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 ‘field’

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.

Census worker arrested for trespassing…how will the Census Bureau respond?

Friday, July 2nd, 2010

Most likely, the Census Bureau will come to the aid of its employee, but it will be interesting to see how this incident plays out in court. In a recent incident in Hawaii, the federal government staunchly defended their field worker. Let’s see how the following story plays out:

Count Me Out
Rosendale Census Worker Receives Summons for Trespassing
By Rochelle Riservato and Tod Westlake

ROSENDALE – A United States 2010 Census Bureau Quality Assurance fieldworker was involved in an altercation at a residence in Tillson on June 1, which then resulted in the bureau fieldworker being served with a “criminal summons for trespass.” The fieldworker was then issued an appearance date of Wednesday, July 21, in Rosendale Town Justice Court.

Apparently, the fieldworker — who would speak to the Journal only on the condition that her name be withheld from publication — was performing a re-interview visit at a Rosendale home, and was requested by the homeowner to leave the property. The census fieldworker stated that she got back in her vehicle to finish filling out “refusal paperwork” and left the premises.

“I want these charges expunged from my record,” said the fieldworker, “I was only doing my job — a ‘no-response’ is the only reason someone like me has to go at all.”

But a statement by the homeowner in question tells a different story. The homeowner says that she told the fieldworker that she had already filled out the form, but was told by the fieldworker that this was a “follow-up” visit. When the homeowner refused to cooperate, asking the fieldworker to leave the premises, the fieldworker responded that she was a “federal officer” and that she would “sleep in her car in [the homeowner's] driveway” until the homeowner complied. The homeowner repeated her request that the fieldworker leave her property, and the latter “laughed at her,” according to the statement. The incident took a total of 20-25 minutes, the statement says. The homeowner says that the fieldworker went so far as to suggest that the homeowner would be “wearing cuffs by the time this was over.”

The fieldworker says that, two weeks after the altercation, she came home to find a Rosendale police vehicle blocking her driveway when she arrived home from work.

“I said ‘Hi Officer, what’s going on?’ I had no idea he was coming to arrest me,” she says. “The officer told me I was under arrest for criminal trespassing and handed me a summons signed by Justice Robert Vosper.”

Chief Perry Soule of the Rosendale Police, however, said this was not an arrest. The officer was simply delivering a criminal summons from the justice court. Soule said that his office typically does not see complaints against census workers, and that these are referred to the justice court.

Click here for the full article.

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.

MyTwoCensus Editorial: Heads Should Fly…NOW!!!

Tuesday, February 16th, 2010

UPDATE: The Inspector General’s report is available HERE.

Though we are yet to obtain a hard copy of the Inspector General’s report that will be released within the next two hours that details how the Census Bureau went massively over budget during the address canvassing phase of the decennial census, we believe that Census Bureau employees should be held accountable. Without making false accusations,  here is a list of names of people who, according to the positions they hold at the Census Bureau , should be held accountable and punishedmeaning demoted or fired – for this waste (in order of culpability from worst offenders to more moderate offenders…):

1. ASSOCIATE DIRECTOR FOR DECENNIAL CENSUS – ARNOLD A. JACKSON

2. ASSISTANT DIRECTOR FOR ACS AND DECENNIAL CENSUS – DANIEL H. WEINBERG

3. COMPTROLLER -  ANDREW H. MOXAM

4. ASSOCIATE DIRECTOR FOR FIELD OPERATIONS – MARILIA A. MATOS

5.  HUMAN RESOURCES CHIEF -  TYRA DENT SMITH

6. TECHNOLOGIES MANAGEMENT OFFICE CHIEF – BARBARA M. LOPRESTI

7. FIELD CHIEF – BRIAN MONAGHAN

And while these deputies and senior Census Bureau employees are responsible for their actions, they answer directly to three men: Census Bureau Director Robert M. Groves, Deputy Director and Chief Operating Officer Thomas Mesenbourg, and Associate Director For Communications Steve Jost, who are in that order, the three top dogs so to speak at the Census Bureau. Perhaps the man who is most to blame for the widespread failures is Mr. Mesenbourg, who served as Acting Director of the Census Bureau for more than a year before Dr. Groves was installed in office. Mesenbourg continues to oversee an agency filled with miserable and inexcusable performance results, yet he has done little to enact change. Nonetheless, neither Dr. Groves nor Steve Jost should be let slide for these actions. While both of them consistently discuss looking toward the future, they can’t seem to take responsibility for cleaning up the mess that was present at the Census Bureau when they arrived. To play on Shakespeare’s words, “There’s Something Rotten In Suitland!”