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 ‘MyTwoCensus’

The first MyTwoCensus eulogy: RIP Andrew Breitbart – The only publisher who gave MyTwoCensus.com a chance at syndication and finding a larger audience

Thursday, March 1st, 2012

I woke up this morning to an e-mail from a friend that informed me of Andrew Breitbart’s untimely death. At first, I thought it was a joke. But when I learned that it wasn’t, I came to the solemn realization that a difficult-to-fill void had just been created in the American journalism landscape.

That Breitbart was only 43 makes this situation even more tragic, because I pictured Andrew being a ball-buster and rabble-rouser for another 50 years. Whenever I reached out to Andrew to give him updates about the 2010 Census, he always took my calls, which is rare in a day and age where people are generally too busy for in-depth communication with one another. Typically, we chatted while he was driving his four children around LA. But he even made time for me between television interviews as he was breaking Page 1 national news. Though he had no reason to, Andrew Breitbart gave me his ear, listening to whatever I had to say.

As a journalism entrepreneuer, Breitbart was like no other. From his days at the Drudge Report, he realized the direction that journalism was headed, and, ironically, helped Arianna Huffington start The Huffington Post. But he also had the foresight to realize that a liberal aggregator needed a conservative counterbalance. And poof, BigGovernment.com was born.

While I certainly do not agree with many of the tactics that Breitbart sometimes condoned (specifically, the shoddy editing techniques used by James O’Keefe in his “undercover sting” videos and the whole Shirley Sherrod affair), Breitbart created a strong outlet for investigative journalism at a time when such a practice was vanishing under financial constraints. He did his best to provide an alternative voice to what is dubbed the mainstream media. Breitbart was not afraid to take journalistic risks, and for that, he reaped many rewards in the form of powerful scoops, the value of which he was well aware of.

Yes, he was outspoken, but yes, he had many valid points. Andrew Breitbart did not always agree with the Conservative establishment, as demonstrated by the fact that he joined (and within a year resigned) from the board of GOProud group of homosexual Republicans.

Admittedly, I am yet to read his recent book,  a critique of celebrity culture titled Hollywood, Interrupted: Insanity Chic in Babylon — The Case Against Celebrity, but based on the title alone, it seems like something that I will enjoy (and I will now find it for my Kindle).

I personally appreciate Andrew Breitbart because he took a chance on me as a 24-year-old reporter covering a beat (the 2010 US Census) that the mainstream media failed to see as important. Even though few mainstream news organizations have reporters covering demographics issues on a regular basis these days, none of the mainstream media organizations that I reached out to wanted to take a chance by partnering with MyTwoCensus.com, even though it may have filled significant gaps in their reportage.

But Breitbart was different. He took me in board and permitted me to publish whenever I wanted. MyTwoCensus.com has certainly been critical of both Democrats and Republicans, but Breitbart never attempted to censor my critiques of the GOP in any way, shape, or form.  (Some people misconstrued this syndication on BigGovernment.com as proof that I was “Conservative”  even though I was simultaneously working at ultra-liberal Mother Jones magazine while publishing on BigGovernment.)

Andrew Breitbart, you will be missed. Your vision, strategy, and tactics led journalism into the 21st Century. Your feistiness, entrepreneurial spirit, and willingness to take risks will be difficult to replicate. And on a personal level, I will never forget that you you gave me an audience to publish for and a sounding board to speak with.

Revival, Revival: MyTwoCensus.com is coming back to life in a new form

Thursday, November 17th, 2011

I have decided to revive MyTwoCensus.com as an opinion blog. Originally born out of frustration with the 2010 US Census and the lack of media coverage about this important issue, I feel that society is being failed by our most popular and widely-read cultural commentators.

The journalism “crisis” of the Internet era is partly to blame, but I feel that herd mentality among news organizations and their employees who set the media agenda is preventing more substantial dialogues from taking place. One need only look to the Twittersphere: Rather than offering individual commentaries, the simple act of pressing the Re-Tweet button presents one view over and over again…and news organizations who derive income from per-hit advertising continue to live only when their Tweets spread like wildfire.

My targets for criticism will include politicians, media, society, pop culture, and more, in both the US and abroad. Having been based primarily in Europe since 2009, I have the unique ability to look at both America and Europe as from insider and outsider perspectives. Guest contributions and critiques of my writing are welcomed with open arms.

With Christopher Hitchens making his last hurrah, and Thomas Friedman’s words falling short when it comes to turning them into public policy, a new generation of thinkers – dare I say “public intellectuals” – must have their voices heard. Any topic is fair game, and I welcome your suggestions as to topics to cover.

