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’

Feature: Real Stories From The Census Bureau (Group Quarters Validation)

Friday, October 16th, 2009

As the “Group Quarters Validation” phase of the 2010 Census is well underway, we bring you another detailed account from a Census Bureau employee in New York City (Those interested in writing for us should not hesitate to send contributions…details on our contact page) whose anonymity we are protecting:

Group Quarters Validation (GQV) is the next major field operation in the 2010 Census. In GQV field employees known as listers go out to places that were pre-identified as other living quarters (OLQs) during the first phase, address canvassing. They classify these (OLQs) by conducting interviews using a 44-page questionnaire. Based on the interview they are prompted to classify these OLQs as group quarters (nursing homes, religious group living quarters, hospitals, hospices, group homes), transient (hotels, motel, single-room occupancy, campgrounds, marinas). They can also classify OLQs as nonresidential, vacant or even housing units.

The handheld computers have been ditched but the hugest obstacle in this operation is paper. I can’t imagine what it is like in places like Kansas where there is probably one census office for the entire state. But in a metropolitan city such as New York moving this much paper through the public transportation system like subway, bus or even in cars is a logistical nightmare.

You have to be a census employee to really fathom the extent of this problem but I will do my best to try to give you an idea. In Group Quarters Validation the lister’s assignment is contained in an address register. The register has the following:
address listing pages: a listing of all the housing units and OLQs in the entire assignment.
questionaires: one or more 44 page questionnaires used to conduct the interview (called survivor questionnaires)
additional labels with barcodes associated with the building (called nonsurvivor labels)
map pouch with maps of the assignment area and blocks in that assignment

The address listing pages contains the OLQs and every single housing unit on the entire block and print on single sided legal size paper. (We were told that the printers can not be defaulted to double sided printing because the Census would be in violation with contract terms they have with the supplier.) The procedural manuals say that the additional housing units are used to help the lister locate the OLQ. But in New York City the listing of each housing unit in each multi-apartment building make our address listing pages tenfold in size. Some blocks in midtown are so huge that the address listing pages have to be divided into multiple binders.

The Census Bureau doesn’t realize this but paper is a hassle. They have to spend money on paper to print it, clerks to shuffle this paper, couriers to move it into the field and back into the office and additional staff to process, check the handwritten work for quality and transcribe it into a computer.
With a hand held computer a crew leader simply transmitted an assignment to a lister and when it was complete the lister could send it back to be approved. Now we are hiring couriers to move these address registers out into the field and back into the office. We also have a team that runs a night shift to examine this paper. Any paperwork not filled in correctly is run back into the field. I can’t imagine what it is like for places in middle America where they have to drive hours. Luckily for us we can get to most places within an hour.

The questionnaire is another problem. Each questionnaire is 44 pages however the lister only asks several introductory questions and it directs him to complete one of the fifteen tabs in the questionnaire. Each interview uses approximately 5-8 pages of the questionnaire. But with a paper questionnaire the lister has to be very careful to follow the skip pattern, ask the correct questions of the respondent and mark appropriate box. He/she also has to write the correct address status codes on the address listing pages and additional labels. The crew leader checks each questionnaire, each label, and each address listing page.

When each questionnaire arrives back into the office a clerk must simply check the questionnaire’s skip pattern. However since the clerk is not trained in field procedures there is an office review checklist for each questionnaire that is four legal size pages. Each non-survivor label is put on a sheet and information written on the label by the lister is transcribed. Then another clerk uses a final office review checklist that is another four pages to check that all the survivor questionnaires and non survivor labels sheets are accounted for and that they match the address listing pages. We then mail out thousands of 44-page questionnaires and non-survivor labels sheets priority overnight Federal Express to the National Processing Center in Jeffersonville Indiana.
With a handheld computer the program would direct you to follow the correct skip pattern and answer the next question depending on how the respondent answers. Then they wouldn’t have to hire clerks to check the skip pattern of each questionnaire and transcribe non survivor labels to label pages. Simply put every piece of paper needs to be accounted for and the task can be daunting. We had staff resign because the older employees simply said that they couldn’t carry these address registers for an entire crew of listers which sometimes are up to fifty pounds. Understandable after all even the young guys in our office have to go out in pairs sometimes to pick up or deliver address registers.

