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 ‘employees’

A former Census Bureau employee speaks out…

Sunday, July 18th, 2010

A letter from the Lake County Record-Bee has drawn our attention.  A former enumerator writes:

Hello, I am (or was) a census enumerator and wrote a letter to Dr. Groves, The chief director of the 2010 Census, however I am unable to find his address or e-mail address, so I wanted to share my thoughts with others. It’s about my recent experience with working for the census bureau.

If I could reach Dr. Groves I would tell him the following: Hello, Dr. Groves, this is enumerator No. 3749397 coming to you out of area No. 2714. CL No. 0504.

I have been searching for someone who could address my concerns regarding the way the completion of NRFU was handled; the employment status of most of us enumerators.

It would seem a majority of us were told we would be participating in the completion of what my crew leader called “phase two” and would not be out of a job come July 22. I myself even received an extension of said temporary employment in my mailbox just a few days thereafter, and therefore remained unconcerned with procuring another job, career or any such form of income, assuming I would be continuing onto the next phase of the census and would be rather busy in the following months.

Now, personally, I have not received any further communication from office No. 2714 in regards to my continued or discontinued employment, and have made several attempts to contact them, in which case they have simply told me to ask my crew leader, who did not have any information at all.”….”I have just called my crew leader worried, as my last check will be coming in the mail this Wednesday and it will simply not be enough to get us through the month, and she informed me that if I was not called on Friday I would not be working Monday. It appears the bureau had called and selected workers completely at random, much like some sort of sick lottery and I was simply unlucky. Despite receiving an extension and the assurance of my crew leader, and others, despite being a hard and dependable worker most unlike the rest of my team and despite pushing and waiting for some form of contact from the Census Bureau, I am now unemployed and yet, technically employed until Aug. 22 thanks to your worthless extension.”

Monday Mailbag: Why aren’t enumerators who are let go being given this paperwork?

Monday, June 21st, 2010

Subject: Why Aren’t All Enumerators Being Given This Paperwork?

Message Body:
When I separated from the Census I was given my SP-50 along with this paperwork ( http://www.docstoc.com/docs/44201134/Census-Separation-Paperwork) which includes a form that advises me that I may be eligible for Federal Unemployment.  This is of interest to me since I’d already run out of EDD extensions when I began working for the Census.  When I visited the EDD website I learned that there was indeed Federal Unemployment Insurance money that is seemingly just for people who were recently separated from the military or some other branch of the Federal Government.  To apply for EDD under these circumstances one must fill out a supplemental Federal form along with one’s regular Unemployment Application (http://www.docstoc.com/docs/44200536/Unemployment-Claim-For-Federal-Employees).  The thing is I just spoke to two other enumerators who were recently separated from the Census and all they received was their SP-50s.  They did not get the additional paperwork I got.  Is the Los Angeles area Census attempting to keep Census workers from the knowledge that they are eligible for this type of unemployment?

Strange news of the day: Cross-dressing Census Bureau employee attacks disabled woman in Houston

Sunday, June 13th, 2010

Read the article here for more details. Apparently the worker in question is now in a psychiatric hospital…

CNSNews.com Inspector General’s Memo: Census Says It Hired More Workers Than It Needed As a ‘Cost-Saving Measure’

Saturday, June 5th, 2010

Interesting article from CNS News (click HERE for full article):

The U.S. Census purposefully hired more workers than it needed, telling the Office of the Inspector General of the Commerce Department that it did so as a “cost-saving measure,” according to a memorandum that Todd J. Zinser of the inspector general’s office sent to Census Bureau Director Robert Groves last week.

“According to Census,” said Zinser’s May 26 memo to Groves, “‘frontloading’ its workforce (i.e. hiring and training more enumerators than necessary to offset turnover) is a cost-saving measure.” The inspector general’s memo, however, suggested that in at least one Census Bureau operation excessive staff had increased the “cost of operations” and that in another operation deployment of an unnecessarily large number of workers ”increased the operation’s direct labor and travel costs.”

