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 ‘New York Times’

NYT: New York Census Data, Centuries Old, Is Now Online

Friday, July 27th, 2012

H/t to Sam Roberts at the New York Times for this (full article HERE):

What was Al Capone’s address? Where did Jonas Salk live? What did John D. Rockefeller list as his occupation? Whom did Franklin D. Roosevelt list as the head of his household in 1925?

The New York State Archives and Library has collaborated with Ancestry.com to provide searchable versions of the recently released 1940 United States census; New York State censuses from 1892, 1915 and 1925; and marriage, draft and other records dating to the 17th century.

New York Redistricting Map Is Finally Here: The New York Times Makes It Interactive

Wednesday, March 21st, 2012

As Congressional districts have been sliced and diced across New York, the New York Times created an easy-to-use interactive map detailing the changes. Enjoy it HERE!

New York’s redistricting process is going very, very, slowly…

Tuesday, February 28th, 2012

Here’s a piece from The New York Times that explains why:

Each state must redraw its political maps to reflect the 2010 census, but New York, which has approved neither legislative nor Congressional districts for this year’s elections, is among the last to comply. Redistricting has become increasingly urgent because of the calendar; the state’s Congressional primary is scheduled to be on June 26, and its legislative primary on Sept. 11.

The “Near Poor” in America

Saturday, November 19th, 2011

Check out this solid piece from the New York Times that demonstrates a growing class of Americans, the “near poor.”

Yesterday’s New York Times editorial is a farce and here’s why…

Wednesday, July 28th, 2010

Yesterday, the New York Times ran the following editorial:

The 2010 census, in its final stages, has apparently been a success — something not thought possible just a couple years ago, when unsteady management, political interference and other problems threatened to derail the effort. The count was salvaged only after last-minute scrambling and major new spending — and after new leaders were put in place by the Obama administration.

For a time, it seemed as if Congress would learn the lessons from the near disaster of 2010. In March, a bipartisan group of House and Senate lawmakers introduced a bill to improve the census, mainly by giving the bureau director more power to run the agency without interference. In April, the Senate committee in charge of the census unanimously passed the bill. The bill has not gone anywhere since then.

Why does that matter, when the next count is a decade away? The best chance for passing a bill is now, when public awareness of the census is high. And the sooner reform is passed, the better, because census planning, done right, is a decade-long project.

The administration, which had to rescue the current census, should certainly know that. But it is the administration that appears to be standing in the way.

At a hearing this spring, one of the bill’s co-sponsors, Senator Thomas Carper, Democrat of Delaware, said that Commerce Secretary Gary Locke had complained about a provision giving the director greater independence to communicate directly with the commerce secretary and Congress about problems with the census. He said Mr. Locke also objected to giving the director greater influence over the bureau’s budget.

Mr. Carper suggested that independence to communicate was nonnegotiable, but a compromise on the budget could be found. There is no sign of progress.

In the next few weeks, Mr. Carper’s staff will issue a report on the bill to help other senators as they consider the legislation. The bill is a brief 11 pages and it is uncontested, at least on Capitol Hill. How much help do the other senators really need?

Mr. Carper should speed up the report. If the administration still has problems with the bill, it should make them public and allow the process to move forward openly. Basic reform of the census is needed, and the time to make those changes is slipping away.

MyTwoCensus analysis:

The first part of this editorial labels the 2010 Census a “success” but never states why it is considered as such. Perhaps this is based on the cursory observation of the participation/response rates that were similar to those of 2000. This may be a “success” when taking a quick glance at figures, but let us remember that the Census Bureau’s budget for 2010 was infinitely larger than it was in 2000. (And it took home an extra $1 billion in funding from the stimulus package.)

The second half of this disjointed editorial has a bit of validity, though it isn’t articulated well. Yes, it would be better for America for the Census Bureau Director to have a fixed term that ends in a year that is in between Presidential election years. But Gary Locke has legitimate concerns, and those must be addressed before rushing a bill through committee. The same Senate that can’t pass Climate legislation that’s been on the table forever shouldn’t be expected to jump on legislation related to the 2020 Census.

