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 ‘forms’

How to submit inaccurate or incomplete 2010 Census data (and get away with it)

Friday, July 30th, 2010

Last week, Census Bureau Director Robert M. Groves said to Fox News that you can “trust 2010 Census data.” What our director fails to tell us is that the two software applications have operational problems that will ultimately lead to inaccurate data. Just spend a day working in PBOCS, the Paper-Based Operational Control System which processes enumerator questionnaires from the field, or MARCS, the Matching Address Review Coding System which shows a data capture of every questionnaire that was scanned at the Baltimore Data Capture Center and you will see the poor quality of work. Thousands upon thousands of questionnaires are being scanned that show conflicting or incomplete data such as: vacant housing units with a population count, incorrect enumerator IDs, occupied housing units with no demographic information and the list goes on.

During the peak of the non-response follow-up (NRFU) phase of 2010 Census operations (around mid May), the Census switched to a shipping application built off a PeopleSoft/Oracle interface in order to take the load off PBOCS. Although this was a good thought in theory, the application allowed questionnaires to be shipped that were not even checked in PBOCS. In the final closeout days of the operation, PBOCS claimed many questionnaires were not checked in even though enumerators fervently claimed they turned them in. Fortunately some of those were found in MARCS having been received at the data capture center but never scanned for shipping nor checked in. However because there was such a bottleneck sometimes a few weeks between the time they were shipped and scanned; some questionnaires that never showed in MARCS were re-enumerated. Sometimes PBOCS would just revert some cases back to not being checked in. In a mad dash to finish and meet deadlines enumerators submitted second versions of questionnaires with little or less than accurate data replacing what may or may not have been originally submitted. Immediately after offices finished NRFU, headquarters closed the PBOCS to the local census offices to prevent further glitches.

As it has been mentioned time and time again, the Census never made it clear what constituted a completed questionnaire. In such a recession, employees were promised more work if they finished quickly so experienced and resourceful field staff took advantage of the three visit rule sometimes making visits in consecutive days or all in a one day before going to a proxy. Local census offices managers, RCC supervisors and managers developed their own rules which were verbally communicated to field staff. These included guesstimating the population count and allowing enumerators to submit Enumerator Questionnaires (EQs) with little or no demographic information. Since performance was purely based on how many questionnaires get checked in; those who submitted hundreds of forms with nothing on the inside of the questionnaire were rewarded with more work.

On the quality assurance end, the staff attempted to examine the data collected for falsification and poor work quality. However reinterview only has been able to find those who intentionally falsified data. An enumerator can submit inaccurate or incomplete data and practically get away with it.

Most enumerators will be tempted to submit inaccurate data when they cannot gain access to the building, speak to a household member or knowledgeable proxy after repeated visits. The reinterview telephone clerks and field staff have to prove definitively by gaining access to the building or speaking to a respondent who said the interview was never conducted. But in reality the reinterview staff can never access the building, or with large apartment buildings sometimes a proxy is asked about hundreds of units and may not remember if the original interview occurred. Most of these bad data cases have little or no information or wrong information: no names, ages, Hispanic origin, race and sometimes not even a person count. But quality assurance staff have either been told to mark them refusals with an unknown population and check them in.

In the rare instance that the Census Bureaus’s quality assurance (QA) operations do suspect data falsification or inaccuracy, finding the culprit is difficult. There are thousands of questionnaires where the enumerator ID numbers are being read incorrectly at data capture. This invites data falsification in two ways. If a questionnaire is found to be inaccurate or falsified then it is impossible to find the culprit. If quality assurance staff does find an enumerator is submitting falsified or inaccurate work, they can not examine the other questionnaires the enumerator completed because many questionnaires do not have a valid enumerator associated with it.

In the current Vacant/Delete check phase of 2010 Census operations, while the agency covered up their own software problems by closing access to PBOCS, they have also created problems. For hundreds of questionnaires where enumerators clearly marked them vacant or deletes without visiting them LCOs cannot access the system to research who actually submitted this erroneous work.

Most of this is happening now in your local census offices across the country as the re-interview phase winds down. This is because of a huge backlog of EQs that were sent into re-interview, hundreds of outliers, and the slowness of MARCS. This inaccurate data is another smear of shame for the Census Bureau. For Dr. Groves to say that we can trust 2010 Census data is merely a cover-up.

Here are some e-mails sent to 2010 Census managers across the nation that detail the aforementioned problems:

07/18/2010

ATTENTION : 2010 Census Managers

SUBJECT: 1- PW Flags randomly appearing or disappearing on the Select Enumerator screen
2- Loss of notes in the LCO Notes panel on the Evaluate Case screen
3- Cases with missing person data from the 400,000 pushed cases

ACTION: Please share the information with the appropriate field staff

1. PW Flags randomly appearing or disappearing on the Select Enumerator screen
As a result of a MaRCS fix, the PW flag may have been working erratically. It has been reported that the PW flag on the Select Enumerator screen may have disappeared from the screen for already worked enumerators or may have appeared in cases for an enumerator the MaRCS clerk had never worked. This was a temporary issue and has been corrected. For those cases that this issue may have happened, please inform the AMQA they would need to remove the PW flag for the cases where the enumerator has not been worked in MaRCS OR asking the QA Clerk to click on the Edit pencil icon for the enumerator they have been working to reactivate the PW flag if it has disappeared.

2. Loss of notes in the LCO Notes panel in the Evaluate Case screen
As a result of the MaRCS performance issues that LCOs are experiencing, some screens are loading slowly. To avoid losing the notes entered in the Evaluate Case screen, the MaRCS clerk needs to wait until the page has fully loaded. A page is fully loaded when the “Please wait for page to respond” message disappears in MaRCS or when the Windows browser loading indicator (it shows as a progressive number of green squares) at the bottom of the browser also disappears. Please also remind the LCOs to enter the notes in the LCO Notes panel before assigning a final outcome on the case and to save these notes often so they are not lost if the MaRCS session times out.

3. Cases with missing person data from the 400,000 pushed cases
NPC noted that a portion of the 400,000 cases pushed for processing have blank person data in the original interview or the reinterview in cases where the unit status (US field in Review Data screen) shows occupied (OCC). Most if not all of these cases will be deferred to the LCOs due to different unit statuses between the original interview and reinterview. An example of this situation might be, the original interview has an unit status of occupied with 3 people living at the housing unit and the roster and demographic information is blank; and the reinterview shows that the housing unit is vacant (thus no roster or demographic information shown).