Even time sheets are now paper. Each employee fills out a time sheet for each day worked. He/she gets the a carbon copy and the original goes to payroll.

So between the paper in the address listing pages, the 44 page survivor questionnaires, non-survivor label sheets for the field staff and the checklists the office staff have to run through on each questionnaire, non-survivor label pages and address register in the office you can see the decennial census not only destroys the rain forest, $14 billion can add up pretty darn quickly.

Feature: Real Stories From The Census Bureau

Monday, October 5th, 2009

It’s been a while since we’ve received contributions from real Census Bureau field workers (who obviously need to have their anonymity kept in tact), but as the “Group Quarters Validation” phase of the 2010 Census started last week, our inbox has been overflowing. Those interested in writing for us should not hesitate to send us contributions (details on our contact page). So, here we bring you an account from a Census Bureau employee in New York City:

I worked in the New York City area as a lister during address canvassing and was disappointed with how the operation was conducted. One of my colleagues pointed me to this website some time ago and I felt compelled to share my story. We had alot of the technology glitches in the hand held computers that are widely know by now which included:

* software issues such the program freezes

* transmission problems such as the Sprint cellular network being down and missing assignments and map spots

* hardware issues such as the fingerprint swipe not working

But New York City has its own problems and is a completely different beast in itself. New York City is the most densely populated city in the United States and each neighborhood has its own unique character. The Census Bureau tries to monitor productivity but the very nature of the city makes it very hard to monitor. Since all the units of multi unit apartment buildings are listed separately a lister has to key in every entry. Comparing someone who has an assignment with high rise apartment buildings versus someone who has single family homes is like comparing apples with oranges.

During address canvassing we were instructed to find someone who was knowledgeable about where people live or could live. But locating a knowledgeable respondent was easier said than done. There are small tenement buildings in Chinatown and Harlem brownstones; where there are illegal subdivisions. It is very difficult to gain entry or make contact even if you speak the language. There are also a lot of abandoned construction sites where developers tried to take advantage of the real estate boom after September 11th but found themselves out of money in the current recession.

Luckily for the Census Bureau, the current recession produced a talented pool of very intelligent and highly educated workers. My crew leader was knowledgable and a great leader. From the very beginning he was committed to doing things right. He said that he was continuously told a proper address canvassing operation would be the cornerstone of a successful enumeration. He was thorough and all the work was quality checked by one of the other listers or his assistant. When we couldn’t gain access to a building, he encouraged us to try again and gave us additional work to keep us productive. In the end we had all these partially complete assignments where we had one or buildings we either couldn’t get into or make contact with anyone. However the office was less than empathetic to our thoroughness. Our crew leader told us that Assistant Manager of Field Operations,field operations supervisors (FOS) and crew leaders in other districts would belittle those who were behind. They would constantly say things like ”John’s district is 40% complete why aren’t you 40% complete?” We were told that if we couldn’t gain access to a building after two visits we had to accept what was in the HHC as correct. Many of us were tempted to falsify work and accept what was in the HHC as correct but my crew leader and FOS were adamant about not doing that. One of the other listers found an entire building with over 200 single illegally divided rooms. The HHC had less than 10 units listed in it. If they accepted was in the HHC as true they would of missed over 200 housing units.

At the beginning of the fouth week, my crew leader and several others were written up for being unproductive because they weren’t working fast enough to complete their assignments. They asked the Field Operations Supervisor to approve the writeups. One of the Field Operations Supervisors refused to sign the writeups and they wrote him up also for being insubordinate.