And here’s a little caveat/prediction for the New York Times: When the mainstream media learns just how much of a mess the 2010 Census was in some parts of the country, and in particular New York (where a dense concentration of media moguls and reporters utterly failed to cover the giant mess that is the New York regional census office) they will be begging for re-enumerations, recounts, and heads to be put on the chopping block. MyTwoCensus.com will elaborate more on this information in the coming days and weeks.

Note: An earlier version of this post questioned why President Obama hadn’t signed a bill seeking to reform the GOP’s “census” mailers. I referred to a blog post that I wrote on May 18, 2010. I subsequently learned from comments on this post that President Obama signed the bill on May 24. I was never made aware of this action by President Obama until today and I apologize for the confusion. Those people who refer to a bill from April should know that the GOP found a loophole in this legislation and continued to issue deceptive mailers. Furthermore, the comment about President Obama was just an aside from a post that focuses on many other important matters which I hope are not overshadowed by my simple error.

Other media outlets report on the Brooklyn scandal…

Sunday, June 27th, 2010

We are glad to see the New York Times and New York Daily News reporting about the Census Bureau’s latest scandal in Brooklyn. At this point, the big question is whether the individuals involved with this data fabrication effort will be formally charged with crimes. Hopefully by Monday we will know the answer…

New York has more people than ever…but many are not being counted

Thursday, June 24th, 2010

Though the New York Times reported that New York now has 8.4 million people according to 2009 Census Bureau estimates, MyTwoCensus is hoping that Sam Roberts and his colleagues at the Times will be able to investigate the likely undercount of New York City stemming from the fact that 2010 Census enumerators are finding themselves unable to access buildings because of doormen and other security restrictions. This is a problem that has been reported to MyTwoCensus.com on many occasions. And it doesn’t seem to be getting fixed any time soon. Will NRFU operations end before this problem is solved? Will Census Bureau officials resort to the illegal/unconstitutional practice of guesstimating how many people live in each building and then make up false information about the ages and races of the occupants?

If you have answers, don’t hesitate to let us know!

MyTwoCensus Editorial: New York Times editorial has it both right and wrong

Tuesday, June 1st, 2010

Today, the New York Times published an editorial that praises Congress for initiating bi-partisan reforms of the Census Bureau as it initiated legislation that mandates the Census Bureau Director’s term to be fixed at five-years, a plan that makes it easier to work around the decennial census. However, Secretary of Commerce Gary Locke and the White House were at first keen on this idea, but have now stalled the plan, despite seven former Census Bureau directors asserting that this is the best way to reform the Census Bureau. Robert M. Groves, the current Census Bureau Director, also supports this plan — but apparently the egos of the others have got in the way of progress:

The Obama administration, which should be supporting the bill, is instead raising objections. It has objected to a provision that would allow the census director to report directly to the commerce secretary. It also has objected to a provision that would require the director to send Congress the bureau’s budget request at the same time it goes to the White House.

However, the editorial strays from its initial goals later on and says this:

The census was in dire straits when President Obama took office, and it took a while for the administration to get organized. The 2010 count is now on track, thanks to the efforts of Mr. Locke and Robert Groves, the bureau director — both Obama appointees.

The New York Times has it wrong. The Census Bureau and the 2010 Census are not “on track” at this point. The myriad technical failures and other problems have already hampered the accuracy of this count and will continue to do so in the immediate future mean that the 2010 Census is NOT on track.

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.

NYTimes ad critic analyzes 2010 Census ad campaign

Tuesday, April 20th, 2010

Below is Stuart Elliot’s commentary as he answers readers’ questions about 2010 Census ads. Will the Census Bureau and Draftfcb threaten to take away the New York Times’ contract because Stuart was somewhat critical of the ad campaign?

