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 ‘mail’

RNC continues deceptive mailers because Obama hasn’t picked up his pen yet…

Tuesday, May 18th, 2010

As usual, the Republicans and the Democrats have both made serious errors. 1. The Republicans think they are above the law and continue to send out deceptive mailers. 2. President Obama has not picked up his pen to sign a recently changed bi-partisan supported bill into law. Come on Barack, pick up the pen already! Thanks to Ryan Knutson of Pro Publica for continuing to keep this matter alive, even though it should have been forgotten by now:

The latest legislation [1] intended to stop deceptive “census” mailers [2] passed both chambers of Congress [3] earlier this month, but President Barack Obama still hasn’t signed it into law, and the Republican National Committee is still sending out mailers that the legislation is meant to stop.

Our inboxes continue to receive a deluge of e-mails from people across the country who are still getting fundraisers from the RNC [2] labeled  “Census Document,” a tactic that we’ve been following since February [4]. In an attempt to stop the practice, Congress passed a bill in March [5] requiring that any mailer with the word “census” on the envelope must also include a clearly labeled return address to prevent confusion about whether it’s really from the 2010 Census.

But the RNC got around [1] that requirement by moving the word “census” to a document inside the envelope — yet it was still visible from the outside through the envelope’s clear plastic window.

That move irritated even Republicans. Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., proposed legislation [6] to close the loophole. “I would say to people who raise money, whether it’s the Republican National Committee or the Democratic National Committee or [anybody else], don’t use the Census,” he said at the time. “Because it’s wrong.”

The bill passed the House in April, and it breezed through [3] the Senate unanimously on May 5. But without Obama’s signature, it’s still not the law — thus the RNC mailers continue.

Official Census Bureau “Participation Rate” Stats/Trends/Data Available Here

Thursday, April 29th, 2010

Check out this slideshow depicting recent data/trends that was shown at yesterday’s Census Bureau press conference (transcript of the press conference coming here ASAP).

Fact Check: Is the mail participation rate a valid tool for tracking responses? Not until the following questions are answered.

Monday, April 26th, 2010

On Friday, the Commerce Department released a statement, “U.S. Commerce Secretary Gary Locke today congratulated the nation for its strong participation in the 2010 Census to date, as the Census Bureau released the latest mail participation data showing that 72 percent of U.S. households have mailed back their 2010 Census forms so far — the same rate the nation achieved at the end of the mail-back period during the 2000 Census.”

But what validity does this have? None, until the Census Bureau answers the following essential questions:

What data are used to adjust the mail response rates?  Who in the Postal Service supplies these data? To meet what specifications?  What distinguishes between unoccupied housing and Census address list errors? At what level of geographic detail?  The Census Bureau has stated the “participation rate” is “fairer”?  How is fairness defined?   Does the Postal service guarantee data consistency between and among all postal delivery service areas of the country? Or, are there big differences in what is returned to Census as undeliverable based on the quality of the address list used by the Census Bureau in each postal service area ? How does the Postal service distinguish between a bad address from the Census Bureau and a vacant house?  How does any of this get calculated in dense urban areas…..especially given the statement from the Census Bureau about “fairness” (For example, it is well known that delivery methods in multi-unit urban dwellings differ dramatically from suburban, single family residences — how does the proclaimed Census 2010 ”fairness” doctrine adjust for this)? When will the mail return rates for 2010 be calculated and how will this process differ from 2000?

D’Vera Cohn of the Pew Research Center (who covered the 2000 Census for the Washington Post) has tried to explain this process:

For the 2010 Census, the Census Bureau will use a new real-time metric, called the “mail participation rate,” to report the share of U.S. households-by state, city, county and neighborhood-that send back their completed forms. Why is this important?

The Census Bureau hopes to count every American in the coming months, but it has a hefty financial incentive to count them quickly. Census forms arrive in most home mailboxes next week. If a household sends back its postage-paid census form, the government spends less than 50 cents in mailing costs. If the completed form does not arrive back by late April, the Census Bureau will send an enumerator to knock on the non-respondent’s door, which costs $57.