In the first quarter of this year (January-March), personnel from the inspector general’s office observed Census Bureau operations in four programs. These included “update/leave” (U/L), in which Census workers deliver questionnaires to homes that would not be reached by ordinary mail service; “update/enumerate” (U/E), which counts people in communities where the homes lack ordinary mailing addresses or street names; “enumeration at transitory locations” (ETL), which counts people at places where their residences are potentially mobile, such as recreational vehicle parks, campgrounds, marinas and carnivals; and “service-based enumeration” (SBE), which counts homeless people at places such as homeless shelters, mobile food vans and so-called “targeted non-sheltered outdoor locations” (TNSOL).

The inspector general’s memo said that the Census Bureau had “overestimated” the staff needed for the program to enumerate people at transitory locations. “During the ETL operation,” said the memo, “crew leaders overestimated the number of Census staff needed to enumerate transitory locations, thus increasing the cost of operations.”

The memo also said that there were so many people hired for the “service-based enumeration” that there turned out to be one Census enumerator for every seven homeless people counted, and that the inspector general’s office “observed significant periods of enumerator inactivity at certain locations.”

“In another operation [which the inspector general’s office confirmed to CNSNews.com was the SBE program],” said the memo, “we found many enumerator teams to be unnecessarily large—an average ratio of one enumerator for just seven homeless respondents. We observed significant periods of enumerator inactivity at certain locations, which increased the operation’s direct labor and travel costs.”

As a result of these problems, the inspector general suggested that the Census bureau should “reevaluate” frontloading—that is, the practice of hiring more enumerators than necessary to cover anticipated turnover. “Census should reevaluate its practice of frontloading and develop a better process to estimate workload and cost assumptions,” said the memo. “A more streamlined enumeration process could reduce training and travel costs and be more responsive to changing economic conditions.”

MyTwoCensus Editorial: 2010 Census work should be suspended for Memorial Day

Friday, May 28th, 2010

MyTwoCensus has received numerous tips that Census Bureau offices will be open on Memorial Day and that enumerators will be out counting households. MyTwoCensus strongly disagrees with this decision to operate on Memorial Day for many reasons. First, Memorial Day is FEDERAL HOLIDAY, and the 2010 Census is a federal government operation. Second, Memorial Day is a time to show respect to veterans, living and dead. Third, Memorial Day is a time when not many people will be at home anyway. American tradition dictates that families and friends gather at parties that can be held in private, on beaches, in parks, and other public spaces. Enumerating on this day will likely be a major waste of time and money because few people will be at  home to answer their doors. Additionally, if all other federal workers receive Monday off, why should Census Bureau employees be held to a different standard?

MyTwoCensus Editorial: For the sake of employees, tell the truth about how long NRFU operations will last

Thursday, May 20th, 2010

MyTwoCensus has received confidential reports from multiple Census Bureau officials that non-response follow-up operations in many parts of the country are winding down. By law, the Census Bureau can only contact non-responders three times in person and three times by phone — even though MyTwoCensus is currently investigating whether additional illegal contacts are taking place.

Because of the Census Bureau’s computer failures, the 2010 Census may be coming in over-budget (apparently $15 billion wasn’t enough cash…). Since the Census Bureau doesn’t want to take yet another scolding from the Inspector General and the Government Accountability Office, they may try to abruptly end the 2010 headcount ASAP.

With half a million workers on the streets during this large-scale operation, there is significant amounts of confusion about how long jobs will last. Lying to Census Bureau employees, who very well may lose their jobs within the next one or two weeks (by the end of May) is not the answer. Yes, these jobs are temporary, but working through the end of July meant an additional two months of security and stability for many individuals employed by the Census Bureau who may have quit lower paying jobs to take on these positions. Additionally, it seems to be that thousands of individuals went off unemployment to take their Census Bureau jobs. These people should not have been told that they would have 6-8 weeks of work if they really only have 4 weeks of work.

Is speaking English a requirement to become a 2010 Census employee? Apparently not.

Monday, May 17th, 2010

The following report comes from San Antonio. Has anyone else experienced a 2010 Census worker who doesn’t speak English or is this an isolated case?

By Steve Lindscomb

SAN ANTONIO-Census workers are knocking on doors to get unanswered forms, but what would you do if that worker couldn’t speak your language? That’s what happened to one woman recently. When we first asked the Census Bureau about this incident that a viewer wrote us about, they found it hard to believe, but when we told them we ran into the very worker ourselves, and he really could not speak english, they had some questions to answer.