Q: (Reader)

Just this morning, as I was reading NYTimes.com, I was struck by the short films that the U.S. Census is running to help persuade people to return their census forms.

Usually I ignore any and all advertisements online, but I found these fascinating because they present people who have reasons (good or less good) for mistrusting the government as encouraging citizens to participate. Who is responsible for the films?

A: (Stuart Elliott)

The films are part of a Web series, called Portrait of America, which features “real people expressing their reservations about participating in the Census and then overcoming them once they examine the form,” says Wally Petersen, a spokesman for DraftFCB in Chicago, part of the Interpublic Group of Companies.

The DraftFCB New York office created the Web series in its role as the lead agency for the Census campaign. “More than a dozen agencies produced more than 400 pieces of marketing communications” to encourage participating in the Census, he writes in an e-mail message, adding that the work is “targeting multiple audiences” in terms of races and ethnicities and appears in 28 languages.

Q: (Reader)

Something about those ubiquitous U.S. Census television ads has me scratching my head: the closing call to action. On screen invariably is the phrase “Census 2010” while the voice-over announcer invariably says “2010 Census.”

This strikes me as a weird inconsistency, not what one usually sees in a presumably well-considered, well-heeled campaign. In other words, “Huh?” What can you find out?

A: (Stuart Elliott)

Back we go, dear reader, to Mr. Petersen, who offers this reply in another e-mail message: “The formal name, ‘United States Census 2010,’ is a mouthful and sounds too bureaucratic. Lots of brands have nicknames. Look at Mickey D’s, for McDonald’s; B.K., for Burger King; and the Shack, for Radio Shack.”

“Saying ‘2010 Census’ simply functions as a short and memorable nickname,” Mr. Petersen concludes.

Natural disasters and recession mean more families doubling up…

Sunday, March 7th, 2010

A New York Times article about Haitian families “doubling up” in the wake up the January earthquake highlights yet another issue that census-takers will have to deal with…primarily in Florida, New York, and other areas with large Haitian communities.

In other areas, such as Cleveland, Ohio — a city that some institutions suspect was undercounted in 2000 — the financial crisis and subsequent loss of jobs has resulted in extended families living temporarily…or long term…with one another. Nobody ever said enumeration would be easy…

Freakonomics: Justin Wolfers says you can’t trust the 2010 Census

Tuesday, February 2nd, 2010

The following comes from Justin Wolfers, a professor at my alma mater, the University of Pennsylvania, who writes for The New York Times’ Freakonomics blog and answers the age old question… “Can you trust the census?”:

No. At least that’s the conclusion of an important new paper (ungated versionhere) by Trent AlexanderMichael Davern and Betsey Stevenson, who find enormous errors in some critically important economic datasets.

Let’s start with the 2000 Decennial Census. Your responses to the Census were used for two purposes. First, the Census Bureau tallied up every response to produce its official population counts. And second, it produced a 1-in-20 sub-sample of these responses, which it made available for analysis by researchers. Just about every economist I know has used this Census sub-sample, as do a fair number of demographers, sociologists, political scientists, and private-sector market researchers.

The errors are documented in a stunningly straightforward manner. The authors compare the official census count (based on the tallying up of all Census forms) with their own calculations, based on the sub-sample released for researchers (the “public use micro sample,” available through IPUMS). If all is well, then the authors’ estimates should be very close to 100% of the official population count. But they aren’t:

Census ChartSource: Inaccurate Age and Sex Data in the Census PUMS Files: Evidence and Implications
Trent Alexander, Michael Davern and Betsey Stevenson

The two estimates are pretty similar for those younger than 65. But then things go haywire, with the alternative estimates disagreeing by as much as 15%. In fact, the microdata suggest that there are more very old men than very old women — I know some senior women who wish this were true! The Census Bureau has confirmed that the problem isn’t with the authors’ calculations. Rather, the problem is in the public-use microdata sample.

