/11, when men from some Muslim countries were required to register with the then-Immigration and Naturalization Service. The requirement led to deportations for visa violations or minor infractions unrelated to terrorism, Hooper said, adding that “whole neighborhoods were emptied.”

(more…)

MyTwoCensus Investigation: Is your census data really “confidential” if it’s being shared with private and public universities?

Monday, February 15th, 2010

The following report comes from the Associated Press…Let’s just hope that the researchers at university data centers take good care of your personal data, because any breach could have dire consequences. We will continue to explore this subject in the coming days to determine precisely which (if any) data from the decennial census will be distributed to universities. MyTwoCensus.com supports higher education and demographic research, but if neither the President nor the FBI can’t (in theory, but not in practice…) access census data, then neither should private citizens at universities.

Palo Alto, Calif. (AP) — Stanford University is preparing to launch a high-security data center, where researchers will analyze some of the most confidential Census information. The Stanford facility, which opens this month, will serve as a satellite center to the one at University of California, Berkeley. There are only a handful of other such data centers in the country — at top research schools, including Duke, Cornell and UCLA. C. Matthew Snipp, a Stanford demographer who will head the new center, says the data being handled there is much more detailed than what’s released publicly. The information feeds studies by economists, sociologists and public health researchers, among others. Snipp says the center will be under strict security measures to protect people’s privacy.

UPDATE: The San Francisco Chronicle has posted a more comprehensive version of this story HERE.

Census data: Wives increasingly the partner with higher income

Tuesday, January 19th, 2010

A new analysis of census data from the Pew Research Center says that more men are marrying women who earn more than they do.

The New York Times reports:

“Men now are increasingly likely to marry wives with more education and income than they have, and the reverse is true for women,” said Paul Fucito, spokesman for the Pew Center. “In recent decades, with the rise of well-paid working wives, the economic gains of marriage have been a greater benefit for men.”

The analysis examines Americans 30 to 44 years old, the first generation in which more women than men have college degrees. Women’s earnings have been increasing faster than men’s since the 1970s.

“We’ve known for some time that men need marriage more than women from the standpoint of physical and mental well-being,” said Stephanie Coontz, a professor at Evergreen State College in Olympia, Wash., and research director for the Council on Contemporary Families, a research and advocacy group. “Now it is becoming increasingly important to their economic well-being as well.”

And Jezebel has a closer look at the data and a round-up of how it’s been covered in the media.

Book criticizes use of census to apportion House seats

Sunday, January 10th, 2010

The Hartford Courant reports that an upcoming book by a Connecticut population expert criticizes how the Census is used to apportion seats in the U.S. House of Representatives. According to the newspaper, a series of papers by Orlando Rodriguez, manager of the Connecticut State Data Center, form the basis of the book “Vote Thieves: Illegal Immigration, Congressional Apportionment, and Census 2010,” which is scheduled to be published this fall.

Rodriguez asserts that it’s unfair to use the raw head count to determine House seats, because it doesn’t account for non-voters and illegal immigrants:

But in “Vote Thieves,” Rodriguez argues that representation based on population size unfairly penalizes many Northeastern states and intensifies political polarization. The fundamental problem, Rodriguez says, is that states are given federal representation based on the total count of people there. Apportionment is not made according to voting turnout in states, and not according to those who are legal citizens.

This has two major effects, Rodriguez says. Apportionment by raw head counts hugely favors Southern border states at the expense of Northern and Midwestern states. Those Southern border states tend to have younger populations with low voter turnouts. But the generally older and high-voting populations of the North and Midwest are given fewer representatives and thus fewer votes in the House.

If voter turnout in the most recent presidential elections, instead of raw head counts, was used in assigning House seats, Rodriguez’s calculations show that Connecticut would actually gain a House seat.

It’s unlikely that we’ll see a shift in the way the census is used to determine Congressional representation soon, but Rodriguez makes some pretty interesting arguments against using the raw head count. If you buy Rodriguez’s claims, relying on voter turnout instead could give states an incentive to maximize voter turnout, reduce disenfranchisement and draw competitive legislative districts to draw in moderate voters. And it’s pretty hard to argue against at least taking a closer look at a method of determining House seats that might do that.

Census could shape corporate strategy

Friday, January 8th, 2010

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Prison Spotlight: The Diversity Myth

Tuesday, November 10th, 2009

Here’s an interesting angle about the 2010 Census from a Kansas City Star opinion piece:

How Places With Prisons Falsely Boost “Diversity”

By Marie Sanchez

The 2010 U.S. census will soon be upon us, and by now you may have heard one of the patriotic pitches to comply.

Every breathing soul must be tallied during the massive federal endeavor, the national headcount taken every decade. The census is central to the functioning of our democracy, we’re told.

The data are used to distribute $400 billion in government spending, to compile countless reports on educational needs, to plan for economic development and formulate public policy.

More important, census data have a direct bearing on congressional districts and the Electoral College. The information is crucial to help us uphold the constitutional principle of one person, one vote.

So why, then, is the federal government gearing up to distort this vital set of data by how it accounts for the nation’s booming prison population? Prisoners are counted, not according to their home address but where they are incarcerated.

At a glance, this might not seem like a big deal — until the details of our nation’s 2 million inmates are broken down. Rural communities with large prison populations suddenly appear to be bastions of diversity, while those without prisons continue to see their population numbers slide.

On average, inmates serve for 34 months before returning to their original communities. They never shop, dine, attend school or otherwise become members of the towns and cities where they are warehoused while paying their debt to society.

One distortion this way of counting population causes is what some activists call “prison-based gerrymandering.” Because population figures are used to determine legislative districts, voting power is diluted in some areas and falsely ramped up in others.