Sylvia Turner told us she was shocked. The census worker she talked to was very nice and courteous, but could not hardly put two or three english words together. “I tried, I stood there, I tried to be very patient and he could not speak one work clearly.”

She said she was surprised because she thought every census worker was tested for fluency in at least english. She didn’t want to get the worker in trouble, but somehow, the system broke down.

Her question was “are they speaking to these individuals or are they just taking applications.”

When we cruised around this north side neighborhood we happened to run into a census worker. And wouldn’t you know it…it had to be the same guy, because after talking to him for ten minutes, neither one of us knew what the other was trying to say. We didn’t want to embarrass him so we aren’t identifying him, but we did ask the census bureau if workers are tested and screened to communicate with the public.

A spokesperson would only read a statement to me over the phone. “While enumerators can take the skills test in Spanish, they must also then pass an English proficiency test. Enumerator training is conducted in English and, afterward, workers are observed and evaluated for English proficiency and their ability to conduct the survey. ”

The Census Bureau did tell us that if you run into a similar language problem, the worker has a form where you can indicate in which language you can answer questions. Another worker fluent in that language should come back to your house the next day.

Screenshot: The # of Census Bureau employees by week…

Friday, May 14th, 2010

This data comes from the Census Bureau’s web site:

Breaking News & MyTwoCensus Payrollgate Investigation: The Census Bureau has failed to pay thousands of employees!

Thursday, May 13th, 2010

SHOW ME THE MONEY! It’s simple. When you’ve got hundreds of thousands of employees working for you, pay them on time. MyTwoCensus.com has received more than a dozen complaints within the past 12 hours from Census Bureau employees, at offices throughout the nation, who have not been paid on time. It is unknown whether this inexcusable error by the Census Bureau is a result of computer system failures (a problem that has plagued the Census Bureau for months if not years — even though Census Bureau Director Robert M. Groves said two days ago that the problems were fixed). Even though most of the 500,000+ Census Bureau employees who are out in the field this week are temporary employees, they still depend on this income from the federal government. A great number of these temporary employees were unemployed before their Census Bureau work came about, and thus are now living paycheck to paycheck. Unfortunately, when those paychecks don’t come, everyone is hurt. This is particularly damning because many employees lost their unemployment benefits to take Census Bureau jobs, and will have an extremely hard time getting these payments again once the work is finished.

(Interestingly, a marketing firm called GA1 that had a contract with the Census Bureau publicly accused the government of not paying them on time back in March, but it’s unknown to me at this time whether the situation was resolved.)

One disgruntled employee wrote me the following about her experience, which sounds more like a Kafka novel than an account of living and working in the world’s greatest democracy:

I started working for the census on April 12, 2010. My first paycheck was supposed to be deposited on April 28 but it wasn’t. I called my LCO that day and was informed they entered the wrong account number into their system. They asked me for the correct account number and told me that they updated the system. Next they told me that I had to call the hotline to start the re-issuance process for the missing check. I did as instructed and was told it would take 5-7 business days to be deposited into my acct. The next payday was May 5 and check #2 isn’t there and #1 is still “missing”. I again call the hotline (got the answering machine the first 20+ times) when I finally found a human they wanted to take a message, I refused because I had left countless messages with no return call. So I waited on hold for over 25 minutes. I was told again that the check would be reissued in 5-7 days. Week 3 pay date May 12, finally a paycheck! However it was only for the last pay period. #1 and #2 still missing. I called the hotline today and I’m getting the run-around. They won’t tell me anything! I called DOL and was told they can’t help because technically I’m a federal employee and they gave me another number to call. I called this number and was told they couldn’t help because I was a temporary employee. What can I do? I need my money, I am a single mom with kids to feed. Right now I’m wishing I would have just stayed on unemployment. To top it all off, the uncaring attitude of my LCO doesn’t help… they just say don’t worry. You’ll be paid eventually, we don’t know when but eventually.

To the hundreds of thousands people who are victims of this lax payment plan by the government, know that I am here to fight for you. Please submit your stories in the comments section below. This behavior by the Census Bureau is unacceptable. Today, I am calling Dr. Groves (the Census Bureau Director), Steve Jost (the Census Bureau’s Communications Director), the Public Information Office, and officials who are responsible for the payroll to get to the bottom of this mess.