What’s the source of the problem? The Census Bureau purposely messes with the microdata a little, to protect the identity of each individual. For instance, if they recode a 37-year-old expat Aussie living in Philadelphia as a 36-year-old, then it’s harder for you to look me up in the microdata, which protects my privacy. In order to make sure the data still give accurate estimates, it is important that they also recode a 36-year-old with similar characteristics as being 37. This gives you the gist of some of their “disclosure avoidance procedures.” While it may all sound a bit odd, if these procedures are done properly, the data will yield accurate estimates, while also protecting my identity. So far, so good.

But the problem arose because of a programming error in how the Census Bureau ran these procedures. The right response is obvious: fix the programs, and publish corrected data. Unfortunately, the Census Bureau has refused to correct the data.

The problem also runs a bit deeper. If the mistake were just the one shown in the above graph, it would be easy to simply re-scale the estimates so that there are no longer too many, say, 85-year-old men — just weight them down a bit. But it turns out that the same coding error also messes up the correlation between age and employment, or age and marital status (and, the authors suspect, possibly other correlations as well). When you break several correlations like this, there’s no easy statistical fix.

NYT Editorial: How to Waste Money and Ruin the Census

Tuesday, October 20th, 2009

The following comes from the venerable New York Times:

Published: October 19, 2009

With the start of the 2010 census just a few months away, Senator David Vitter, a Republican of Louisiana, wants to cut off financing for the count unless the survey includes a question asking if the respondent is a United States citizen. Aides say he plans to submit an amendment to the census appropriation bill soon.

As required by law, the Census Bureau gave Congress the exact wording of the survey’s 10 questions in early April 2008 — more than 18 months ago. Changing it now to meet Mr. Vitter’s demand would delay the count, could skew the results and would certainly make it even harder to persuade minorities to participate.

It would also be hugely expensive. The Commerce Department says that redoing the survey would cost hundreds of millions of dollars: to rewrite and reprint hundreds of millions of census forms, to revise instructional and promotional material and to reprogram software and scanners.

During debates in the Senate, Mr. Vitter said that his aim is to exclude noncitizens from population totals that are used to determine the number of Congressional representatives from each state. He is ignoring the fact that it is a settled matter of law that the Constitution requires the census to count everyone in the country, without regard to citizenship, and that those totals are used to determine the number of representatives.

(The Census Bureau already tracks the number of citizens and noncitizens through a separate survey.)

Adding a new question about citizenship would further ratchet up suspicions that the census is being used to target undocumented immigrants. That would discourage participation not only among people who are here illegally but also their families and friends who may be citizens and legal residents. That leads to an inaccurate count.

And since census numbers are also used to allocate federal aid, undercounting minorities shortchanges the cities and states where they live.

Advocates for the census say that Senator Orrin Hatch, a Republican of Utah, has also raised the idea of another bad, last-minute change. Under current practice, the only people living abroad included in the census are military personnel and federal civilian employees, and the families of both, stationed overseas. Mr. Hatch, these officials say, wants to include certain other Americans living abroad temporarily, a definition that would be tailored to include — you guessed it — Mormon missionaries.

There seems little doubt that the goal would be to increase population numbers for Utah — to try to garner another Congressional seat. As of Monday, Senator Hatch’s office would not say whether he plans to pursue the idea. He shouldn’t.

Both of these changes would be discriminatory and ridiculously expensive. If Mr. Vitter and Mr. Hatch wanted to argue their cases, they should have done it 18 months ago — or wait until after this count.

Changing the survey now would be a disaster for the census and for American taxpayers. The Senate should defeat any and all attempts to alter or delay the 2010 count.

Statistics=Sexy

Thursday, August 6th, 2009

At this moment, the #1 most e-mailed New York Times article is called “For Today’s Graduate, Just One Word: Statistics.” To all of the statisticians out there, this one’s for you.