During address canvassing we were to document any additions, or deletes to the address list on an INFO-COMM which is a carbon copy paper. They said that they were hiring clerks to reconcile INFO-COMMs between the production and quality control. The sheer volume of having to go through 2000 pieces of paper is mind boggling. Originally, the plan was to use the INFO-COMMs to help the quality control listers, but they wanted to keep the operation independent so quality control wrote an additional INFO-COMM. All told we wrote out over 2000 INFO-COMMs.

The handheld computer also had glitches. They switched crew leaders in districts that weren’t working fast enough and sometimes just reassigned work. When listers saw their timesheets weren’t approved they submitted additional timesheets electronically. The new crew leader approved it and then they accused these listers of intentionally trying to milk the government clock. They accused half of an entire crew of listers of clocking overtime.

Nonetheless with all the problems most of the listers worked quickly and breezed through their assignments. By the end of the first week we were about 25% done but they decided to train another 100 listers, by the end of the second week we were halfway done and some crews were almost done but they trained another group of listers. Some of these listers were trained and received no field work because there was none. All told we trained over 100 listers who received less days of work than the four and half days worth of training they received.

The thing to realize is that this was a poorly planned operation from the very beginning. The Census Bureau will waste money for government contracts on hand held computers that are shoddy and unreliable and training staff for which there is no work. But they will try to cut corners when it comes to their mission of counting each person accurately. In order to try to save money and finish ahead of other regions they used intimidation and the threatening of employees. I’m glad that Field Operations Supervisor stood up to the higher ups because like my crew leader said to me…they’re just of bullies.

When the address canvassing operation finished up it was alleged that some of the crew leaders and field operations supervisors told their listers since there was no regard to quality that they could skip making contact even going as far as not conducting field work and enter the units at home. There is no way that listers who were reassigned work magically gained access to buildings people couldn’t access for weeks unless they accepted what was in the HHC as true. The crew leaders and field supervisors who finished first were rewarded with additional work. Those who finished last were sometimes “written up” as unproductive and the office terminated their employment.

Luckily this story has a happy ending. My crew leader didn’t fire any of us for clocking overtime. What they found was that the payroll system was mistakenly rewarding people overtime if they worked over eight hours during a work day even though they were below forty hours in a week. Someone was able to view the timesheet submissions in the office and prove all these listers weren’t clocking overtime. It was rumored that someone who discovered this was the same FOS who refused to sign the writeups.

As for thousands of INFO-COMMs they are sitting in the office file cabinets gathering dust maybe someday someone will go through them. I highly doubt it given the sheer magnitude. I think my crew leader was incredible. And from what I heard from some of the listers that met him their Field Operations Supervisor was even better. I never got the chance to see him but I am honored to have worked with someone who is willing to jeopardize his job for what was morally right. I am surprised I received a phone call the other day to work in the next operation Group Quarters Validation. But I’m pretty sure that my crew leader or FOS won’t be returning anytime soon.

Our Unconstitutional Census

Monday, August 10th, 2009

Here is an excerpt from a very interesting op-ed that was published in today’s Wall Street Journal (For the entire article, CLICK HERE):

California could get nine House seats it doesn’t deserve because illegal aliens will be counted in 2010.

By JOHN S. BAKER AND ELLIOTT STONECIPHER

Mr. Baker teaches constitutional law at Louisiana State University. Mr. Stonecipher is a Louisiana pollster and demographic analyst.

Next year’s census will determine the apportionment of House members and Electoral College votes for each state. To accomplish these vital constitutional purposes, the enumeration should count only citizens and persons who are legal, permanent residents. But it won’t.

Instead, the U.S. Census Bureau is set to count all persons physically present in the country—including large numbers who are here illegally. The result will unconstitutionally increase the number of representatives in some states and deprive some other states of their rightful political representation. Citizens of “loser” states should be outraged. Yet few are even aware of what’s going on.