For now, MyTwoCensus.com urges ALL EMPLOYEES who have not been paid to contact your Member of Congress and your Senators. Go to their offices if you can, but if not, lodge complaints by phone and e-mail. If you wish, please send me your complaints privately as well. MyTwoCensus is in contact with both Democrat and Republican Members of Congress who will hopefully be able to have some clout to get this problem resolved immediately.

UPDATE: Here’s another update from an anonymous Census Bureau employee Asheville, North Carolina, which to my knowledge is the only place where the media has actually reported these problems:

No one out of the Asheville office was paid properly today. I received 0. Three of my crew also received 0. two got 1 days pay/ 5 got 2 Days pay.
When manager raised cain was threatened with firing.
One enumerator had to borrow 8 dollars for gas to get home. One is threatened with eviction from her trailer.
Asheville LCO told another enumerator to expect to be paid on the 26th.
Asheville LCO said not to worry it was a nationwide computer glitch.
Asheville did not care that these folks had been out of work and need the money…especially the gas they have been buying to do the job.
Please do not use my name or email or I will get fired too.
We heard from other census workers in different cld that they also had widespread pay issues.
No one we heard from in Asheville district got the correct pay.
What can we do? If we raise a stink they will fire us.
The Census is now hiring at $9.00 per hour. we were hired at $11.50/ Are they trying to force us out to hire cheaper workers?

Census Bureau employees are victims of crimes, yet also perpetrators of crimes…

Tuesday, May 11th, 2010

With 635,000 people on the job for the non-response follow-up (NRFU) operation, it’s not surprising that there are a few bad apples in the bunch. On the other hand, it’s tragic to learn that a Census Bureau employee in Connecticut became a carjacking victim. Here are the tidbits about these situations:

According to Connecticut’s NBC affiliate:

A Census Bureau worker was the victim of a carjacking in Hamden, and the suspect is just 14-years-old.

The 50-year-old Hamden resident was sitting in his car, clearly marked with a Census Bureau sign, on Hamden Park Drive Thursday around 6:00 p.m., according to police.

The victim told police the teen came up to him with a gun and ordered him out of the car, then stole money from him.

Jumping in the car, the teen sped away, but returned a short time later and ordered the victim to drive him to the First Street area, police said.

The teen jumped out of the car at First Street and fled on foot.

Working with several leads, police arrested the 14-year-old suspect around 9:00 p.m. Thursday night.

He is charged with carjacking, first-degree kidnapping with a firearm, first-degree robbery and larceny.  Police did not release the teen’s identity because of his age.

And from the Fox affiliate in Indiana, a Census Bureau employee raped a woman whom he had previously enumerated…weird:

Census worker charged with rape

Posted: May 11, 2010 4:18 AM

A Southern Indiana Census worker sits in jail, charged with brutally raping a mentally handicapped woman.

Now deep concerns from within the neighborhood where police say it took place.

Connie Fry said she was asleep in one room and her daughter in another and had no idea someone was in her home attacking her daughter.

“At one time she told me he was putting his hand over her mouth and he was choking her,” Fry said as she was describing the attack on her daughter.

She said the attacker is 39-year-old Daniel Miller.  Fry said he is not a complete stranger, but someone she had met before.

“Three days prior to the night he got here he came from the Census Bureau.”  That day – Fry said Miller was dressed professionally and was polite only taking her information for the Census.

Officials with the U.S. Census Bureau confirm Daniel Miller is a numerator, someone employed to go door to door gathering information.

At around 4:30 Saturday morning, police said Miller broke into a home at 5602 South State Road 60 in Pekin, Indiana and brutally attacked and raped Fry’s 21-year-old daughter.

“She had blood shot eyes and bruises on her shoulders and her arms.”

Fry said her daughter is handicapped and could not have defended herself.  “She’s got Cerebral Palsy and mild retardation.”

Fry said it was easy to figure out who attacked her daughter because he left behind plenty of evidence.

“He left all his clothes, his wallet and everything in the bedroom.  He went out of here with her pajamas and her panties.”

Sheriff’s deputies arrested Miller at his apartment on North Eastern School Road in Pekin across the street from Eastern High School.