Another NYT Editorial re: Robert Groves’ Stalled Nomination

Sunday, June 28th, 2009

Robert Groves’ confirmation has been stalled since May 15. Over in Censusville, we’re getting very bored of discussing this issue, but it is of the utmost importance for America, so we will keep shouting about it until someone takes action. From Saturday’s NYT editorial:

Robert Groves, the nominee for director of the Census Bureau, has been on hold since mid-May. He has been deemed suspect for his expertise in sampling, a statistical method for adjusting miscounts. Republicans charge that sampling could unfairly tilt the census results. That is highly debatable, but, more to the point, it is a nonissue. Mr. Groves testified at his confirmation hearing that sampling will not be used in the 2010 count. But the hold on Mr. Groves endures, enfeebling the Census Bureau in the critical final months before the count.

Will the CIO bring about changes in the Census Bureau’s tech spending?

Tuesday, June 16th, 2009

Check out this post from the New York Times’s Bits Blog:

The Nation’s C.I.O.: Government Needs a Dashboard


By Saul Hansell

Vivek KundraHO/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images Vivek Kundra

It is sadly too easy to find examples of federal technology projects gone awry. To Vivek Kundra, the nation’s new chief information officer, one seems to stick in his craw: An effort to build a handheld computer for examiners conducting the 2010 census was abandoned last year, wasting $600 million. Mr. Kundra, who when I met him earlier this month was juggling both a BlackBerry and an iPhone, is shocked that the government could not simply find a way to use an existing smartphone or similar device.

Mr. Kundra’s job is to manage what will be $76 billion in spending to maintain 10,000 government systems as well as 800 active projects to build major new systems (those costing $50 million or more). I asked him how he could possibly keep tabs on all this to prevent the next $600 million albatross. He had a one-word answer:

Dashboards.

By the end of June, Mr. Kundra hopes to start yet another federal Web site that will give officials and the public a window into all of the active government technology projects. For each project, it will show the purpose, schedule and budget. It will show the name and photo of the federal official responsible and the names of which contractors are working on the project, a fact that Mr. Kundra says oddly has not been made public before.

Obama Administration employment figures are lies: Why the numbers don’t add up…

Thursday, June 4th, 2009

As MyTwoCensus has consistently reported for the past few months, the U.S. Government’s unemployment figures are completely misleading. The government factored the 140,000 people who assisted with the Census Bureau’s first round of address canvassing operations as having new jobs that were created during these most troubling economic times.

However, as hundreds of our readers have expressed through their comments, contributions, and by contacting us, most of the employment for these early canvassing operations was extremely brief, lasting anywhere from a few days of training (without ever being called in for the actual job) to a couple of months (for the luckiest of employees).

Only now, after months of  neglecting these misleading statistics and happily toeing the Obama party line about job creation, is  the mainstream media beginning to pick up on these reporting errors, about the very limited job creation for 2010 Census operations. Thanks to the Associated Press for the following report:

Part-timers form a hidden unemployment rate

TOWNSHEND, Vt. (AP) — When the monthly unemployment figures come out Friday, Greg Noel will go from collecting government statistics to becoming one. Again.

Noel, 60, was among more than 60,000 Americans hired in April to help with the 2010 Census. But he’s out of work once more and moving back on the unemployment rolls because his temporary gig is finished.

It’s a familiar predicament in today’s economy, in which some 2 million people searching for full-time work have had to settle for less, and unemployment is much higher than the official rate when all the Americans who gave up looking for jobs are counted, too.

For the past month, Noel and more than 140,000 Census workers fanned out to create a map of every housing unit in the country, part of what will be the largest peacetime mobilization of civilian workers.

He roamed the spine of the Green Mountains with a handheld GPS unit for several weeks, wandering down dirt roads and chatting with people whose livelihoods are also uncertain. Work was good: The sun was out, the snow was gone and the blackflies hadn’t begun to hatch.