In 1790, the first Census Act provided that the enumeration of that year would count “inhabitants” and “distinguish” various subgroups by age, sex, status as free persons, etc. Inhabitant was a term with a well-defined meaning that encompassed, as the Oxford English Dictionary expressed it, one who “is a bona fide member of a State, subject to all the requisitions of its laws, and entitled to all the privileges which they confer.”

Thus early census questionnaires generally asked a question that got at the issue of citizenship or permanent resident status, e.g., “what state or foreign country were you born in?” or whether an individual who said he was foreign-born was naturalized. Over the years, however, Congress and the Census Bureau have added inquiries that have little or nothing to do with census’s constitutional purpose.

By 1980 there were two census forms. The shorter form went to every person physically present in the country and was used to establish congressional apportionment. It had no question pertaining to an individual’s citizenship or legal status as a resident. The longer form gathered various kinds of socioeconomic information including citizenship status, but it went only to a sample of U.S. households. That pattern was repeated for the 1990 and 2000 censuses.

The 2010 census will use only the short form. The long form has been replaced by the Census Bureau’s ongoing American Community Survey. Dr. Elizabeth Grieco, chief of the Census Bureau’s Immigration Statistics Staff, told us in a recent interview that the 2010 census short form does not ask about citizenship because “Congress has not asked us to do that.”

Because the census (since at least 1980) has not distinguished citizens and permanent, legal residents from individuals here illegally, the basis for apportionment of House seats has been skewed. According to the Census Bureau’s latest American Community Survey data (2007), states with a significant net gain in population by inclusion of noncitizens include Arizona, California, Florida, Illinois, Nevada, New Jersey, New York and Texas. (There are tiny net gains for Hawaii and Massachusetts.)

This makes a real difference. Here’s why:

According to the latest American Community Survey, California has 5,622,422 noncitizens in its population of 36,264,467. Based on our round-number projection of a decade-end population in that state of 37,000,000 (including 5,750,000 noncitizens), California would have 57 members in the newly reapportioned U.S. House of Representatives.

However, with noncitizens not included for purposes of reapportionment, California would have 48 House seats (based on an estimated 308 million total population in 2010 with 283 million citizens, or 650,000 citizens per House seat). Using a similar projection, Texas would have 38 House members with noncitizens included. With only citizens counted, it would be entitled to 34 members.

For Folks In The New York Tri-State Area…

Friday, July 10th, 2009

This Sunday at 11:30am

The Great Latino Census
Boycott Debate!

Rev. Miguel Rivera (Pro)
versus
Angelo Falcón (Con)
on
ABC TV’s Tiempo Show
Hosted by
ABC Eyewitness News Reporter
Joe Torres

Sunday, July 12, 2009

11:3oam


Also on the Show
Meet the New President of
Hostos Community College

Felix V. Matos Rodriguez, Ph.D.

Tiempo Logo

Tiempo on WABC-TV New York
Sundays at 11am

King no longer?

Tuesday, June 2nd, 2009

Peter King, a long-time GOP Congressman from Long Island, New York, is now the target of Democrats’ redistricting efforts that will take effect in 2012 after the results of the 2010 Census is complete. The New York Post’s Elizabeth Benjamin reports on the story:

Democrats eyeing Peter King’s district for possible 2012 gains

Monday, June 1st 2009, 4:00 AM

Democrats have Pete King in the cross hairs.

National and state party officials are plotting to weaken King, one of New York‘s three remaining Republican congressmen, by redrawing the lines of his Long Island district.

The next round of redistricting, in which the congressional lines will be reconfigured based on the 2010 census results, is more than two years away.

Still, Democrats are planning an overhaul of King’s district in hopes of making him easier to beat in 2012.

Democrats have tried unsuccessfully to get rid of King for years.

The outspoken conservative, who was first elected to the House in 1992, has emerged as one of the most visible – and viable – members of the beleaguered state GOP and is often touted as a potential statewide contender.