Updates from Censusland

Sunday, October 16th, 2011

It’s been a while. But a Tweet from a former 2010 Census employee made me nostalgic for this project, so I figured that I’d provide some 2010 Census news for the MyTwoCensus Faithful. In the past month, the Census Bureau has released some interesting information about national home ownership rates, America’s population growth by race (highlighting the growth of Hispanic and black populations), and estimates of the number of same-sex married couples. To the readers out there: Do you have any lingering questions about the 2010 Census? If so, I’m happy to put in some time to answer them.

The next phase of MyTwoCensus.com

Tuesday, August 31st, 2010

Update: To any former Census Bureau employees who may be interested in working on MyTwoCensus.com, I am aware that a misleading gag order was sent to many of you with your final paycheck that addressed the issues of social media and blogging. However, so long as you are not revealing Title 13 information, you are free to blog as you wish. Steve Jost of the Census Bureau commented on another Census worker’s blog, “…Upon reading it I went right to the Chief Information Officer to find if the Census Bureau has “shut down” a blog or website and he reported “none”. At it’s worst, our information technology protections might block Census staff from visiting websites identified has having malware or threats, but never shut down a site like yours. So, please keep on blogging.” So, follow his advice, and keep on blogging!

(Here’s what a 2010 Census gag order looks like)

To the readers of MyTwoCensus.com:

As the operations of the 2010 US Census wind down, the activities of MyTwoCensus.com will follow suit. As of this week, there will no longer be daily updates on this site, but when there is news, information, or investigations regarding the 2010 Census or the Census Bureau, you should continue to look here for information. If readers want to suggest future topics for me to write about or investigate, please contact me without hesitation.

(That said, if anyone out there wishes to take over this blog and update it daily or multiple times per week, I would be glad to hand over/share the reins! Please get in touch as I am happy to bring some fresh talent and watchful eyes aboard.)

This blog started from humble beginnings in San Francisco in early February 2009. In its first weeks, MyTwoCensus.com received great recognition from Ed O’Keefe of The Washington Post and David Weir from BNet, which surely kept it chugging along.

The Census Bureau’s Public Information Office (Stephen Buckner in particular during those early days) fielded many questions from me and provided this fledgling news organization with invaluable information and clarifications.

From June 2009-June 2010, MyTwoCensus was funded by a generous grant from The Phillips Foundation. Despite critics of this blog decrying The Phillips Foundation as a “conservative” organization, it is 100% true that nobody other than I, Stephen Robert Morse, had any control over the editorial content of this blog (with the exception of some great interns who provided excellent commentary and news when I was on vacation). In fact, the Phillips Foundation’s hands-off approach is what led MyTwoCensus to experiment with different styles of reportage.

And, perhaps most of all, the site would not have been possible without the dedication and expertise of Evan Goldin, MyTwoCensus.com’s Chief Technology Officer, who has been constantly tweaking and improving this site. Any blogger would be lucky to have a guy like Evan as a dear friend and colleague.

As readers, you have been an extremely insightful bunch. You have directed me down the path to investigate many aspects of 2010 Census operations that would otherwise never have been covered or discussed by the media. I am proud to say that more than one million unique visitors have come to MyTwoCensus.com as a source of information since we started tracking analaytics.

The 2010 Census is not yet over. Some time before December 31, 2010, the results of the 2010 Census will be made public, which will initiate a major scramble for power. With redistricting, Congressional reapportionment, and gerrymandering arriving after the new year, there will surely be a wealth of information to gather and report. (If any readers are interested in collaborating on watchdog or reporting efforts surrounding these activities, please let me know.)

The MyTwoCensus Community forum (located on the upper right portion of the page) will remain open indefinitely for readers to share their comments and opinions.

Best regards,

Stephen Robert Morse

PS – To any media/non-profit/corporate organizations or individuals seeking comments or appearances related to MyTwoCensus.com or the 2010 Census, feel free to contact me.

MyTwoCensus Scoop: Census Bureau regional partnership coordinator running as a Democrat for New York State Assemblyman while still on the job

Tuesday, July 27th, 2010

UPDATE: At 10:00, a credible e-mail came in to the MyTwoCensus inbox stating that Mr. Dominguez was upset at his office. At 10:50, I spoke with Steve Jost, Associate Director of the Census Bureau, who informed me that Mr. Dominguez is no longer employed by the Census Bureau. Presumably, he was fired as a result of this scoop.