“Sometimes we’re here by ourselves because my husband works out of town,” said Evelyn Wisman Fry’s neighbor.

Even though police say they have arrested the right person, neighbors along Indiana 60 in Pekin are concerned that someone trusted by the government to go door to door is now charged with such a serious crime.

“That’s scary for him to know exactly who’s in the home,” Wisman said.

Miller is charged with rape and burglary and is in the Washington County Detention Center on a $150,000 full cash bond.

Census officials tell Fox 41 a background check is performed on all employees and anyone with a criminal history is not hired.

Essential Information: Common 2010 Census Acronyms/2010 Census Employee Handbook

Tuesday, May 4th, 2010

On this web site, particularly in the comments section, many people use acronyms and other jargon associated with the 2010 Census. MyTwoCensus has obtained both a list of acronyms — essentially a 2010 Census dictionary — and an employee handbook that you can use as you need it. I will be linking to this post in our “links” section so this information is easily accessible for all:

Common 2010 Census Acronyms (a 2010 Census dictionary)

2010 Census Employee Handbook (technically called the D590)

And even more acronyms/definitions available from the Census Bureau’s glossary: http://www.census.gov/dmd/www/glossary.html

New York Times Editorial Criticizes Census Bureau Hiring

Wednesday, April 21st, 2010

The following New York Times editorial concerns the class action lawsuit that we reported on last week. For many months now, MyTwoCensus.com has criticized 2010 Census hiring practices. Here’s the editorial:

The Census Bureau is hiring a million or more people to assist with the 2010 count. It is temporary work, but it pays well. With national unemployment at nearly 10 percent, it looks like an excellent opportunity. That is unless you are one of the nearly 50 million Americans with any arrest or conviction on record.

A new class-action lawsuit has been filed on behalf of applicants who say they were unfairly turned down for census jobs based on an opaque screening policy that relies on F.B.I. checks for any criminal histories. Those checks are notoriously unreliable. A 2006 federal report found that half of them were inaccurate or out of date.

The Census Bureau is vague about what makes someone ineligible. In Congressional testimony, it suggested that it is excluding people who have been convicted of crimes involving violence and dishonesty. The bureau’s Web site seems to say that applicants whose background checks turn up any arrest — no matter how trivial, distant in time, irrelevant to the job — receive a letter advising them that they can remain eligible only if they produce “official court documentation” bearing on the case within 30 days. Incredibly, the letter does not identify the alleged criminal activity. Applicants must prove eligibility, even if they don’t know why they were flagged.

Official court records are often unobtainable for the millions of people whose convictions have been sealed or expunged or for people who have been arrested and released because of lack of evidence or mistaken arrest. This problem falls heaviest on black and Hispanic communities where stop-and-frisk policies and indiscriminate arrests are common.

The hiring problem is not limited to the Census Bureau. After 9/11, Congress required port workers to undergo F.B.I. background checks to keep their jobs. Last year, a study by the National Employment Law Project, an advocacy group for workers, found that the government had mistakenly denied credentials to tens of thousands of those workers.

States and cities are wisely revising employment policies. The federal government needs to develop a fair and transparent screening system for job applicants and a more effective appeals process. Congress must also require the F.B.I. to verify the criminal records — and find missing data before issuing background checks.

NRFU Operations (and thus troubles) begin

Monday, April 19th, 2010

Census forms are now due back and non-response follow-up operations are starting across the country. With some 600,000 workers (or more) on the job right now, there are bound to be problems. If you know of anything that is out of the ordinary, please don’t hesitate to contact MyTwocensus.com!

CNN Conservative Commentator To Whip Out His Shotgun On Enumerators?

Tuesday, April 6th, 2010

H/t to Media Matters for America:

Huffington Post: “Erickson Shotgun-Census Remark: Commerce Dept. Pushes Back”

April 05, 2010 6:10 pm ET by Media Matters Staff

From an April 5 article by Huffington Post reporter Sam Stein:

The Commerce Department is pushing back against census critics, subtly reminding conservative blogger and CNN contributor Erick Erickson that the workers whom he’s threatened to pull a shotgun on are simply doing required, temporary and important work.

In a statement provided to the Huffington Post, Nicholas Kimball, a spokesman for the Commerce Department — which oversees the 2010 census counting — said that precautions are being made to “protect the safety of both census workers and the public.”