The MaRCS clerks should investigate these cases as any other case in LCO Review. For these cases, the MaRCS clerks should focus their investigation on the unit status of the housing unit, determining which one might be correct. When the MaRCS clerk determines the correct unit status, then they should turn their investigation on what might have caused the discrepancies in the data and assign an outcome code based on the investigation results.

07/15/2010

ATTENTION : 2010 Census Managers

SUBJECT: MaRCS NRFU users account maintenance

ACTION: Delete unused MaRCS accounts by noon, Friday 7/16/2010

MaRCS is experiencing performance issues due to the exceeding the number of users accessing and using the system at the same time. Per our teleconference today, attached below are the tallies by LCO of MaRCS accounts issued to users in the LCO. Please review the number of users in each of the region’s LCOs and delete the accounts that are no longer needed.

IMPORTANT – MaRCS accounts should be used for coding MaRCS cases. Limit or eliminate MaRCS uses for purposes other than coding MaRCS cases. Staff assigned to work MaRCS cases are the only staff allowed to have a MaRCS accounts in the LCOs.

The AMT can delete the unused accounts in the LCO. The RMQA needs to work with the AMQA to identify and delete the MaRCS accounts that are no longer needed. For example, we have noticed multiple AMQA roles for a single LCO. It is preferable to only have 1 AMQA role per LCO, as this is the person that has the responsibility to Hard Fail a case. LCOs may have, in rare cases, more than 1 AMQA role if the AMQA has a backup or if there are other AMQAs working shifts.

The AMT instructions to delete users in MaRCS are in their AMT Manual D-650.1, lesson 6. The RMQA can also ask the LSC to run the D-1311M User Role Report to verify user roles and that unused accounts are deleted.

After the accounts are deleted, the MaRCS contractor will measure system performance and inform us if this resolved the issue. Until further notice, please inform the LCOs to use, at most, 4 accounts per LCO OR use accounts not to go over the number of LCOs times 4 per region, the allowed number of MaRCS users.

07/09/2010

ATTENTION : 2010 Census Managers

SUBJECT: Start of the processing of 400,000 cases in MaRCS with data capture issues

ACTION: Please share the information with the appropriate field staff

As mentioned in the last RMQA teleconference, MaRCS held from processing about 400,000 cases that had a data capture problem. The data capture problem was in the population count where a scanning error, as an example, might have returned a population count of 74 when the actual count is 4. These cases were not processed because MaRCS was waiting for a continuation form where one was likely not needed.

MaRCS will start processing these forms starting on Monday, July 09, 2010 and should be finishing by the end of the week. These forms will likely be deferred to NPC from computer matching because the population counts will not match. It is expected that NPC will resolve the majority of these cases because as long as the roster and demographic information matches, the NPC clerks will pass the case.

It is not expected that the LCOs will get to code many of these cases. However, if they do get some of these cases, please remind the LCOs to ignore the population counts and, if the roster and demographic information matches, then pass the case. If the roster and demographic information does not match, then the MaRCS clerk needs to conduct an investigation on the case as any other case in LCO Review.

The other issue this should resolve are the cases that may be showing in the D-3421M Completion and Data Capture Report as not being data captured when there is information in PBOCS that the case was worked and shipped. It is expected that as these cases are processed, many cases showing in this report will be removed.

If you have any questions please contact Hector Merced or Vance Davis at 301-763-8822 or email fld.quality.assurance.branch@census.gov
07/02/2010

ATTENTION : 2010 Census Managers

SUBJECT:

1. Hard Fail Recommendation screen reminders
2. Applicant ID capture error – new known issue and workaround
3. Handling cases where the Address panel information in the Review Case Data screen is outside the LCO or RCC boundaries
4. Reminder on handling duplicate D-1282Ms
5. Update on cases not showing in PBOCS when a D-1282M exists in MaRCS
6. MaRCS clerk observation forms for both UE and NRFU

ACTION: Please share the information with the appropriate field staff

1. Hard Fail Recommendation screen reminders
Some regions have informed us that Hard Fail cases are not showing in the D-831M Hard Fail Report after the AMQA assigns a hard fail code to a case. This is due to the AMQA not entering notes in a timely manner in this screen (MaRCS times out) or exiting the screen before clicking the Save button. Please remind the AMQAs to be prepared to enter the notes and the LCO managers’ decisions prior to coming to this screen. It is suggested the AMQA has the notes ready in a notepad so they can quickly be entered on the screen along with the AMFO/LCOM decisions. The notes for a hard failed enumerator should not be lengthy since all LCO managers are in agreement with the outcome.

Not entering and properly saving these notes in this screen has also affected the D-831M Hard Fail Report. This is a defect that the MaRCS contractor is fixing today. An updated report with these cases should be available early next week. Also, as a result of this defect, D-1282M Transcription Reports were not generated for these hard failed enumerators. The fix to the report will also correct this defect, so LCOs should expect next week D-1282Ms with the completed eligible cases for the hard failed enumerator that needs to be reinterviewed.

2. Applicant ID capture error – new known issue and workaround
There is another known issue where valid applicant IDs and names show in MaRCS cases but the enumerator showing in the case does not work in that LCO. The rest of the data displayed for the case will belong to the LCO and the only inaccurate data is the applicant ID and name of the enumerator in the case. This happens when the applicant ID was incorrectly captured at the data capture center and it happened to match a valid ID from another enumerator in another LCO. The MaRCS clerk needs to review this case as any other and assign a final outcome code based on the case investigation (PASS, SOFT FAIL, DK/NO SUSP, or DK/SUSP).

If the MaRCS clerk reviewing the case is recommending to hard fail the case and the LCO managers agree to hard fail the case, please DO NOT HARD FAIL THIS CASE . Doing this will cause the enumerator outside the LCO being flagged as a Hard Fail enumerator. Have the MaRCS clerk Soft Fail the case. Using the case ID, please look if the LCO can identify the enumerator that actually worked the case in the LCO (or the RMQA can send the case ID to QAB to get that information). Once the correct enumerator is identified for the reviewed case, the AMQA can then Non-RI Fail the enumerator. This will ensure the right enumerator is hard failed and the completed eligible cases for this enumerator are reinterviewed.

No action is required if the reinterviewer name and applicant ID displayed in MaRCS is outside the LCO boundaries. The Reinterview panel information in the Review Case Data screen will belong to the LCO.