As part of its promotional campaign to encourage households to return their forms fast, the Census Bureau plans to release mail participation rates down to the neighborhood level each weekday, from March 22 to April 26. Knowing where the problems are could help the bureau and its partner organizations—such as local governments and community groups—steer their census-encouragement efforts to the areas that could benefit most.

The 2010 mail participation rates will be displayed daily on a recently launched Census Bureau mapping tool, where users already can see 2000 data for states, counties, cities and census tracts (neighborhood-level units of about 4,000 people). For the Bureau’s publicity campaign, the mail participation rate replaces the “mail response rate” used in the 2000 Census because, for reasons described below, officials believe the new measure will give a truer picture in places with large numbers of foreclosed and vacant homes.

Three Different Mailback Rates

The mail response rate, the mail participation rate and a third measure of response, the “mail return rate,” are calculated for areas where household residents are asked to mail back forms that were mailed to their homes or dropped off by a census worker. These areas include almost all of the nation’s more than 130 million households.

The mail response rate is an unrefined measure —the percent of forms sent to households in these mailback areas that are returned to the Census Bureau. It is a preliminary measure that Census officials say somewhat understates participation, though, because many forms sent out by the Bureau cannot be mailed back — for example, those sent to vacant housing units and those where census forms could not be delivered, such as non-existent or non-residential addresses. In 2000, the final national mail response rate was 67%. (The initial mail response rate, over the first few weeks, was 65%.)

The mail participation rate is a refined version of the mail response rate–the percent of forms sent to households in these mailback areas that are returned to the Census Bureau,  after removing from the denominator addresses where census forms are determined by the U.S. Postal Service to be “undeliverable as addressed.” Nationally, the final census mail participation rate was 72% in 2000.

The mail participation rate is intended to exclude vacant and foreclosed homes, which have grown in number as a result of the national economic downturn. The mail participation rate also may provide an improved real-time measure of participation for areas with large numbers of seasonal homes that are unoccupied on Census Day, April 1.

However, the new metric will not eliminate all sources of error. For example, if the owner of a vacant or seasonal home has a friend who picks up the mail, the form may not be returned as undeliverable. Some forms may be sent to home addresses whose occupants get their mail from postal boxes, and those forms may be returned by the Postal Service as undeliverable even though the home is occupied. These kinds of addresses will be on the Census Bureau’s to-do list, however, and census-takers would make sure they are properly accounted for during follow-up visits, according to Census Bureau officials.

The mail return rate, the most precise measure of census participation, is the number of households returning a questionnaire from mailback areas mail divided by the number of occupied housing units that received questionnaires in those areas. It cannot be calculated until the end of the census counting process. At that point, officials will use data from census-takers’ follow-up visits and other sources to total the number of occupied home addresses in areas where residents mail back their forms. Once addresses are excluded from the denominator—mainly for being unoccupied, non-residential or non-existent—the rate will rise. In 2000, the mail return rate was 78%.

With school year winding down, college students lack census forms on campus

Friday, April 16th, 2010

MyTwoCensus.com wonders what other college towns that are dependent on students are also lacking forms…See this report from Indiana:

Indiana State students among those awaiting census forms

Spring semester ends in three weeks

Sue Loughlin The Tribune-Star

TERRE HAUTE — Indiana State University students will complete spring semester in three weeks, yet residence hall students still have not been counted in the 2010 census.

The U.S. Census Bureau has taken longer than expected to provide the census forms to the university, said Tara Singer, ISU’s assistant vice president for communications and marketing. “I believe there was just an underestimation of forms needed” for the community’s college students, she said.

A similar problem has occurred at Indiana University.

ISU has 2,999 students living in 10 residence halls and 382 students living in University Apartments, she said.

Those students will be counted as Terre Haute residents.

While there’s been a delay, Singer expects the university will receive those forms very soon. “Yes, we think we’ll get them [students] all counted on time” before they leave at the end of the semester, she said.