Going through the logistics of the process, Kimball noted that the census workers dispatched to help collect raw data (in the form of a ten-point questionnaire) are usually fellow locals. Taking a small dig at Erickson, without naming names, he added:

So, that means someone knocking on a door in, for example, Macon, Georgia, is likely to be from that community or neighborhood. They’re just someone looking for a little extra work during these difficult economic times – and looking to help fulfill the mission of our Founding Fathers.

BREAKING NEWS FROM THE AP: Audit finds 2010 Census preparations wasted millions

Tuesday, February 16th, 2010
H/t to Hope Yen and the Associated Press for the following piece. Of course we are already trying to obtain this complete document to find out the details of exactly what happened…but at the same time, none of this should come as a shock since we’ve been reporting on many examples of blatant waste at the Census Bureau for the past year…
UPDATE: This report from the Commerce Department Inspector General’s Office is now available to the public HERE.

By HOPE YEN (AP) –

WASHINGTON — The Census Bureau wasted millions of dollars in preparation for its 2010 population count, including thousands of temporary employees who picked up $300 checks without performing work and others who overbilled for travel costs.

Federal investigators caution the excessive charges could multiply once the $15 billion headcount begins in earnest next month unless the agency imposes tighter spending controls, according to excerpts of a forthcoming audit obtained by The Associated Press.

On a positive note, investigators backed the Census Bureau’s decision to spend $133 million on its advertising campaign, saying it was appropriate to boost public awareness. The spending included a $2.5 million Super Bowl spot that some Republicans had criticized as wasteful.

The findings by Todd Zinser, the Commerce Department’s inspector general, highlight the difficult balancing act for the Census Bureau as it takes on the Herculean task of manually counting the nation’s 300 million residents amid a backdrop of record levels of government debt.

Because the population count, done every 10 years, is used to distribute U.S. House seats and billions in federal aid, many states are pushing for all-out government efforts in outreach since there is little margin for error — particularly for Democratic-leaning minorities and the poor, who tend to be undercounted. At the same time, the national headcount will employ 1 million temporary workers and is the most expensive ever, making it a visible sign of rising government spending.

The federal hiring has been widely touted by the government as providing a lift to the nation’s sagging employment rate — but investigators found it also had waste.

The audit, scheduled to be released next week, examined the Census Bureau’s address-canvassing operation last fall, in which 140,000 temporary workers walked block by block to update the government’s mailing lists and maps.

While the project finished ahead of schedule, Census director Robert Groves in October acknowledged the costs had ballooned $88 million higher than the original estimate of $356 million, an overrun of 25 percent. He cited faulty assumptions in the bureau’s cost estimates.

Among the waste found by investigators:

_More than 10,000 census employees were paid over $300 apiece to attend training for the massive address-canvassing effort, but they quit or were otherwise let go before they could perform any work. Cost: $3 million.

_Another 5,000 employees collected $300 for the same training, and then worked a single day or less. Cost $1.5 million.

_Twenty-three temporary census employees were paid for car mileage costs at 55 cents a mile, even though the number of miles they reported driving per hour exceeded the total number of hours they actually worked.

_Another 581 employees who spent the majority of their time driving instead of conducting field work also received full mileage reimbursements, which investigators called questionable.

Census regional offices that had mileage costs exceeding their planned budgets included Atlanta; Charlotte, N.C.; Chicago; Dallas; Denver; Detroit; Kansas City and Seattle.

Most of the nation will receive census forms in mid-March, and the Census Bureau is asking residents to return them by April. For those who fail to respond, the government will dispatch some 700,000 temporary workers to visit homes in May.

In response to cost overruns, Groves has said he would work to prevent expenses from ballooning further and reevaluate budget estimates for the entire census operation. He has made clear his goal of returning tens of millions of dollars to government coffers by motivating more U.S. residents to mail in their form, which avoids costly follow-up visits by census takers.

As to the Super Bowl ads, Republicans including Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., have questioned the $2.5 million purchase, which included two 30-second pregame spots, on-air mentions and a 30-second ad during the third-quarter.

The ads, featuring Ed Begley Jr. humorously extolling a new project called a “Snapshot of America,” was widely panned as weak and ineffective by media critics.