A source close to Senate Majority Leader Malcolm Smith confirmed “serious discussions” between Democrats in New York and Washington are underway about King’s district.

“It’s an obvious choice because of the population of the area,” he said.

Long Island was once a Republican stronghold, but it has been trending Democratic since the last census.

The GOP still has a 46,072-voter enrollment edge in King’s 3rd Congressional District, which includes parts of Nassau and Suffolk counties.

The number of Democrats has grown faster since the last redistricting, with 16,843 voters added to their ranks since 2001, compared with the Republicans’ 1,336.

King isn’t concerned about being on the Democratic hit list.

“This is dream talk,” he said. “It’s three years from now. I don’t know if I’ll even be alive.”

King, 65, has at times flirted with seeking a statewide office. He ran unsuccessfully for attorney general in 1986 and has been mentioned as a possible candidate for governor or even U.S. senator.

King said he had been “99% sure” to challenge Caroline Kennedy had Gov. Paterson picked her and not former Rep. Kirsten Gillibrand to fill Hillary Clinton‘s old Senate seat.

He said he’ll make a decision by Labor Day, but sounds all but certain to seek reelection for his House seat.

New York’s upstate population loss has caused the state to grow more slowly compared with other states.

As a result, it has consistently lost House seats and is poised to lose at least one, and possibly two, in the next redistricting.

The Democrats‘ ability to control redistricting hinges on whether they hold onto the Senate majority next fall.

New York’s House members are increasingly worried that Paterson, with his historically low poll numbers, will drag down the 2010 ticket, returning the state Senate to the GOP.

“If this was 2014, [Paterson] would be able to ride it out,” a congressional source said. “But never underestimate the power of self-interest of members of Congress with redistricting looming.”

Update on the “Caribbean” category on the 2010 Census form

Tuesday, May 19th, 2009

This just came into our inbox:

cid:image001.png@01C9D887.139EAB40

CONGRESSWOMAN YVETTE D. CLARKE

REPRESENTING NEW YORK’S 11th CONGRESSIONAL DISTRICT

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

May 19, 2009

Contact: Ronnie Sykes: 347.213.1533

Rep. Clarke’s Caribbean Count Bill Garners Support from New York Senators

Checkbox would better represent diversity, encourage higher census participation in the Caribbean community, and help to achieve a more accurate count in the 2010 Census

Washington, DC— Today, Senators Charles Schumer and Kristin Gillibrand proposed a Companion Bill to Rep. Yvette D. Clarke’s Caribbean Count Bill (H.R. 2071), an historic bill that calls for Caribbean nationals to have their own origins check box on the U.S. Census form.  The Bill requires that all questionnaires used in the taking of any decennial census of the U.S. population, to include a checkbox or a similar option be included so that respondents may indicate Caribbean extraction or descent.

“I want to commend Senators Gillibrand and Schumer for demonstrating great leadership by introducing the Senate companion to HR 2071: Caribbean Count Bill,” said Rep. Yvette D. Clarke.   “Census Day is less than a year away, and it is imperative that every household participate in order to ensure an accurate count.  Data generated by the Census is used to help equitably distribute federal funding from a wide range of government sources. A higher response rate from the Caribbean immigrant community would help ensure that more public resources are available to all New Yorkers.”

Clarke continued, “the bill does not call for an additional race category, but rather a self-identifying ancestry category/national origin in order to get a more accurate count of people of Caribbean descent living in the United States.”

“New York City is one of the most diverse cities in the world and must be fully represented in the census,” Schumer said. “Including this checkbox would surely provide better representation of our great city and its Caribbean American population. New Yorkers of Caribbean descents are an essential part of the New York City population and they deserve to be accurately counted.”