Rafael Dominguez, a New York-based regional partnership coordinator for the US Census Bureau since early 2008 has filed a petition to run as a Democrat for Assemblyman for New York’s 82nd District. Yet, as Census Bureau Associate Director Steve Jost recently commented on a MyTwoCensus.com post, the Hatch Act, “prohibits federal employees from engaging in partisan political activities while on duty.”

The problem is not that Mr. Dominguez is running for office, the problem is that he is running for office while an employee of the federal government and campaigning on the Census Bureau/taxpayer’s dime. MyTwoCensus.com has also learned that other Census Bureau employees who are underlings of Mr. Dominguez have been performing campaign activities while on official Census Bureau duty. These employees include other partnership assistants in the New York area:  Ed LaFranco and Adrian Tapia.

New Yorkers should be entitled to a partisan-free census, and Mr. Dominguez’s overt Democratic Party affiliations require the Census Bureau to fire him immediately. MyTwoCensus has subsequently learned that Mr. Dominguez used his (massive) budget for partnership materials to fund events and organizations that will benefit his political campaign.

Admittedly, it will be difficult to prove that partnership  funding was diverted for specific purposes that relate to the campaign, but such activities should immediately be scrutinized and audited more thoroughly than they already are. (MyTwoCensus.com has learned that the New York Census Bureau’s partnership office is currently undergoing a major audit. Perhaps this audit is directly tied to Dominguez and his misuse of funds, but more likely it has to do with rampant excesses by the Census Bureau’s partnership specialists.)

Here is the photographic evidence of the campaign activities that Mr. Dominguez has been engaged in while a Census Bureau employee:

Note the Census Bureau’s extensive partnership budget that includes $120 million from the stimulus package:

Picture 14

MyTwoCensus.com on CNN.com

Wednesday, June 23rd, 2010

Please excuse the pluralization of my name…hopefully it will be corrected by tomorrow…

But here we are, basking in mainstream media glory!

Dedicated to Census Bureau Associate Director for Communications Steve Jost: 2010 Census payroll problems acknowledged and additional assistance to be given to employees

Monday, May 24th, 2010

Though the Census Bureau’s Associate Director for Communications (and Spin Doctor in Residence) Steve Jost denied problems with the Census Bureau’s payroll system in comments he posted on this blog, Ryla, a firm contracted by the government to handle telephone complaints and questions about Census Bureau operations, has now acknowledged its own payroll problems for its employees. This is a true victory for MyTwoCensus.com and its loyal readers, as this issue likely would not have received the attention it deserves without your assistance. Let’s now hope that the Census Bureau follows suit in addressing payroll problems that have been widely reported by this site’s readers. Thanks to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution for the following:

By Leon Stafford

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Kennesaw-based Ryla Inc. is working to improve its pay processes after some of the 1,300 census workers the company employs complained they were not getting checks on time or were shorted work hours.

Ryla spokeswoman Karen Clay said the pay problems have occurred in spurts and the company is paying employees as quickly as its officials are notified. She did not know the exact number of people affected, but said it is small.

“There were some hiccups in our own processing in payroll,” Clay said, declining to be more specific. “Any payroll discrepancies are actively being worked on.”

Ryla, operator of one of Georgia’s biggest call centers, announced in February it was hiring the workers to handle calls for the 2010 Census. Pay is roughly $12-$15 an hour.

Another issue for workers has been pay stubs issued for $0. Clay said workers with those checks are employed by temporary agencies. Ryla pays the temp agencies, which then pay the workers.

Social networking is bad! (says the Census Bureau)

Wednesday, May 19th, 2010
An anonymous Census employee sent SRM a tip about a few flyers the Bureau sent along with their paychecks (finally). One flyer covered driving safety (and please, everyone, do take care while driving). The other covered the ethics of social networking, and unfortunately it came to the conclusion that it’s bad. Sorry Morse, time to close up shop! (Note: That was a joke.)
Email excerpt:
It’s funny how it is implied that criticizing and talking to outsiders about the incompetence of the census machinery and brass is punishable with jail and fines, when in reality, it only applies to title 13 of USC in regard to respondent information and personally identifiable information.  The census own manuals have a section devoted to the rights and protections afforded to whistleblowers.  They also imply that because we are paid government employees, that it is unethical for us to publicly humiliate and or expose the ineptness of our employers.  Nice try.  There is no law preventing anyone from writing in their personal capacity, but it is implied that it is wrong, unethical, and just not cool.
And from the reminder itself (no emphasis added):
CONFIDENTIALITY AND ETHICS REMINDER
Social Networking and Census Employment
As personal blogging, tweeting, social networking sites have become more common and popular, it
is not unusual for Federal employees to have an opportunity to write about their work and their
employer in a public forum.  Please be aware you cannot disclose any nonpublic information that
is protected by statute.  You also cannot receive payments for writing about Census programs or
operations or about assignments you have been given as a Census employee.  In addition, you
must be careful to ensure that there is no appearance created that you are writing on behalf of the
Bureau of the Census, the Department of Commerce, or the United States Government when you
are writing in your personal capacity.
[...]
These restrictions on writing and publications are in addition to the life-time oath you took to
uphold the confidentiality of census information.  Any wrongful disclosure of confidential census
information subjects you to a fine up to $250,000, imprisonment up to five years, or both.