3. Handling cases where the Address panel information in the Review Case Data screen is outside the LCO or RCC boundaries
Some regions have said that they have cases from other LCOs or are outside the RCC boundaries. This is a known issue that happens for added housing units during NRFU. This is another data capture issue where the LCO was incorrectly captured for the added housing unit. There is no viable solution to transfer these cases to the appropriate LCO. Please instruct the LCOs to PASS these cases and include in the Notes the reason for the pass is the case is outside the LCO/RCC boundaries.

4. Reminder on handling duplicate D-1282Ms
This is a reminder to the LCOs to ignore the D-1282Ms that are duplicates. There might instances where MaRCS created 2 or more D-1282Ms for the same case ID. Please inform the LCOs to reinterview only one of the cases and to ignore all other possible duplicated D-1282Ms.

5. Update on cases not showing in PBOCS when a D-1282M exists in MaRCS
We got confirmation that MaRCS has passed all information to PBOCS as of 6/29/2010. From now on, the sponsor division will monitor that PBOCS receives the data from MaRCS and will inform QAB when PBOCS did not acknowledge receiving the data. We will inform the regions when the MaRCS cases were not received in PBOCS and provide guidance when this happens.

Also, DOTS staff will send back to the LCOs the Remedy tickets created when the case exists in MaRCS and not in PBOCS. The LCOs will be asked to see if the information is in PBOCS, as we have been given confirmation the information from MaRCS was acknowledge in PBOCS as of 6/20/10.

Unless QAB sends information to the regions that PBOCS did not acknowledge the data, a case not appearing in PBOCS is a PBOCS issue and not a MaRCS issue. Please inform the LCOs to submit the Remedy tickets to PBOCS and not MaRCS.

6. MaRCS clerk observation forms for both UE and NRFU
We have been told that MaRCS observation forms have been sent to NPC along with the NRFU enumerator observation forms. Please ask the LCOs not to send to NPC the MaRCS Observation forms. QAB will soon issue a disposition ops log for these forms and all other forms used in the investigations.

If you have any questions please contact Hector Merced or Vance Davis at 301-763-8822 or email fld.quality.assurance.branch@census.gov
07/01/2010 – New ops log for July

ATTENTION : 2010 Census Managers

SUBJECT: Clarification on 6/30/2010 ops log (Selecting additional cases for supplemental reinterview — Urgent Request)

ACTION: Please share the information with the appropriate field staff

Many of the regions have said that some of the cases for this special project cannot be sent to supplemental RI. The RMQAs need to check that the LCOs followed the following steps before sending the case IDs to the QAB branch as invalid case IDs. There are 4 possible reasons these cases cannot be sent to reinterview–the case has an invalid applicant ID, the case does not exist in MaRCS, the case has already been reinterviewed, or the case is ineligible for reinterview. All these scenarios are explained below.

The first step they need to do is check the case exists in MaRCS. This is done by clicking on the Case Search option at the top of the Welcome screen. The person selecting the supplemental case can then check if the case exists by entering the case ID in the Case ID box and ensuring the All Cases radio button is selected. If the case exists, please check that the Enumerator Name column has an enumerator name in it. If it does not, this is a case that has an invalid applicant ID and cannot be sent to RI. Please send these case IDs to the QAB branch. If the case search does not bring a case (the screen is blank for that case), then the case does not exist in MaRCS. Please send these case IDs to the QAB branch.

Also check in this screen if the case has already been sent to RI. The screen will show in the Outcome column the final outcome code assigned to the case. For this case, the RMQA needs to update the spreadsheet to record the results of this case. Please also send these case IDs to the QAB branch.

If the case exists, then the clerk selecting the supplemental cases need to be back at the Welcome screen to start the process of selecting the supplemental cases. At the Welcome screen, they need to click on Select RI Cases at the top (in the Menu bar). This will bring up the Select Supplemental RI Cases screen. The next step is to select the enumerator for the selected case. This is done by clicking on the drop down box labeled Select an Enumerator. It is likely that the first several entries on this drop down box are those cases with invalid IDs. Please ensure the clerk selecting the cases scrolls down the list until the enumerator name is found. When the enumerator name is found on the drop down box, click on it to bring up the cases for that enumerator. The clerk needs to scroll down the list until he/she finds the case. MaRCS will show a certain number of cases per screen, please ensure the clerks goes through all the screens with cases. This is done by clicking on the pagination links at the top right corner of the screen. Once the case/s are found, click on the Select column check box to send the case/s to supplemental RI. Please remind the LCOs not so select a precipitating case in the Enter Case Selection Details screen. The note the clerk can enter there can be “Special project.”

If after the clerk goes through all the screens looking for the case ID and the case is not included for the enumerator, the case then is ineligible for RI. Please send these case IDs to the QAB branch.

We do not know at this point if these cases will be replaced with other cases. We will let the regions know if we get replacement cases for these invalid case IDs.

If you have any questions please contact Hector Merced or Vance Davis at 301-763-8822 or email fld.quality.assurance.branch@census.gov

Citizen Journalists: Census Bureau employees completing forms at fast food locales when residents are not around

Monday, June 14th, 2010

Examiner.com, a citizen journalism site that I wrote a couple of pieces for about the 2010 Census, published the following story from Houston. Is this going on elsewhere too? Thanks to Stephen Dean in Houston for the following:

While stopping in for a quick sandwich, people are seeing what they call suspicious behavior by US Census Bureau ‘enumerators’ throughout the Houston area.
Workers are opening up personal census questionnaires and then filling in box after box, sometimes seeming to fill in every entry on some forms.   Other times, the workers are seen opening up the forms and erasing entries and then marking in new entries.
In one northwest Houston fast food restaurant, a security guard who was on his lunch break spotted what looked like a group of census workers feverishly filling in other people’s forms so he confronted them.   He also called an investigative reporting team.
The man said it didn’t seem right that these door-to-door census workers would be filling in personal questionnaires without the citizens being present.  He said it defeats the entire purpose of having enumerators going door to door to get an accurate count.
When he confronted the workers off the West Sam Houston Tollway (Beltway 8) at Victory, he said one worker answered that census workers had to finish filling in the forms because citizens weren’t doing it.
But the security guard, who asked that his name not be divulged, said it seemed as though as many as a dozen of the Census workers had gathered in that restaurant to fill in forms so that they could shorten their workday by making fewer actual door to door trips.
He said he felt the 2010 Census would be inaccurate if workers are handed a stack of addresses to visit and they instead filled out the forms themselves without ever knocking on the doors.
The man wondered if it was happening elsewhere.
Sure enough, a woman in The Woodlands notified the investigative reporting team on the KPRC Local 2 Facebook page that she saw the exact same thing happening near her home, and what she overheard was troubling to her.
The woman wrote in her Facebook message,
These census workers were talking about a coworker who was making up information about the people they were trying to contact rather than actually doing the job to accurately document the information.”
She wrote that it seemed like these workers, at the Whataburger on Sawdust near I-45 in The Woodlands, had no plans on turning the person in.  They just seemed to be lamenting the fact that they were working with a deadbeat.
For that witness as well, it raises flags about the accuracy of the 2010 Census.   She wrote,
I use the census from years ago to help me with my genealogy research.  Overhearing that conversation did not make me happy to know that the information might not be accurate.”
The investigative team sent hidden camera crews into both restaurants and found the groups of census workers, sitting in the exact places that the tipsters described.
On the westside, hidden cameras were rolling as 8 different workers arrived in separate cars and started spreading out personal census forms on the tables. (more…)