Because of the surge of Census hiring, April unemployment only rose to 8.9 percent — a much slower increase than had been feared. But the latest unemployment figures aren’t likely to get similar help. Thousands like Noel who were among one of the largest segments of the work force — people who have taken part-time jobs because they can’t find full-time work — have returned simply to being unemployed.

Consider the numbers:

_The 8.9 percent April unemployment rate was based on 13.7 million Americans out of work. But that number doesn’t include discouraged workers, or people who gave up looking for work after four weeks. Add those 700,000 people, and the unemployment rate would be 9.3 percent.

_The official rate also doesn’t include “marginally-attached workers,” or people who have looked for work in the past year but stopped searching in the past month because of barriers to employment such as child care, poor health or lack of transportation. Add those 1.4 million people, and the unemployment rate would be 10.1 percent.

_The official rate also doesn’t include “involuntary part-time workers,” or the 2 million people like Noel who took a part-time job because that’s all they could get, plus those whose work hours dropped below the full-time level. Once those 9 million workers are added to the unemployment mix, the rate would be 15.8 percent.

All told, nearly 25 million Americans were either unemployed, underemployed, or had given up looking for a job in April.

The ranks of involuntary part-timers has increased by 4.9 million in the past year, according to a May study by the Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland. Many economists now predict unemployment won’t peak until 2010. And since employers generally increase the hours of existing workers before hiring new ones, workers could be looking for full-time jobs for some time.

“You haven’t seen job loss numbers like this before,” said Heather Boushey, a senior economist at the Center for American Progress in Washington. “It’s been such a sharp dip down that you’ll see a lot of employers taking on temporary and part-time workers before they add employees.”

For tens of thousands of people like Noel, a part-time job isn’t their dream position, but it beats the alternative. A Pennsylvania native and veteran of the Silicon Valley boom-and-bust cycle, Noel settled in southern Vermont in 2003. He’s worked a series of jobs, commuting to his latest position as an auditor for a family-owned food and beverage distributor in Brattleboro before being laid off in early spring.

Vermont is in better shape than most states — but not by much. Real estate and tourism, pillars of the state’s economy over the past decade, are staggering.

Many parents who were frantic last year about sons and daughters serving in Iraq and Afghanistan — the state has sent a disproportionate share of its young people overseas — now are relieved their children have a steady job with benefits. Financial jobs are few. “The economy?” Noel asks between bites of a bison burger in a tiny diner. “You just don’t know if it’s ever going to come back. We may never have it so good again.”

When the Census Bureau offered him a part-time job mapping houses nearly an hour from his Windham home, Noel jumped at it. The money, between $10 and $25 per hour plus 55 cents per mile, was a big factor. But Noel said he also wanted to be part of a larger community effort, and the 2010 Census is nothing if not a large community effort.

When the first numbers are released in December 2010, the Census Bureau will have spent more than $11 billion and hired about 1.2 million temporary employees. The government conducts its Census every decade to determine the number of congressional seats assigned to each state, but the figures collected also help the government decide where to spend billions of dollars for the poor and disabled, where to build new schools and prisons, and how state legislative boundaries should be designed.

It hasn’t been the perfect job — that would be a full-time position with benefits — but Noel says the Census job worked out well. It eased the pain of being unemployed, giving him something to do, and made him realize his entire life doesn’t have to be about financial management.

“It’s just statistics,” said Noel, “but it’s important.”

But last week, he was unemployed again, a victim of the Census Bureau’s efficiency. Since the government was able to draw from a well-qualified but mostly out-of-work pool of applicants, the work done by more than 140,000 field employees went far more quickly than expected.

“We’ve always done well, but this time around was amazing,” said Stephen L. Buckner, a Census Bureau spokesman. “It’s a tough economic time.”

For some temporary workers, the outlook is brighter. Ian Gunn spent five weeks “being paid to hike. It was great.” Gunn, an 18-year-old high school senior heading to Renssalaer Polytechnic Institute next year to study computer science, hopes for a better economy when he graduates, one that offers more security than a series of part-time jobs.