New feature on our “contact” page…

Saturday, May 15th, 2010

Many Census Bureau employees, fearful of losing their jobs or being publicly identified, have been afraid to contact MyTwoCensus.com.  Now you can contact us anonymously with the new form we have created on our “contact’ page.

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%.

New York Times Editorial Criticizes Census Bureau Hiring

Wednesday, April 21st, 2010

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Transcript from Tuesday’s Press conference…

Wednesday, April 14th, 2010

Note my questions near the bottom of the first page, and further note how they weren’t clearly answered…(My questions discussed allegations made by Census Bureau employees about QACs…)

STEPHEN BUCKNER: Good morning, everyone. I’m with the Public Information Office at the U.S. Census Bureau. I’d like to welcome everybody joining us on the telephone today, and also here at the National Press Club. Today, Dr. Groves, the Director of the Census Bureau, is going to be talking about mailing back your form. We have five days left to get your form back in the mail. He’s also going to be providing a brief overview of operations since our last operational press briefing on the 22nd of March where we launched the Take Ten Program, challenging local areas to mail back your form and beat your participation rate from the 2000 census. We’re off to a good start, and Dr. Groves will touch base on that.

In your press kit, you’ll see a variety of materials on the topics of today’s operational press briefing. Online, they’re also available under the news conference page for those listening and online. We will have a Q&A session following the Director’s comments, and we’ll try to alternate between the telephone and those here in the room. With that, I will give you Dr. Robert Groves. Thank you.

DR. ROBERT GROVES: Great, thank you, Stephen. Thanks a lot for coming today. This is an operational update, but really the headline of today’s briefing is that we have five days left for the over 120 million households around the country to mail back their form. And by that we mean if you get your form in the mail by April 16th, this Friday, there’s a much, much, much lower probability that anyone will come to your door to do follow-up work in the later phases of the census.

Today, this week, we begin a week of transitions. The transition is moving from this massive phase that we call the mail out/mail back phase where people fill out their census by mail, to one where we begin to hire a large number of people who will go out throughout the country, knocking on doors of houses and taking the questionnaire information in a personal interview.

I want to end with remarks on that, but I want to begin, really, by doing a quick update of recent operations. And in a word, things are going quite well. I guess that’s two words, quite well. Let me run through the things we’ve done. We have finished three operations that are notable that are complicated and are now in the hopper. The update leave operation, by that we mean in areas where postal delivery is not reliable, where many people have postal boxes, and also in those areas where in the, say for example the gulf coast where the housing unit stock is actually changing quite rapidly, we drop off questionnaires. We completed that on April 2nd, the dropped off questionnaires are being mailed back now at great rates. This operation is complete, it was on schedule and under budget.

We also finished, today we will finish, a count of people living in transitory locations. By that we mean RV parks, campgrounds, hotels, motels, marinas, circuses, carnivals throughout the country. We’ve completed that work on schedule, we’re happy to say. And then in a complicated operation called service based enumeration. We reached out and counted people who are affected by various types of homelessness. We counted people in shelters, soup kitchens, at regular stops of mobile food vans, outdoor locations and a variety of other places, about 65,000 locations throughout the country. This, as you might imagine, is a complicated one and we’re happy that we did that on time and with safety, relative safety, of all our enumerators and the people counted.

We had a problem in the New York/Boston area. You might remember there were torrential rains around the time we were doing this. We had to postpone one day to finish that work there.

Then I want to note two operations that we’re right in the middle of because they’re relevant to some folks who haven’t received forms because we do the enumeration in different ways. We don’t mail out forms to different areas. Ongoing right now is an operation called Update Enumerate. By that, we mean we go out with census takers and house by house do interviews with people in those areas. These are areas like the remote parts of Maine, certainly parts of Alaska, American Indian reservations, disproportionately, a lot of areas with seasonal housing. And the settlements called colonias on the border of Texas and Mexico are handled this way. It’s about 1.4 million households that we’ll visit in this way. We’re about 38 percent through with that operation. We’re way ahead of schedule on that, so that’s going well.