Daily Sound Off: History of access letters

Saturday, May 29th, 2010

Here’s today’s Daily Sound Off:

Our History of Access Letters

[Set against the background of a fill-in-the-blanks, multi-part, Census Form Letter, complete with Census seal, to use for locked buildings and gated communities]

We’re in an urban area.

My district has only apartments or condominiums. All of these have external control devices/call boxes, with the exception of one building that has a locked door and no identifying marks other than the street number.

I have been surprised by the the number of property management organizations and condominium owner’s associations that have actively impeded Enumerators in pursuit of the data. This includes posters from “management” stating “do not allow Census workers into the building” or stating “access to the building is only available by invitation of each individual condominium owner.”

Our LCO has offered an amusing stream of “access” letters aiming to help us gain access to the buildings to enable the sacred first visit in person.

Our Enumerators hit the streets on Apr 29.

First letter, May 13th, on copy paper, no Census Logo or letterhead, toughest language “Please allow our Census Bureau employees to enter your building(s) or community to perform their official duties.”

Second “letter,” May 17th, , on copy paper, no Census Logo or letterhead, text labeled as a copy of US Code, Title 13, Chapter 5 [sic], Subchapter 2, Section 223, substituting at the end “….(it goes on to describe the penalties).” for “shall be fined not more than $500.”

Third Letter, later in the day on the 17th, on copy paper, no Census Logo or letterhead, placed the above Title 13 extract between an opener of “At the XXX Census Office, we have been experiencing a high number of apartment managers and other facility managers who do not understand their obligation to provide information to US Census workers.  Here is the official language from the document which gives you the authority and responsibility to provide this information to the sworn federal employee” and closing with the AMFO’s signature block, but no signature.

Fourth Letter, May 19th, essentially the third letter with the AMFO’s business card attached.

Fifth letter, May 20th, on copy paper, no Census Logo or letterhead, essentially the third letter but with the full text of sections 223 and 224, i.e., containing the full language on fines.

Sixth Letter, May 21st – Fifth Letter retracted, revert to Fourth Letter

Seventh Letter, May 23rd, on copy paper, no Census Logo but with a mockup of the Census letterhead, similar to Fifth Letter but containing only section 223, with the text of the section within a ruled box.

Eighth Letter, May 24th, Seventh Letter retracted for “looking too official [sic],” revert to Sixth Letter, i.e., the Fourth Letter.

Ninth, and current, Letter. May 27th. on copy paper BUT it  is a copy of an RCC’s official letterhead paper, signed by the RCC director, dated “May 2010,” with text extolling the recipient to assist the Census and read the enclosed “Section 223, Title 13 [sic].”
On the reverse the top half is entitled “SECURITY/PROPERTY MANAGER INFORMATION SHEET.”
The bottom half is a photocopy of US Code Title 13, Census, Chapter 7 – Offenses and Penalties, Subchapter II -Section 223, from the United States Code Annotated.

All of this would be somewhat amusing if it weren’t so timid, unprofessional and unproductive. It is on par with the Enumerator’s Manual suggestion about gain access to an access controlled building by tapping on the door glass with your keys.

What works for me….
When I first talk with property managers on the phone, they all seem to be reading from a script.
The script is along the line of “Our clients are very wealthy and very famous. They pay us great sums of money so they aren’t bothered. Further, we can’t have seasonal employees scampering down our halls.”
I then arrange for a meeting in person. Before the meeting I send a copy of the very first, timid, letter, telling them that this is just a draft of our first-level letter for them to examine. I then arrive at the meeting in _full_ business attire. The meetings have been short and the result has been access for our Enumerators.

In my briefcase I have the Ninth Letter copied on to heavy, white, laid bond paper, with a copy of §223 on a second page. So far it has staid in my briefcase.

[This is just one of twenty of more exercises where everyone in the field is saying "They've done this before, right?" and "Surely this isn't the first time the Census has encountered this situation."]

Daily Sound Off: The real problems with payroll

Friday, May 28th, 2010

Here’s today’s Daily Sound Off:

I work for the payroll department in my LCO.  I wanted to explain some things about how Census payroll works and why people are getting paid late.  I would appreciate if my name were left out of this, but feel free to publish some or all of the information contained below.

As you may know, in order to get paid for a day’s work a Census employee must submit a daily payroll form that we lovingly refer to as a “308.”  The 308 contains several redundancies to help catch potential errors.  For instance, the employee must mark both the date worked and the day of the week worked, and if these do not match the 308 will not be processed until the office can determine what date the employee actually worked.  The employee also must enter the number of hours worked and the times worked, and if these do not match the employee will be paid for the lesser of the two numbers.  Finally any expenses incurred must be explained and any over $5 must be accompanied by a receipt; in order to save taxpayer dollars we regularly reject claims for ridiculous things that the employee does not need to complete their assignment.

The reasons that we’re having so much delayed payroll come down to the problems with processing these time sheets.  First of all, as I mentioned before, if there are any errors with a paysheet, that sheet may be placed into a problem file to be dealt with later.  Ideally we deal with all problem 308s in their appropriate pay period, but the first three weeks of NRFU were not ideal.  You’ve heard of all the paperwork new employees have to fill out?  All of that has to be processed by the admin department *before* an employee can be paid.  Admin departments basically had to begin processing one to two thousand hiring packets plus five to ten thousand pay sheets starting at the end of the first day of training and be finished by the following Monday.  For many LCOs, that just didn’t happen.  That’s why we all put in overtime that week – to try to get as many people paid as possible.