“There is a general move in the United States toward more government involvement in the economy. Seeing the U.S. Census spot gives us little confidence that this is going to solve our issues,” blogged Tim Calkins and Derek Rucker, both marketing professors at Northwestern’s Kellogg School of Management.

The inspector general’s report said the census advertising was consistent with the government’s goals of boosting participation in the count. The agency has said that if 1 percent of Super Bowl viewers change their minds and mail in their form, it will save taxpayers $25 million to $30 million in follow-up costs.

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.

Employee Blasts Census Bureau Deficiencies

Thursday, May 7th, 2009

With permission from the author  (who has requested anonymity), we are posting the following analysis of the multitude of problems facing the 2010 Census:

2010 Census = Government Waste

For years, as a student and grant writer I have worked with United States Census data. Despite its shortcomings, I had always considered the U.S. Census one of the good actions of American government. For all of the corruption and oppression America commits at home and abroad, the U.S. Census has been one of the things I have had a fair amount of faith in. That is until I got involved on the data collection end of things. The experience I had is enough to turn you into a Republican.

Due to my familiarity with and interest in the U.S. Census I decided to answer the call for temporary Census workers. I replied to an ad, took a test, and got a job. Though not without shortcomings, this process went smooth enough. Once I entered the four-day training “designed” to teach me how to conduct address canvassing operations I realized that the U.S. Census is truly an example of government waste. People toss around the notion that government waste happens all of the time without any real first hand information. It’s just one of those uninformed, folk things people do. In the case of the U.S. Census, though, I can state confidently that it is unorganized at best, and I am being kind when I use a qualifier by saying that it ‘teeters on being corrupt.’

Ineptitude and Government Waste at its Finest

A big part of the problem with the execution of the on-the-ground phases of the U.S. Census is that the people hired to conduct them have no real interest in or knowledge of things like surveys, statistics, geography, urban planning, and related areas. 2010 U.S. Census corruptionTemporary workers are recruited on the basis of a job that provides good pay and is somewhat more interesting than working in retail. All sorts of people apply, but it is hardly the case that the people doing the hiring are looking for individuals with relevant experience or knowledge. The folks who conduct training and run things may have never heard of the Census prior to seeing an ad for a position with the Census Bureau.

The point of the address canvassing that is presently underway is to literally record each and every structure in the United States where people live or could live. The intent is to record every mailing address and every structure where someone might live to ensure that all households in the United States receive a Census form in 2010. Of course, this is an impossible task and the government is rightly criticized for even trying to do this every ten years (as opposed to merely drawing a sample), but that’s another story for another hub. Training is supposed to teach how this is done by defining terms (i.e., what is a housing unit?) and detailing protocol. The problem is that so much is left to an individual’s judgement. The process is portrayed as an objective one, yet it is clear that it has never been empirically tested and if it has its shortcomings were roundly ignored.

So many questions came up and were basically put up to debate. “Crew leaders” debated amongst one another as to what the proper answer was or how to handle a specific situation. The instructions that followed could not have been more subjective and surely varied widely from location to location. A case in point involved how to tell the difference between single-family and multi-family units. The area I worked in is the Hollywood section of Los Angeles. This is probably one of the most heavily populated places in the country. We were told that if we came upon a building and the units were ‘stacked’ we would automatically classify it as ‘multi-unit.’ There are several grave problems with this.

First, how do you know if you are unable to gain access to a residence or talk to an occupant if a unit is stacked or side-by-side? You don’t. And since we were repeatedly told to “figure it out” without requiring further assistance, we made judgement calls on the ground. Those calls are surely being made still as canvassing is ongoing.

Second, duplexes are common in Hollywood. Many are located in affluent neighborhoods. If a two-unit building has dwellings situated side-by-side, each unit is considered as separate single-family units according to the way my crew went about things. But if they were stacked, they would be considered multi-unit. This is absurd and inaccurate to anyone who has been in urban planning 101. But the real impact is that in some affluent Hollywood neighborhoods multi-unit buildings are being over-counted. This could impact how crucial funding is allocated to cities and neighborhoods as communities with more multi-unit buildings are generally considered needier than those with a greater number of single-family units.