“It’s time to make sure all New Yorkers are counted fairly and accurately in the census,” Senator Gillibrand said. “New York’s Caribbean community contributes so much to our economy, our diverse culture and the way of the life that makes New York the great state it is. By failing to recognize Caribbean families in our census data, we are failing to obtain a true picture of the people, families and communities that make up New York and all of America. It’s time to make this important change.”

The Companion bill proposed by Schumer and Gillibrand states that in conducting the 2010 decennial census and every decennial census thereafter, the Secretary of Commerce shall include, in any questionnaire distributed or otherwise used for the purpose of determining the total population by states, a checkbox or other similar option by which respondents may indicate Caribbean extraction or descent.

###

H.R. 2071- Caribbean Count Bill

This bill requires that a checkbox or other similar option be included so that respondents may indicate Caribbean extraction or descent in the questionnaires used in the taking of any decennial census of population.

This bill is important to the District because:

· It draws attention to the significance of the 2010 U.S. census to the Caribbean community, which because of cultural sensitivities and other factors can sometimes be reluctant to complete the forms.

· Census Day is less than a year away, and it is imperative that every household participate in order to ensure an accurate count.

· Today, data generated by the census is used not only to determine voter representation, but also to help equitably distribute federal funding from a wide range of government programs.

· Census data is an invaluable resource to private industry, helping businesses make sensible decisions about how and where to expand their capital.  An accurate count of the Caribbean community will highlight their purchasing power and economic impact both in the U.S. and global markets.

Long & Boring Video: New York State Senate Census Meeting

Thursday, May 7th, 2009

Notes on a Scandal Part 1: The Curious Case of Antonio Sanchez…

Wednesday, May 6th, 2009

Earlier this week, we received a tip from an anonymous Census Bureau employee in Westchester, New York. The employee informed us that on May 1 at 8:59am, he/she and dozens of his/her fellow field workers received a text message sent to their HHCs (handheld computers) that started with the line, “Please remember to drive safely…” and ended on “with great sadness we regret to inform you that two enumerators have been killed in fatal car accidents.”

Now, this text message is problematic on many levels. First, after searching through thousands of news articles, we have been unable to uncover any information about Census Bureau employees perishing in recent accidents. When we inquired with the Census Bureau, they also said that they were unaware of any accidents. If there were accidents, why haven’t they been reported? And if there have not been accidents, why are Census Bureau employees using scare tactics and lying to field workers?

MyTwoCensus successfully contacted the person who sent out the text message in question,  Antonio Sanchez, who serves as an Assistant Manager of Technology in the Westchester County  office of the Census Bureau.  However, since Census Bureau employees are not permitted to speak to the media (can you say “violation of the first amendment?”) Sanchez told us that he couldn’t discuss anything and that we should call Washington if we had any questions…

So that’s just what we did, and we’re waiting to hear back from Census Bureau HQ Washington on this issue…

Presumably, as a technology expert, Sanchez was directed by a superior to send out this message, so we don’t blame him for disseminating the information. However, until we get to the bottom of this most peculiar and disturbing incident, our investigation is still wide open.

New York, New York, it’s a helluva town

Friday, April 17th, 2009

When most people think of New Yorkers, they think of people who are always busy, rushing quickly from one place to the next. It seems that such preoccupations prevented a significant number of New Yorkers from completing the 2000 Census. NYC officials recently stated, “Only 55% of residents responded during the 2000 Census, far below the national average of 67%.”

The Queens Tribune reports, “Officials said that the five boroughs were home to the nation’s highest percentage of hard-to-count residents – immigrants and illegal immigrants paramount among them. Queens is home to the City’s largest immigrant population, with approximately 1 million legal immigrants alone.”

When many people discuss illegal immigration, they presume that it is relegated to border states like Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, and California. However, as the Pew Hispanic Center reported earlier this week, in addition to Texas and California, New York and Florida have the greatest number of illegal immigrants. In a city that has America’s highest population density, the New York City branch of the Census Bureau has a difficult road ahead.