Now, from the perspective of someone whose job it is to process paysheets, the thing about problem 308s is that some are very easy to deal with and some are very difficult, but almost none of them would exist if the employees themselves took the time to fill these things out right.  Everyone who works for the census was tested on the ability to read and count and everyone who works for the census was hired basically to enter information on forms, and filling out pay sheets does not require any skills beyond these.  And yet we continuously have problems with people who apparently cannot count to 40 – who either claim overtime with under 40 hours a week worked, or claim no overtime with more than 40 hours a week worked.  We continue having problems with people who apparently cannot glance at a calendar long enough to verify both the date and the day of the week.  So while we try to get these errors fixed, a large portion of the employees who are getting paid late are being delayed because they made mistakes on their paperwork that we cannot easily deal with.

Of course the other problem we’re facing is that we can’t process payroll that we don’t have.  I’ve heard numerous stories of FOSes and CLs who don’t submit 308s on time.  I understand from the Crew Leaders’ position that they have a lot to do, but most of our CLs get their 308s in on time.  The maybe 5% who don’t account for 90% of the phone calls we get from enumerators who have missed several days’ pay from their checks.

This is a personnel problem.  We simply don’t have a good way to motivate large numbers of temporary employees to do their jobs promptly and correctly.  Every job has its share of lazy or incompetent employees.  The Census does work to terminate these, but if we have to give each CL who brings payroll in late (or never) at least two warnings, that’s at least three weeks of delayed payroll before we can replace the person, which is why we’re getting stories from across the country of whole crews who haven’t been paid for two or three weeks of working.  Rumor around the office has it that the terminations for unsatisfactory performance are going to start coming fast and furious starting next week, although we’ve already got a decent pile going now.

Now, the admin department gets well over a hundred calls a week inquiring about missing hours or days.  In the vast, overwhelming majority of cases – including every single call I have personally handled – these hours or days are already processed and on their way to the employee on the next pay period.  I understand that it is difficult for many people, especially those whose only job is the Census, to have to wait three weeks instead of two to be paid for a particular day’s work.  Some people may be counting on being paid on time.  I think that the situation would have been helped immensely if we had issued a blanket disclaimer at training or even during the hiring process that it is normal for it to take up to four weeks to be paid for any particular day worked.  Somehow, people formed an expectation that a gigantic government bureaucracy staffed entirely by people with virtually no experience would be fast and efficient at handling paperwork, which makes me wonder if none of these employees who are calling us up or going to the media because their pay is a week late have ever tried to mail a letter or get a driver’s license.  Anyhow, we try to stay cheerful but a certain fatalism develops when all we can do is tell people, essentially, that their check is in the mail.

I can say that fortunately our department is now caught up with payroll on a weekly basis, and it is only when CLs or FOSes bring 308s in late that we process them late.  However, payroll is already on a delayed basis by design – so if I work on a Monday, that 308 gets processed by the LCO and “closed” the following Monday, which means that a direct deposit will be issued the week after that, usually on a Wednesday – a delay of up to 17 days.  So people who missed hours on their last paycheck were actually missing hours for the week of May 9-15 – which was basically the second week of actual work, and third week of employment, and at that point we had many but not all of our glitches ironed out.  By that point we had issued directives to FOSes and CLs about how and when to fill out and bring in 308s and started getting positive responses, which should be reflected in even fewer errors in next week’s checks.

However, the heart of this issue is actually in how the Census approaches the hiring process.  While the recruiting process stretches over two years, the hiring process is basically crammed into a week.  Queens LCOs had to hire 1600 – 2200 employees over the week of April 19th, for a training session that started April 26th.  This has obvious problems.  First of all, we were asking people – many of whom had taken the test months ago, in the fall or even summer – to drop everything and come in for training with a week’s (or in some cases, a day’s) notice.  This is pointless and disrespectful and also resulted in the loss of many promising candidates.  Basically, we weeded out everyone who had a job, or responsibilities, or the ability to plan, or the self-respect to demand to be treated courteously by an employer; then we hired whoever was left.  Certainly we found some people who were competent and hard-working and just down on their luck or hit by the economy, but the overall caliber of employees is lower than what it would have been if we had given people adequate notice or contacted them in a timely fashion after they took their test.

The second problem is, as I have said, the logistical difficulty of processing 2000 new hires at once.  If we had hired people on some kind of rolling basis we could have gotten their paperwork filed and their payroll started up before they had to start working.  If we had started hiring and taking care of administrative matters in, say, March or even April 1st, as most test-takers were promised, then we could have gotten people trained, processed, and into payroll before NRFU even began.  This would have eased the burden on admin, but also on NRFU and the people who had to get training sites for thousands of people all during one week.  This would also have reduced the number of people who were verbally hired but never contacted again, or who attended training but were never assigned a CL, or who were assigned a CL but never any work.

Also, there simply has to be a less resource-intensive way to handle payroll than having each employee hand a piece of paper to their CL each day, to be handed to the FOS each day, to be brought into the office each day, to then be audited by one clerk and then entered into the payroll system by another clerk and then sent to a different agency entirely for final processing.  We did payroll exactly the same way in the 2000 Census, and guess what?  We’ve had ten years and the internet since then.  We have secure banking, we have ebay, amazon, paypal (all of which, I realize, we also had in 2000).  Why can’t we have a server that the employee can log on to to enter their information; that the CL can log on to to approve the hours worked and digitally sign; that can automate the auditing process and eliminate the need for a separate data entry process?  I believe I was promised a paperless society when this whole internet thing started, so what gives?

In short, we in payroll are struggling to get everyone’s pay processed correctly and on time, but the system for doing so is incredibly inefficient, incapable of surviving the level of human error presented by barely-trained temporary Census employees, and compressed into a set of arbitrary and irrational time-frames that make actual prioritization of tasks or long-term planning impossible.  So some of us are doing the best we can, some people aren’t doing well at all, and are being fired ASAP, but ultimately I think we have to blame the planners.  There’s really nothing any of us on the ground can do to remedy the systemic problems that come from an unnecessarily paper-heavy and error-prone operation in which everything is rushed and the right hand never seems to know what the left hand is doing.

Denver Colorado sees THOUSANDS of dollars worth of 2010 Census swag unused — including canvas bags

Wednesday, May 5th, 2010

My suspicions about waste and leftover swag enabling scammers to do their jobs more easily is proven true yet again. Thanks to Colorado NBC affiliate 9News.com, and specifically investigative reporter Jace Larson for the following. Let’s hope that he follows up on this like he said he will at the bottom of the article:

DENVER – The U.S. Census Bureau spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on promotional items used to convince more people to mail back their census forms, but a 9Wants to Know investigation found thousands of the items were dropped off, unused, at a local high school.