The NAACP, no doubt recalling how black people were once considered three-fifths of a person for the purpose of representation, was among the first organizations to call for reform. Because 12 percent of black men in their 20s and 30s are in prison at any one time, urban areas lose out on the strength of those uncounted inmates.

But it’s actually rural communities, where prisons are often built, that suffer the most from the distortions. Peter Wagner, a Massachusetts-based advocate for the Prison Policy Initiative, has found 173 counties where more than half of the black population is made up of inmates. Seven state senate districts in New York alone, he argues, would need to be redrawn if inmates were omitted from population figures for the areas where they are doing time.

Local officials in some parts of the country have responsibly attempted to eliminate the distortions. Bravo. The town of Anamosa, Iowa, changed the way it elects city council members after discovering that the population of a state penitentiary created a ward where a candidate got elected on the strength of two write-in votes. His inmate constituency of about 1,300 prisoners was roughly as populous as the town’s other wards.

With census-takers already completing the process of verifying addresses for the spring headcount, it’s too late for the government to change how it plans to conduct the 2010 census. Recording the true home address of inmates would be costly (an estimated $250 million), and many prisons don’t have the information readily available.

What the government can do to help rectify the situation is release the prison data earlier than planned, in time for states to take the information and delete those numbers for redistricting purposes.

Criminals forfeit a lot when they get locked up. They lose the right to vote, in all but two states.

They lose daily interaction with loved ones and the chance to engage in meaningful work. What they shouldn’t lose is the sense that their presence counts.

To reach Mary Sanchez, call 816-234-4752 or send e-mail to msanchez@kcstar.com.

MyTwoCensus Data Capture Center Investigation Part 3: From the Federal Penitientary to the Federal Government

Thursday, October 1st, 2009

We urge you to please read our first post about security concerns at America’s three data capture centers before reading this post.

Situation: You’re an ex-con, fresh out of prison, and you need a job. Who do you turn to? Well, if you live in Baltimore there’s a high likelihood that you would turn to Maryland New Directions, a non-profit organization that assists people finding jobs. This is surely a noble mission, but it may make some Americans queasy if they knew that the people reading, logging, and scanning their 2010 Census data had gone from living at a federal penitentiary to working for the federal government (Of course they are actually employed by subcontractor Computer Sciences Corporation, but you get the picture: These people are bound by the same regulations as all other Census Bureau employees so it’s a fine line they’re walking.).

*Also note that Baltimore public defender Coriolanus A.J. Ferrusi is on the Maryland New Directions board.

Investigative Series: Spotlight on Harris Corp. (Part 4)

Friday, May 22nd, 2009

On April 18, 2009, an under-reported yet monumental transaction took place between the Harris Corporation (the company responsible for creating the failing handheld computers used for 2010 Census operations) and Tyco Electronics (formerly part of the company with the same first name responsible for one of 2002′s most notorious financial scandals).

According to Data Week, “Tyco Electronics has entered into a definitive agreement to sell its wireless systems business to Harris Corporation for $675 million in cash, subject to final working capital adjustments. Tyco’s wireless systems business generated sales of $461 million in fiscal 2008. The transaction is subject to customary regulatory approvals and is expected to close toward the end of 2009.”

MyTwoCensus is concerned because it is unclear at this point is whether 2010 Census data can be accessed by these companies. It is unknown whether meta-crawlers (excuse the Google jargon) have been installed in the handheld devices created by Harris that could potentially share private and proprietary data with these corporations.

Here’s the official description of Tyco Electronics Wireless Systems:

“Tyco Electronics Wireless Systems is a leading supplier of critical communications systems and equipment for public safety, utility, federal, transportation and select commercial markets. Tyco Electronics Wireless Systems products range from some of the most advanced IP-based voice and data networks to traditional wireless systems that offer customers the highest levels of reliability, interoperability, scalability and security. More information about Tyco Electronics Wireless Systems solutions can be found on the Web at www.tewireless.com.”

With IP technology in the hands of Tyco, is your personal data safe?

Given that Tyco Electronics is based in Bermuda, a tax haven known for its lack of regulation, this acquisition could surely spell significant amounts of more trouble for investors, the SEC, and the Commerce Department if Tyco’s assets turn out to be less than stellar.

On a sidenote, it is clear that from a financial perspective, Harris is not performing well for its shareholders. However, it’s interesting to note how long the Harris Corporation’s stock rose until its peak of more than $65 a share on March 30, 2008, long after other companies had already started losing significant amounts of money. But today, the company’s value has been cut in half.

MyTwoCensus urges financial and security experts to share their opinions with us.

Reading between the lines: The Census Project is in bed with the Annie E. Casey Foundation

Friday, April 24th, 2009

Last night, The Wall Street Journal published a blog post by June Kronholz about the likelihood of being counted in the 2010 Census. As the non-partisan watchdog of the 2010 Census, MyTwoCensus must point out that this article is written from a very partisan perspective. Kronholz’s only source of data was information collected by the Annie E. Casey Foundation and released by The Census Project. Kronholz writes, “The [census counting] estimates were developed by the Annie E. Casey Foundation, using Census Bureau planning databases, and released by the Census Project whose members include policy planners, demographers and citizen-rights advocates.”

If you look at The Census Project’s stakeholder list, it’s clear that all of the stakeholders are liberal advocacy groups, and more importantly, one of the “stakeholders” (which translates to meaning an organization that funds The Census Project) is The Annie E. Casey Foundation, the very organization responsible for providing this data…So here’s our advice when reading articles, even from reputable news sources:

1. Read between the lines.

2. Take any information from “The Census Project” with a large grain of salt, as it’s coming from many partisan sources including ACORN, the NAACP, the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee, and other immigrant advocacy groups.