And then finally group quarters, another category of folks who don’t receive forms in the mail. These are areas that are like nursing homes, assisted living facilities, prisons, dormitories, barracks, and so on. We’re in the middle of that operation. We’re about 22 percent complete, that’s on schedule. That’s going to go through May 21st. That’s ongoing now. So for people in those situations, they should not have received the mail questionnaire, and indeed we’re reaching out to them and doing the measurement in different ways.

As of Friday, I’m happy to note, if you’ve been following this on the website, 65 percent of American households we’d estimate have returned the forms. This is over 77 million households in the country who have completed the short form and mailed it back. We’re going to post an update today at 4:00 on our website. If you’ve been following that, that will make that number be higher, no doubt. It is notable, if you look at those data, that there are states that are above 70 percent at this point already, 10 states have that status. It includes large states like Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania. When we started this operation, the states in the upper middle west dominated the early returns. That’s mainly because they received those questionnaires by hand using our census takers to drop off questionnaires at their houses. Now you see states, other states, catching up that received them by mail.

It is interesting to note that on April 8th, South Carolina as a state, surpassed its entire 2000 census performance. And today, both North Carolina and South Carolina have beaten their own 2000 participation rate. So that’s a notable and noteworthy event, I think. Kentucky is really close, this could happen today for Kentucky. We have hundreds of jurisdictions around the country who have beaten their 2000 participation rate already, and to all of them we salute you for your civic participation and we hope you’ll be joined by hundreds of others in a matter of days.

We remain focused on return rates, participation rates in large cities, in some rural areas. The large cities pose interesting problems to sample surveys and censuses. They are low this decade, as they were last decade. Notable is New York, Chicago, Detroit, Philadelphia and a set of others. You can go to our website and see this. In fact, if you look at this map here, the colors we love to see on this map over here are those that are yellow, orange and red. And the colors we don’t particularly like to see are those blues. You can see the Texas/Mexico border as an area that is challenging for us. You can see the middle of the state, or the middle of the country with those higher than average performances.

We are focused on all of these areas. We are looking at this daily through a variety of statistical models and intense scrutiny of partnership and other activities. We’ve made changes in our advertising to have much more targeted advertising into the areas and into the subgroups that look like they’re responding at a lower rate.

I want to turn to an issue that you in the media could help us get the word out on, and that is those people who didn’t receive a form, what should they do at this point? And we have a variety of reasons that that might have happened. You might be living in one of those areas where census takers are coming to your door right now over the next few days and weeks. You might have a post office box where you receive your mail, rather than having your mail delivered to your home. You might be in a house newly built that was added just recently and we tried to get about two million of those kind of cases into the mail stream. You may have just received a form, but you may not have gotten it yet.

For all of those people who have not received a form, we have a very simple thing you can do, two alternatives. First, you can call our telephone assistance center, and these numbers are posted right here. The English number is 1-866-872-6868. And starting today, you can call between eight a.m. and nine p.m. local time every day, every day of the week. And there are numbers for different languages and for the hearing impaired.

And starting today, you can take the interview right on the phone. You can answer your census questions right on the phone. It’s the simplest thing you can do. You supply the address where you’re living, and you answer the questionnaire over the phone. Alternatively if you wish, you can go to over 40,000 sites around the country that are questionnaire assistance centers or labeled Be Counted sites. How do you know where they are? You can call these same numbers to find out where they are. You can go to our website, 2010census.gov, and find where the questionnaire assistance centers are. And there, you can pick up what we call a Be Counted form. You supply your address information and fill out the form that looks very similar to the mail out form.

We want to make it as easy as possible for those who haven’t received the form to get it. This is a massive operation, going to over 134 million households. Missing a few households is something that happens every census, and we want to make sure that you have an easy way to get a hold of the form.

But in closing, I want to turn to the most important message. We are counting down the days, the clock is ticking, and we are asking you, if you have a form sitting in your home that you haven’t filled out yet, to take a few minutes to fill it out and mail it back. If you can mail this form back by Friday, April 16th, the odds that someone will come to your house to follow up and ask census questions are much lower. Each passing day makes that likelihood higher. We would love to avoid sending census takers to large numbers of households around the country. And the easiest way for those of you who have a form sitting in your house to avoid that is to fill out the form and mail it back.