The leftover items, such as backpacks, cloth grocery bags, hats, pins, magnets and business card holders, were dropped off at Lakewood High School last month.

“We probably had, between the backpack style [bags] and the shopping bag style [bags], over 1,000 dropped off,” Lakewood High School Principal Ron Castagna told 9Wants to Know.

He estimates more than 1,000 posters printed in different languages were also dropped off at the school.

An unknown Census worker walked into the school in mid-April and asked the principal if she could leave the items. She did not ask the school to distribute them.

“[She] said, ‘We have extra stuff. We’re wrapping up the Census and we just want to distribute the materials,’” Castagna said.

It did not sit well with him.

“Wait a minute, times are tough and I’m sitting in a position where we’ve got a school district that’s done everything the right way and yet we’re still going to face budget cuts,” he said.

Among the many boxes of posters the Census worker left at the school, were more than 300 promotional posters printed in Farsi. Farsi is the language spoken in Iran, Afghanistan and parts of Pakistan.

9Wants to Know reviewed the U.S. Census Bureau’s numbers from 2000 and found 360 people spoke Farsi in all of Jefferson County at that time.

Castagna says he hopes to let students use the backs of the posters in art classes.

“How much money was spent on items like this that could have been spent someplace else?” Castagna asked.

9Wants to Know broke down Census spending. The U.S. Census Bureau spent $4,899,348 on promotion for 10 states in the Denver region.

U.S. Census Bureau spokeswoman Lauren Shaw says nationally local offices used an average of 98.7 percent of the promotional items ordered. Leftover items account for 1.3 percent of all materials ordered, according to Shaw.

Shaw also says she believed the materials dropped off at Lakewood High School represent unused materials for 10 states that are part of the Denver region, not just one county or one state.

Denver Region Census spokesman Doug Wayland says the spending was worth it.

“Visual items raise awareness about the Census,” Wayland said.

He says promotional materials actually save taxpayers money even if there are extra items left over. He points to national figures to prove his point.

Promotion and advertising nationwide cost $370 million this year. The U.S. Census Bureau says a 2000 advertising and promotional campaign helped boost mail-back participation by about 5 percent. If that happens again this year, the campaign could save taxpayers $425 million. That is because for each percentage increase in the mail-in participation rate, the Census Bureau says taxpayers save $85 million.

When residents mail back the census form, it costs the government 42 cents for postage. When people do not mail it back, a Census worker must go to the home and that costs $57 per house.

Wayland says proof that advertising and promotional campaigns work is in the numbers. The percentage of people who mailed in census forms had declined from 1970 to 1990. In 2000, the first year of an advertising and promotional campaign, the percentage of people who mailed in their census forms increased.

“We reversed three decades of people not sending back their questionnaires,” Wayland said. “Instead of those people not mailing back their questionnaires, they are motivated to mail it back based on those reinforced messages.”

“There’s a term I like to use called image transfer. You see national advertisements on posters and you see the message. Then when you see an item with the Census logo at home there is a transfer of the message that was on TV or on a billboard. Repetition reinforces the message that the Census is important,” Wayland said.

A member of a Colorado policy watchdog group says because the costs of going door-to-door, using promotional materials makes sense.

“They are covering the country in as many ways as possible, through schools, through promotional materials, advertisements on TV through door to door canvassers. They are really making sure every person is counted. That is really important,” Colorado Fiscal Policy Institute Fiscal Project Coordinator Kathy White said.

The Census Bureau says the census is vitally important to funding for local communities in addition to helping Congress decide how many representatives communities, counties and states will have in government bodies.

Nonprofit organizations use census numbers to estimate the number of potential volunteers in communities across the nation.

When Hurricane Andrew hit South Florida in 1992, census information aided the rescue effort by providing estimates of the number of people in each block, the Census Bureau says on its website.

It also says that census numbers were used to support a request for a new community center in New England. Senior citizens successfully lobbied for a new center before county commissioners, according to the Census Bureau.

The U.S. Census has faced criticism before.

Many Americans were unhappy that the Census sent three letters to households reminding people to fill out the form.

Shaw says that is less expensive than sending a Census worker to homes that would not have otherwise filled out the form.

Also, a government audit alleged in February that the Census Bureau paid employees who never actually worked and paid others who overbilled for travel expenses.

Several 9NEWS viewers question why some of the promotional materials say “Made in China.”

Shaw told 9Wants to Know that the U.S. Census Bureau contracted with American businesses for the materials. She says American businesses chose to use items made overseas, but printed the logos on the bags in the United States. She says the majority of other items were made in the United States.

Letter to the editor from San Angelo, Texas: Census forms missing!

Thursday, April 8th, 2010

Perhaps the below letter to the Standard-Times of San Angelo, Texas explains why Texas “participation rates” have been so low…A look at the San Angelo Take 10 map reveals that portions of this city have rates at 50% or 51%, which are far below the national average of 63% (as of yesterday at 4pm EST):

SAN ANGELO, Texas — Ruth Thompson, San Angelo

In the April 1 issue of the Standard-Times there were two articles on the 2010 census and the ongoing effort in San Angelo, specifically the “last official push to get people to mail their forms back in, called ‘March to the Mailbox.’”

Nice — except that people who never received the forms can’t easily mail them back in. I have talked to multiple neighbors on my street and no one received the census questionnaire.

I thought that would be an easy situation to remedy, but has anyone else tried to contact the local census officials? Of the two articles about the census in the April 1 issue of the Standard-Times, no phone numbers or points of contact were given.

I tried called the San Angelo city government — they suggested I call the Standard-Times. A lady there gave me two phone numbers. I called the first one and the individual who answered the phone apparently had never heard of the census. I called the second number, got an answering machine and left my name and phone number. Haven’t heard a word in response.

Sadly, everybody on my street will be a statistic — considered “hard to count or nonresponsive.” Personally, I don’t think the local census office cares.

Census Bureau Press Release: Second Round of Census Forms Mailed to 40 Million Households…Targeted Mailing Reminds Residents There is Still Time to Return Questionnaires

Tuesday, April 6th, 2010

The following is a Census Bureau press release that just came into the inbox:

To reduce the estimated $2.7 billion cost of following up with
households that fail to mail back their 2010 Census questionnaires, the
U.S. Census Bureau has begun mailing second forms to approximately 40
million housing units in areas that had below-average response rates in the
2000 Census.

“Census Bureau and a multitude of private sector research shows that
sending a replacement questionnaire to households can significantly
increase response rates in the end,” Census Bureau Director Robert Groves
said. “We estimate that the second mailing could increase America’s mail
participation rate in the 2010 Census by 7 to 10 percentage points, and
doing so would save taxpayers more than $500 million.”