“It’s going to take time,” he said, “but I’ve got four more years.”

Noel, though, is uncertain about the future. It’s possible he’ll be called back to work later in the fall for the final push. The Census Bureau expects to send roughly 1.2 million workers out to count people who don’t return their questionnaires; the hiring will push down unemployment numbers for several months during that period.

For now, Noel says, he and his wife are living without frills. He looks for another job and she runs Green Mountain Chef, a catering business near Stratton Mountain. Demand has slowed dramatically since the economic meltdown began, as it has for most tourism-dependent businesses in Vermont.

Noel hopes to avoid being a statistic for too long. Unemployment insurance will give him about $425 per week — enough to pay the mortgage, and maybe the health insurance bill. Right now, the couple pays about $280 per month, but that will climb to $850 in September, when his government-subsidized COBRA policy expires.

“I hope something comes up,” he says. “But there’s not an awful lot out there.”

In case you missed it…Friday’s NYT Editorial

Monday, May 18th, 2009

Just as MyTwoCensus was reporting live from Washington about the Robert Groves’ confirmation hearing, The New York Times published an unsigned staff editorial titled, “Building a Better Census Bureau.” Here it is:

After years of mismanagement by the Bush administration and months of fumbles by the Obama team, the Census Bureau may be getting back on track for the 2010 count. On Friday, the Senate is scheduled to hold a confirmation hearing for Robert M. Groves, President Obama’s superb nominee to run the bureau.

A University of Michigan sociologist and a leading authority on survey methodology, Mr. Groves served as the bureau’s associate director from 1990 to 1992. With the 2010 census less than a year away — and at high risk of failure — the Senate should quickly confirm this top-notch nominee so he can get to work.

Congress also must do more to revitalize the bureau, which has long suffered from inadequate financing and political meddling and, as a result, weakened leadership.

A bipartisan bill pending in the House would help resolve those problems. It would take the Census Bureau out of the Commerce Department and establish it as an independent agency, akin to NASA or the National Science Foundation. It would also extend the bureau director’s term to five years so that census preparations are not upended by the presidential election cycle.

Seven former bureau directors from both parties have signed a letter in support of the measures. The census is a 10-year project, they noted. But as part of the Commerce Department, it is subject to budget decisions that change annually, resulting in chronic underfunding, especially in the project’s crucial planning phase.

The former directors also asserted that Congressional oversight would be improved if the Census Bureau were independent and could deal directly with Congress. Independence would also put bureau officials in a stronger position to push back against undue meddling by the White House or Congress, such as attempts to politicize hiring decisions or spin scientific data.

The census is vital to democracy — and to American citizens. It is used to decide the number of representatives from each state, draw Congressional districts and allocate federal aid. It and other bureau surveys also supply the underlying data for an array of government statistics on education, crime, health and the economy.

To do its important job well, the Census Bureau needs a strong leader, like Mr. Groves, and it needs to be an independent agency.

Tribute to David Freedman: His views on fixing the Census

Saturday, February 14th, 2009

David Freedman, a highly regarded statistician and probabilist at the University of California at Berkeley passed away last October. He was a “leading skeptic of the view that the Census could be improved by statistical adjustments. In the New York Times Economix blog, Princeton professor Alan B. Krueger pays tribute to Freedman by implying that though he was initially skeptical of Freedman’s opinions, he eventually came to believe that Freedman made valid points with his argument that Census results should not be artificially adjusted.

*Click here to read the New York Times editorial titled “Census Crunch Time” that led to this Economix blog post from Krueger.

Live from New York…

Thursday, February 12th, 2009

America’s favorite Big Apple newspaper has finally weighed in on the concerns by the GOP about how the Census will be conducted. Check out this article that appeared in today’s New York Times (written by the Associated Press).