I remind us that for every one percent of the households that do that, we save us taxpayers $85 million nationally, a very large sum of money, for a very small act on your part. Taking it down to the personal level, if you fill this form out and mail it back, it costs us taxpayers 42 cents. If you don’t, it costs us taxpayers about $60 to send someone out and take the information in person.

This is a moment, these last few days, where our over 225,000 partners throughout the country and social and political leaders need to come together and get the word out that we are ticking away the clock to return these forms. This is the moment where we can all come together. Ask your neighbors if you filled out your form whether they filled out their form. Pass the word that we have just a few more days left, and this will be a much cheaper census if we can do that.

Starting at about the third week of April, we will begin to build the large files that will identify the addresses that our interviewers will have to go out and call on case by case. We will begin that work on May 1. It will continue through July 10th, and we will have other briefings on that large operation that we call non response follow-up. But this moment, at this time, the message is very clear. If you have a form sitting in your home and you haven’t turned it back, you haven’t returned a form at all, now is the time to fill it out and mail it back. Thank you very much, I’m happy to take questions. Carol?

CAROL MORELLO: Can you talk a little bit about what’s going on?

MR. BUCKNER: Just one second. So as we start our Q&A process, we’ll start here in the room. Please state your name, organize, and your question. Wait for the mic, and then we’ll jump to the telephone as well. First up, Carol Morello, question posed?

CAROL MORELLO: Hi, could you talk a little bit about what you think is going on in the blue states primarily, or blue sections, primarily in the south and the west? How does it compare to 2000 at this point, and how much do you think maybe politically motivated by people who resent the questions being asked?

DR. GROVES: Some of those rural areas that are in blue are traditionally what we call hard to enumerate areas. So you might first ask, so why is that? The challenge of rural areas is both that the kind of– first of all, these are based on either what we call update leave– these are the houses– the blue areas you’re looking at are houses where they have a questionnaire, either by mail delivery or dropped off. In some of those areas, we know we’re actually going to do enumeration, direct enumeration. They don’t even have a mail questionnaire yet. But rural areas pose difficulties, both in making sure we get all the areas. And then the other challenge, I think, in rural areas is that the impact of media that we use is more dispersed. If you think about it in an urban area, there are local media that we can use and local partnership activities that we can stimulate to get communities involved in the census. That kind of organization’s a little tougher in rural areas.

At the same time, in some of those areas, there are language impediments. The Texas/Mexico border, a whole lot of those areas got a bilingual questionnaire, but not all of the areas, and that’s an impediment. So, these are not surprises. If you looked at the 2000 census, or the 1990 census, this is a fact that is replicated over censuses.

CAROL MORELLO: So what impact do you think that politically the opposition to the census has had?

DR. GROVES: Actually, this is a topic of press commentary right now. And the City University of New York has just done an analysis that’s kind of interesting. We’ve done our own analyses. We can’t find empirical support for that, but I can tell you no one has the right data. We can look at the characteristics of counties that are returning the questionnaire at different rates. We see no evidence that some counties that may have voted in one way are lower than other counties. But we actually don’t know individual level attributes of people returning the form or not returning the form.

I can say one other thing, and that is the rate of forms that are being delivered with partial completes that force us to actually go back, they’re so incomplete that we have to go back and call on people’s houses, those are within or below the kind of tolerances we expected from our prior studies. So, we don’t see the evidence there for the impact of that on behaviors.

MR. BUCKNER: Carol, I’m going to have to go to the telephone here and then I’ll come back. All right, on the telephone, I believe we have a question? Please state your name and organization?

STEPHEN ROBERT MORSE: This is Stephen Robert Morse at mytwocensus.com. I have a couple of questions about the questionnaire assistance centers operation. Today, I posted an article on my website that was written by an assistance center employee that suggests that not all of the QACs are listed on the census bureau’s website. And it also suggests that all the organizations and corporations that are listed partners are not necessarily cooperating and working with QACs as they– and are not necessarily partners anymore. Please talk about this?