According to the Census Bureau, every percentage point increase in the
national participation rate by mail saves about $85 million. It costs the
government just 42 cents in a postage paid envelope to get a questionnaire
back in the mail, but it costs taxpayers an average of $57 to count a
household that fails to mail it back.

Second questionnaires were mailed last week to every housing unit in
areas that had a mail response rate of 59 percent or less in 2000, or about
24.7 million households. The questionnaires were sent to all households,
regardless of whether they had already returned their 2010 Census form.

In areas that had response rates between 59 and 67 percent — below the
national average of 67 percent — replacement forms will be sent only to
households that have not yet mailed back their completed 2010 Census form.
These 15 million households will receive a second form April 6-10.

Households have until mid-April to mail back their forms before census
takers begin going door to door to residences that failed to respond.

“We understand that people lead busy lives and may not have gotten
around to sending back their forms yet,” Groves said. “The replacement form
gives them a second chance to get counted and help ensure that their
community gets its fair share of political representation and federal funds
over the next 10 years.”

Currently, the national mail participation rate is 60 percent, with some
of the lowest rates in Alaska, California, Texas, New Mexico and Oklahoma.
The latest national and local participation rates can be viewed at
http://2010.census.gov/2010census/take10map.

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.

2010 Census forms will start arriving today…

Monday, March 15th, 2010

March 15-17: Forms are mailed to most homes.

Let us know your thoughts, opinions, problems, and questions in the comments section! Thanks!

Note: The mainstream media is obviously covering this phase of 2010 Census operations pretty thoroughly, so we are only going to post reports here that highlight essential information or surprising outcomes. Right now, we are sifting through the thousands of news reports about this operation that have appeared during the past 24 hours and will continue to appear during the next few days.

MyTwoCensus Editorial: A Rare Spell Of Bipartisanship Spells Good News For The 2010 Census

Friday, March 5th, 2010

Since Members of  the House of Representatives face re-election every two years, they are constantly campaigning, and always on the lookout for legislation that may be used to attack them. I suspect the fears of populist discontent and anti-Washington sentiment (perhaps combined with just a tinge of moral values) are what led all but two Republican members of the House of Representatives to support legislation that makes March 2010 “2010 Census Awareness Month.” This show of bipartisanship was unexpected yet welcome.

Even former 2010 Census critic Michele Bachmann (R-MN) jumped on board this movement. This is an excellent first step to combatting anti-census sentiment that has swept the nation in the past few months, coinciding with the growth of the Tea Party movement.

The level of GOP discontent with Michael Steele and the Republican National Committee should not be ignored: Yesterday, the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee unanimously passed a bill, with full GOP support (and even co-sponsored by Republicans Darrell Issa and Jason Chaffetz) to stop the RNC from sending mailers that misuse the word census.  MyTwoCensus has reported on this issue for months, and we are glad to see GOP officials acknowledging their party leader’s mistakes and holding the RNC accountable for their unethical fundraising methods.

Learning from the “Negro” controversy

Tuesday, January 12th, 2010

The word “Negro” has appeared on census forms for at least 60 years, but many African Americans are taking offense to the Census Bureau using the word as a response choice in a question about race.

On Ad Age’s Big Tent blog, Pepper Miller has some good insights on the controversy surrounding the wording. Here’s an except, and check out the full post here.

After having conducted research for the 2000 and 2010 Census African-American ad campaigns, I was neither surprised nor turned off by the Census Bureau’s intent to develop inclusive options, especially given that more that 50,000 people wrote in “Negro” as their race during the 2000 Census.

I’m not the only one who thinks Wilson’s allegation that some first-timers may not participate because of the “Negro” option may be an overreaction.

“I doubt that younger voters would be that turned off, given that terms like “Ho and Ni***ga are acceptable to many of them,” says a consultant on the African-American consumer market, Jacklynn Topping. “While the word ‘Negro’ has certainly fallen out of favor, it’s more dated than offensive.” Topping adds. “In my opinion, had it never been brought up, many young people might laugh at the term, if they noticed it at all, and check it anyway.”

She concludes:

The community is more united on participating in the Census than not, but are divided on this issue. In this case, there will be some tension arising from a younger generation not necessarily keen on the word ‘Negro,’ but I don’t expect it to become a huge issue.

Cincinnati, Census Bureau disagree about addresses

Monday, January 11th, 2010

A bit of controversy is brewing in Cincinnati, as city officials are urging the Census Bureau to mail census forms to addresses that the Bureau claims do not exist. The Bureau removed thousands of Cincinnati addresses from its master address file — which should include every housing unit in the United States — but the city says some of those addresses are valid.

The Cincinnati Enquirer reports:

After canvassing every neighborhood and allowing local governments to give input, Cincinnati says the Census Bureau took out 12,534 addresses in the city – many of them without explanation. City officials believe at least 3,063 addresses are valid, and want them put back.

“The effort to get an accurate count begins with the address check, with that master list of addresses, making sure that the census has all the information that we as a city have about where people live,” said Cincinnati Mayor Mark Mallory, who heads a census task force for the U.S. Conference of Mayors.

And according to the newspaper, Cincinnati is far from the only municipality to appeal the Census Bureau’s address list:

Cincinnati’s complaint is one of about 2,200 that have been sent to a special appeals panel – twice as many appeals as were filed a decade ago. Those appeals contain 1.7 million addresses.

The government hasn’t released a list of those appeals, but the Boone County Planning Commission also has appealed 1,458 addresses it says are missing: 337 in Florence, nine in Union and 1,112 in unincorporated Boone County.

Philip N. Fulton, the director of the Census Bureau’s appeals staff, said it’s impossible for his staff of 30 people to review each one of those addresses individually. Instead, his staff looks at whether the city has done a “logical, rigorous analysis.” If so, he said, Cincinnati will get the benefit of the doubt.

“(The appeal process) is an effort by Congress to give communities an opportunity to be heard, and it’s in their favor,” he said. “We go into this with the mentality that this local government has a case, otherwise they wouldn’t put so much work into it.”

Cincinnati’s complaint that addresses were removed without explanation is a common one.

“That’s happening all over the country,” Fulton said. “And that factor is leading to more appeals.”

It’s clear that getting a census form to all addresses is crucial for an accurate count. But wasting forms and time on invalid addresses is a poor use of Census Bureau resources. We’ll keep tabs on the outcomes of address file appeals, so let us know about any in your community.