The Worst is Yet to Come

I can come up with other issues similar to the one above. At the end of the day, I guess they are up for debate. But what follows is government corruption at its absolute worst.

Each address canvasser in the area my crew worked was given several census blocks to canvass. We needed, initially, to meet a quota of 160 addresses canvassed in an eight-hour day. It became clear early on that this was way too easy. Budget money was allocated for two months worth of work and with the high number of large apartment buildings being worked in Hollywood- and the general high density of the area- 160 addresses could be completed in less than half a day’s work. This posed a problem. At that rate we were on pace to finish the work much sooner than planned, thus leaving money on the table. The solution? Here is where the corruption comes in.

We were told to drop that number down to 120, but we were told to continue working an eight hour day. Wink, wink… nudge, nudge. Essentially we were being told… say you worked eight hours, complete 120 addresses so that we can use up all of the money budgeted to our crew for wages. Most of us worked an hour or two, maybe three… said we worked eight while most of the day we were hardly conducting Census business. I could not believe we were being instructed to do this. I have no reason to believe that this practice was not being duplicated throughout Los Angeles. And I am somewhat confident that it is probably happening across the country. This means that thousands- and likely millions- of taxpayer dollars are literally being wasted. It stings even more considering the economic times we are living through.

This might have made for a dry hub. I am not sure that anyone will even care, but I had to share. I think this ought to be of major national concern. President Obama… are you listening?

In a future hub, I will discuss the Census — and its other inherent problems — further.

Note: This article does not represent the opinions of MyTwoCensus.com, Stephen Robert Morse or Evan Goldin. The views expressed are those of the author. That said, MyTwoCensus welcomes written, video, photographic, and multimedia contributions from any individual with a 2010 Census-related story to tell.

New Census policy may encourage the spread of Swine Flu

Friday, May 1st, 2009

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Immediately after MyTwoCensus broke the story that Census Bureau “listers” have finished their jobs way ahead of schedule (and were then released from their temporary duties, making them ineligible for unemployment), a tip from a mid-Atlantic state came into our inbox…

It appears that there has been a sudden change of policy within the Bureau: Whereas two days ago, the Census Bureau was proud that it had completed so many tasks early (and lied to its employees about how long they would be working), it seems that now the Census Bureau has gone to the other extreme, by adding tons of unecessary work for its low-level employees, work that could enable the spread of Swine Flu.

We assure you that the credibility of our source has been established. As we hope to protect that person’s identity, we will not reveal anymore information. Here’s the scoop:

“So the only people on the streets now are listers and Quality Control listers, people making the list of addresses and double-checking parts of the list of addresses.

It is exceedingly simple work, making sure “100 Main St.” in the computer matches up with “100 Main St.” on the ground. Ninety-nine percent of homes have their numbers posted, so there is no need to actually interact with anyone. The work moves pretty fast.

Until yesterday.

That’s when the regional census office decreed that we need to knock on every door and make a “courtesy contact.”

Here is the e-mail from the regional office:

“The purpose of this message is to ensure all Listers clearly and fully understand that they are “required” to knock on “every” door to verify addresses during the address canvassing operation.”

Again, almost none of this work actually requires talking with residents. (This is unlike the phase of the operation in 2010, when we’ll be knocking on the doors of people who don’t turn in their forms.) Making us knock on every door is going to slow our work to a crawl. And it will be completely pointless. During a “courtesy contact,” we don’t ask any questions, and merely say hi.

But in this time of swine flu anxiety it seems strange to require government employees to be making all kinds of unnecessary contact with dozens of strangers a day in their homes”

When a pandemic could be upon us, why has the Census Bureau decided to start making unnecessary “courtesy contacts” with citizens? Why is meaningless work being created for Census Bureau employees? Is it to prevent what happened in Philly from happening elsewhere by going to the opposite extreme and adding non-essential work to the mix?

The Census Bureau uses the following statistic as a talking point: For each additional 1% of Americans who turn in their Census questionnaire on time, the Bureau saves $80-90 million. However, knocking on doors to say “hi” has little to no correlation with ensuring that people fill out their questionnaires in the fall. And these “courtesy” visits could very well be facilitating the inadvertent spread of Swine Flu germs, endangering both Census Bureau listers and the unsuspecting citizens they visit.