DR. GROVES: I don’t know anything about the second question. The first question, we’re doing the best we can at getting the questionnaire assistance centers posted on the web and updated. This is a big challenge for us because they’re, as you know, these 40,000 units are moving around cities for different days and different hours. But we’re doing our best on that. (more…)

MyTwoCensus Editorial: 2010 Census Partners Google and YouTube Should Remove Propaganda Video Immediately

Monday, April 5th, 2010

When you search for “census” on YouTube, the first video that appears is by some nutcase named Jerry Day (representing some obscure outlet called Matrix News), who doesn’t have his facts straight and inaccurately describes Census Bureau procedures. This video has nearly two million views. It spouts many lies, as well as very biased statements. (Part of the problem is that the Census Bureau’s Public Information Office wouldn’t speak to him on the phone, but I’ll save that criticism for another day…)

Google and its subsidiary YouTube  should remove this video immediately. It is more shocking that these organizations are enabling this nonsense, because they have already created a partnership with the Census Bureau. At the very least, it should not come up  so frequently in searches. The video likely only gains more and more viewers because it is the first video that appears on searches. The Census Bureau’s communications department (including Steve Jost and Stephen Buckner) as well as Census Director Dr. Robert M. Groves,  have failed in that they have not pressured Google to remove this video. Yes, Jerry Day is entitled to freedom of speech, but his reporting is full of lies, so Google, a private company, should not be propagating this anti-2010 Census propaganda.

Here’s a screen capture of a typical YouTube search:

The Reno Gazette-Journal Fact Checks the Census Bureau…

Monday, April 5th, 2010

A nice piece from Nevada:

Fact checker: Census value rounded up — way up

By Kelly Scott

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

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

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

Background

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

Analysis of the numbers

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

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

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

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

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

For the rest of the article click HERE.

Two interesting articles from Maryland and Texas about prisoners and the 2010 Census…

Sunday, April 4th, 2010

From the Herald-Mail in Maryland:

Bill would alter inmate count for Census

By ERIN JULIUS

ANNAPOLIS — Washington County might lose about 6,000 people from its legislative and congressional districts because of a bill that has been passed by both chambers of the Maryland General Assembly.

The bill excludes state inmates who were not state residents before their incarceration, and requires that prisoners be counted as residents of their last known address before prison.

About 6,000 prisoners are housed in the three state prisons south of Hagerstown, a prison spokesman said Friday.

Local jail populations are not included in the bill.

All but one of Washington County’s eight local lawmakers voted against the measure.

The change in how to count the population will be relevant in creating legislative districts for the U.S. Congress, Maryland General Assembly, and county and municipal governing bodies, according to the bill.

Del. Christopher B. Shank, R-Washington, called the bill “a blatant power grab by, predominantly, the Baltimore City delegation.” Changing how prisoners are counted will benefit the Baltimore City and Prince George’s County delegations because most of the prisoners in the state prison system are from the more urban areas of the state.

Sen. George C. Edwards, R-Garrett/Allegany/Washington, also expressed concerns. Two areas Edwards represents — Washington and Allegany counties — would be affected.

About 3,000 state prisoners are held in two facilities near Cumberland, a prison spokesman said.

Another 1,503 prisoners are held by the Bureau of Prisons at a federal facility in Cumberland, according to a fiscal note prepared by the Department of Legislative Services that was attached to the bill.

After the 2000 census, the ideal population for a General Assembly district — with a plus or minus 5 percent margin of error — is 112,691. The ideal congressional district size is 662,061.

The state legislative districts are expected to increase to about 120,000 following the 2010 census, and the congressional districts are expected to grow to about 722,425, according to the fiscal note.

Edwards believes the change in population counts — taking 4,000 people out of Allegany County’s population — could push the outlines of his district, District 1, further east into Washington County because Garrett and Allegany counties are not growing, Edwards said.

However, it’s tough to judge what will happen without the numbers, and with a margin of error of plus or minus 5 percent, things might stay as they are, he said.

It’s unfair, however, because having prison facilities in its midst puts pressure on a community’s public services, Edwards said. (more…)

Feud over counting homeless escalates: Census employee fired after taking worries to Rep. Doggett

Sunday, April 4th, 2010

The following comes from Statesman.com:

By Andrea Ball and Suzannah Gonzales

AMERICAN-STATESMAN STAFF

U.S. Rep Lloyd Doggett has stepped into a dispute between Travis County officials and U.S. census leaders over how the area’s homeless population will be counted for the 2010 census.

For weeks, the groups have been sparring over the times, methods and manpower needed to tally the area’s estimated 4,000 people living in shelters, camps, cars and hotels. But that conflict escalated this week when a census employee called Doggett to say she had been fired for raising concerns about the safety and accuracy of the count.

On Friday, Doggett called U.S. Census Bureau Director Robert Groves in Washington.

“Director Groves promised me he would investigate both the employee’s firing and review the best practices to accurately count the homeless,” Doggett said in a statement Friday.

Census officials across the country plan to count the homeless on three days: On Monday, workers will tally people in shelters. On Tuesday, they’ll count people at mobile food kitchens. And early Wednesday, they’ll head outside to camps and public places such as bridges and sidewalks.