“Negro” has been on census forms for 60 years

Friday, January 8th, 2010

News organizations across the country have reported on the controversy surrounding the word “Negro” on forms for the 2010 Census.

But a Census Bureau official tells NPR that “Negro” has been on the forms since at least 1950.

NPR also reports that 56,175 respondents wrote in “Negro” on their forms in the 2000 Census, even though the word was also included as a response choice.

One of our commenters asked when the Census Bureau last studied the wording for the question, which asks about race, and when we might see some new data. The Bureau told NPR it would examine the effects of removing “Negro” this year.

Use of “Negro” on census form causes stir

Wednesday, January 6th, 2010

A question on forms for the 2010 Census uses “Negro” as a response choice, and some blacks are taking issue with the Census Bureau‘s wording.

The New York Daily News reports:

The census form for 2010 features a word more often heard in 1966: Negro.

For many New York blacks, the word conjures visions of Jim Crow and segregation – even if the Census Bureau says it’s included to ensure an accurate count of the nation’s minority residents.

“It’s a bad vibe word,” said Kevin Bishop, 45, a Brooklyn salesman. “It doesn’t agree with me, doesn’t agree with my heart.”

Pamela Reese Smith, visiting the city yesterday from Rochester, said the term was outdated.

“I don’t think my ancestors would appreciate it in 2010,” said Smith, 56. “I don’t want my grandchildren being called Negroes.”

Question No. 9 on this year’s census form asks about race, with one of the answers listed as “black, African-Am. or Negro.”

Census Bureau spokesman Jack Martin said the use of “Negro” was intended as a term of inclusion.

“Many older African-Americans identified themselves that way, and many still do,” he said. “Those who identify themselves as Negroes need to be included.”

The form was also approved by Congress more than a year ago, and the word has appeared on past forms.

Readers, weigh in: Is “Negro” inappropriate or inclusive?

It’s Too Late To Stop The Presses…

Thursday, July 23rd, 2009

The following is a press release from the U.S. Census Bureau:

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
THURSDAY, JULY 23, 2009

Jack Martin/Shelly Lowe                               CB09-CN.17
Public Information Office
301-763-3691                                                2010 Census Web
site
e-mail: <pio.2010@census.gov>                         2010 Census sample
form

Printing of 2010 Census Questionnaires Under Way
New 10-Question Survey Among Shortest Since First Census in 1790

The U.S. Census Bureau has begun printing 2010 Census questionnaires as
the agency continues preparations for next year’s count of the U.S.
population. The new questionnaire, which every residential address will
receive, is designed to be one of the shortest since the first census in
1790, asking just 10 questions and taking about 10 minutes to complete.

“Our goal is to count everyone living in the United States once, only
once, and in the right place,” said Census Bureau Director Robert M.
Groves. “Making that happen begins with the 2010 Census questionnaire, a
powerful tool that provides critical data that will guide representation in
Congress and the distribution of more than $400 billion in federal funds to
state, local and tribal governments every year.”

Beginning in mid-March 2010, more than 120 million questionnaires will
be delivered to U.S. residential addresses. To meet the goal, the Census
Bureau will print more than 1.5 million documents every day.

For the first time, more than 13 million questionnaires will be
bilingual (English – Spanish). The move is based on tests showing that
targeting the bilingual questionnaires toward areas with high
concentrations of Spanish-only speakers will improve response rates.
Questionnaires are also available on request in Spanish, Chinese
(simplified), Korean, Vietnamese and Russian. Language guides, which
provide instructions on how to complete the questionnaire, are available in
nearly 60 languages.

“The Census Bureau has gone to great lengths to make the printing
process as efficient and eco-friendly as possible,” Groves said. “The
printing of 2010 Census questionnaires uses
30 percent less ink than 10 years ago and will be printed on 30 percent
recycled paper.”

Another critical factor in the success of the census is the quality of
the address list used for delivering the questionnaires next March. This
spring, Census Bureau workers walked every street in the nation to match
actual residential addresses on the ground with those provided in lists
from the U.S. Postal Service and local governments.

The 140,000 workers who verified addresses operated out of 151 local
census offices in the U.S. and Puerto Rico.  In the fall, an additional 344
local census offices will open.

The Census Bureau will hire approximately 1.4 million people to conduct
the 2010 Census, including following up with households that do not return
their questionnaire.

“The 2010 Census is easy, important and safe,” Groves said. “The Census
Bureau is ready to undertake this massive domestic operation and looks
forward to everyone’s participation in the national count.”

Editorial: For most accurate 2010 Census, use as many nationalities as possible

Wednesday, June 3rd, 2009

After weeks of discussion that Caribbean Americans and the legislators who vouch for them are seeking to create a new “Caribbean” category on the 2010 Census form, another group has come out of the woodwork to seek space to display their own unique identity: Dominicans.

According to the Dominican Today newspaper, “Dominican residents in the United States launched a nationwide campaign to be included in the 2010 Census, under the auspices of the Dominican Round Table in
which several organizations, elected and government officials take part.

The campaign was announced in a gathering in the Bronx’s San Nicolas Tolentino church, in which City Council and State Assembly members spoke about the initiative.

The strategy seeks to prevent what took place in 2000, when Dominican residents in the U.S. were excluded from the boxes regarding ethnicity of that country’s census. If excluded, Dominican community organizations wouldn’t receive the funds necessary to sustain their social programs.

The campaign “One plus One” also includes Puerto Rico, where several hundred thousand Dominican nationals also reside and demands that the Federal Census Bureau include a box specifying the word “Dominican,” which didn’t figure in the previous census.”

MyTwoCensus wholeheartedly agrees that an “accurate” count means getting as much specific information as possible. We feel that the government should want to know the specific makeup of its people because this knowledge will serve many purposes down the road. For example, knowing the ethnic/national composition of people in a specific area would make it easier and more cost efficient to arrange social services and other benefits for more highly targeted groups of people.

And for the many Americans who identify with more than one ethnic background, people can check off a box for each nationality/ethnicity that represents them.

Since filling out the 2010 Census form is required by law, MyTwoCensus sees many benefits to making this portion of the survey more comprehensive.  We don’t believe that sharing additional background information infringes on any individuals’ right to privacy.

Though the 2010 Census is just around the corner, there is still time to improve the paper forms before they are printed. We urge Robert Groves and the U.S. Congress to prioritize this issue and not let petty political bickering stand in the way of taking action to create a form for the 2010 headcount that maximizes the amount of relevant information that it can gather in its 10 short questions.