She does expect to have the forms by next week, when ISU will conduct floor meetings in residence halls to distribute the forms and ask students to complete them at that time.

ISU does have a representative on the Terre Haute Complete Count Committee. “We want to have our students counted because they spend approximately 10 months a year here in Terre Haute,” she said.

ISU has taken an active role in trying to make students aware of the importance of the census through posters, electronic communication and student organizations, she said.

ISU has not caused the delay, Singer said. “We’ve been ready.”

Terre Haute public affairs director Darrel Zeck, who leads the Complete Count Committee, said he recently learned about the insufficient number of census forms to count the college students.

Zeck said he was relieved to learn Thursday that ISU will get the forms soon.

Meanwhile, Rose-Hulman does have its census forms for students and distribution to fraternity presidents was to begin Thursday night, said Tom Miller, Rose-Hulman dean of student affairs. Rose-Hulman has 1,100 students living on campus.

The forms also will be distributed to students in residence halls, Miller said. “Everything is in order.”

Having ISU and Rose-Hulman students counted is critical for Terre Haute in its ability to qualify for various types of federal funding, Zeck said. While he’s relieved, he believes it’s “unacceptable” there was a shortage of forms to begin with.

Cindy Reynolds, an assistant regional census manager in Chicago, said that it was her understanding a staff member had contacted ISU and “any problem has been resolved.”

While initially there were not enough forms, there should be enough now, Reynolds said.

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

Friday, April 16th, 2010

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

Stop Blaming Hipsters for the Census

Census copy.jpg

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

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

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

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

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

Mail Participation Rate Climbs to 46%

Tuesday, March 30th, 2010

According to the Census Bureau, as of 4pm EST yesterday, the mail participation rate was 46%. We await the results as to what it will be at 4pm today…

Robert M. Groves/Google Press Conference transcript now available…

Friday, March 26th, 2010

Find it here.


Stange Twist In West Virginian Post Office/Census Bureau Operations

Thursday, March 18th, 2010

Yesterday, we reported that some 2010 Census forms were sent to West Virginia with the wrong city names one the envelopes. Now we are being told that this was intentional, and it won’t mean a loss of funding for the respondents from cities that were affected by this. Admittedly, this still sounds a bit shady, and we don’t plan to take this explaination at face value. Nonetheless, here’s the latest from West Virginia Public Broadcasting:

Census says wrong city name on form is cost-saving measure

March 17, 2010 · U.S. residents are receiving their 2010 Census forms in the mail this week and some in West Virginia are concerned their town won’t be represented, but Census officials say that’s not the case.

Residents in Vienna received Census forms with neighboring Parkersburg listed as their hometown. Vienna’s Mayor is telling them to cross out Parkersburg on the forms and write in Vienna before mailing them back, but Census spokesman John Willse says this is not necessary.

“That shouldn’t concern them at all. That’s just a postal procedure that helps cut costs on distribution or the mailing out,” Willse says.

By Emily Corio

Willse says a 20-digit identification number on each form links the data to the person’s exact street address and hometown.

MyTwoCensus Editorial: The “advance letter” mailing appears to have gone off (almost) smoothly…

Thursday, March 11th, 2010

Despite the threat of service cutbacks and job losses at the US Postal Service that were announced in recent days, the mailing of approximately 100 million “advance letters” appears to have gone off with only a few minor glitches. (See previous post about city names and zip codes being inaccurate in St. Louis!) Yes, this whole mass mailing concept should seem like a fairly simple process, but after the major printing debacle that occurred in 2000 (that could have been fatal to the advance letter process), we taking nothing for granted. Despite some small levels of populist discontent about the Census Bureau “wasting money,” the lack of discussion about the advance letter should be treated as a good thing, in that people are now generally aware that their 2010 Census form will arrive in the mail in one week. Let’s just hope that next week’s mailing, which is clearly the most important one in terms of obtaining data (and saving taxpayers money in the long run) is also a process marked by accuracy and efficiency.