It’s the Wednesday effort that has caused the most friction locally.

That count is planned for midnight to 7 a.m., a time local homeless advocates deem unsafe for census employees. Critics also say the census is not providing enough people or allowing enough time to ensure an accurate count.

“To count thousands of people over seven hours is unrealistic,” said Travis County Constable Bruce Elfant, a member of the Austin-Travis County Complete Count Committee. “This isn’t like going door to door.”

A faulty count would mean losing out on millions of dollars in federal money.

On Friday, Travis County Judge Sam Biscoe and Austin Mayor Lee Leffingwell sent a letter to a regional census official detailing their concerns about counting the homeless.

“Your own Census staffers estimate that the homeless population could be undercounted by as much as 40%,” the letter states. “This would mean 1,000 or more homeless residents would not be counted in Travis County, resulting in the loss of more than $15,000,000 to our community.”

Jeff Behler, deputy regional director for the U.S. Census Bureau, said the late-night hours were determined “because, in the research that was done by our staff, it was determined that would be the best time in which that population would be the least transient.”

Local leaders proposed holding an additional daytime event Thursday at the Palmer Events Center with food, music and giveaways for those who came to fill out the census forms. Census leaders said no, Elfant said.

“There appears to be very little wiggle room for communities that want to try innovative things,” Elfant said. “It’s been frustrating.”

Homeless advocates also worry that census takers could get hurt wandering into the greenbelts and wooded areas that late at night. David Gomez, who works with the homeless for Austin Travis County Integral Care, said homeless people could be sleeping, drunk, high on drugs or otherwise impaired.

In a memo obtained by the American-Statesman, U.S. Census Bureau employee Lisa Bayliff agreed.

“There are camps that have barbed wire stretched about 3-4 inches from the ground to trip intruders from easy access,” she wrote. “There are camps that are known meth labs; they have signs posted around the perimeter to warn people to go away … The timing of the operation is flawed and is willingly placing all Census employees at peril.”

Census takers, who will be wearing reflective vests and carrying flashlights, have been told not to wake up sleeping people, Behler said. They will travel in groups, try not to startle people and clearly communicate their intent, Behler said.

Earlier this month, Bayliff took her concerns to the Austin congressman, Doggett spokeswoman Sarah Dohl said.

But this week, Bayliff contacted the office to say she had been fired for speaking to Doggett, Dohl said. That prompted Doggett to call Grove.

Bayliff declined to comment. Jenna Steormann Arnold, spokeswoman for the U.S. Census Bureau in Central Texas, said she could not talk about specifics of the case.

“Yes, she no longer works for the Census Bureau, but since it is a personnel issue that deals with confidential information, we cannot discuss it,” she said.

Criminals Possibily Hired to Conduct Census

Friday, October 9th, 2009

As I reported two weeks ago when I questioned Dr. Robert Groves at a press conference that he held at the National Press Club, criminals have been hired to work for the 2010 Census:

WASHINGTON, Oct. 8 (UPI) — Errors by U.S. Census Bureau employees could have resulted in 200 people with criminal records being hired for canvassing, a government report said.

The Government Accountability Office said Census Bureau employees improperly fingerprinted thousands of people as part of background checks for workers hired to interact with the public door to door, The Hill reported Thursday.

The GAO report expressed concern that the checks performed on improperly fingerprinted employees were incomplete.

“It is possible that more than 200 people with unclassifiable prints had disqualifying criminal records but still worked and had contact with the public during address canvassing,” the GAO’s Robert Goldenkoff told a Senate subcommittee on Wednesday.

Goldenkoff said the bureau’s training program was a reason for the improper fingerprints, adding that the bureau “will refine instruction manuals and provide remediation training on proper procedures” to prevent a recurrence.

Congresswoman Refuses To Participate in 2010 Census

Thursday, June 18th, 2009

According to the Minnesota Independent, “Rep. Michele Bachmann told the Washington Times on Wednesday that she will not be filling out all the questions on next year’s census because ACORN will be one of the federal government’s many community partners for conducting the census. But what she is proposing to do is illegal, the Times reports.

“I know for my family the only question we will be answering is how many people are in our home,” she said. “We won’t be answering any information beyond that, because the Constitution doesn’t require any information beyond that.”

“There’s great concern that’s being raised because now ACORN has been named as one of the federal partners… This is very concerning because the motherload of all data comes from the census,” she said.

But as the paper reports, Bachmann is “misreading” the law — and it could cost her family $100 per question left unanswered.”

NOTE: Below, please find an audio recording of Bachmann’s interview with The Washington Times.