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 ‘partnerships’

Protectionism 101: Congressman probes why 2010 Census swag is made outside the US

Monday, May 10th, 2010

Though I’ve written about waste for some time on this site, only in recent weeks has my attention turned to 2010 Census swag, particularly because I learned that it has been wasted in large quantities. Now,  Massachusetts Congressman Stephen Lynch, a Democrats, want to investigate why so many 2010 Census promotional materials weren’t made in the US of A. Here’s the scoop from the Boston Herald:

An outraged Massachusetts lawmaker is calling for a congressional probe of the federal government’s purchase of foreign-made census propaganda with taxpayer cash, the Herald has learned.

U.S. Rep. Stephen Lynch (D-S. Boston) is requesting an investigation into the spending by the U.S. Census Bureau on the heels of a Herald report revealing that census swag including hats, T-shirts, toys and other trinkets were made in China and Honduras.

“It is deeply troubling that with 10 percent unemployment the U.S. Census Department, whose central responsibility is to locate Americans, could not locate an American company to provide its hats and T-shirts,” Lynch said. “This does not inspire confidence. We have contacted the Subcommittee on the Census and have asked them to investigate.”

The Herald reported yesterday that boxes of census promotional materials distrubuted in Boston were made overseas.

Census officials said that $42 million was spent on 67 million promotional items as part of a $1 billion ad blitz. A Census spokeswoman said the bureau bought the items from 2,300 American companies. She conceded that some of the companies may have bought materials from overseas companies.

Census officials said assembly, embroidery, stitching, silk screening and other craft work was done in America and that all payments were made to U.S. companies.

The flap has infuriated labor union officials, who blasted the federal government for not doing more to ensure that products paid for with American tax dollars were made in the United States.

The census promotional goods were part of a massive effort to encourage citizens to fill out their 2010 census forms. Much of the promotional material was shipped to local government buildings for distribution to volunteers and part-time workers.

As of last Monday, more than 72 percent of Americans had participated in the census by mail, matching the rate from the last census in 2000.

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

Wednesday, May 5th, 2010

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It did not sit well with him.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The U.S. Census has faced criticism before.

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

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

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

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

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

Census shirts for sale create a situation that makes fraud all too easy…

Sunday, May 2nd, 2010

H/t to KING5.com who provided us with the first glimpse of a story that we will likely encounter at many other places in coming months. For more than a year now, MyTwoCensus has been concerned that the dinky canvass tote bags and non-photo IDs of Census Bureau employees do not serve as proper identification of government employees:

by OWEN LEI / KING 5 News

KING5.com

Posted on April 30, 2010 at 11:15 PM

SHORELINE, Wash. — Thousand of U.S. Census workers will be hitting the streets starting May 1, and they’ll have a few identifying characteristics — a Department of Commerce badge and a Census messenger bag.

What they will not be wearing, for the most part, are U.S. Census T-shirts.

But Sue Mills and Laurie Sorenson were still concerned when they saw a bunch on sale for $1.99 at the Goodwill store in Shoreline.

“Laurie saw the shirts hanging on the rack, and we took a look and said, ‘Well, these shirts really should not be here,’” said Mills.

But there they were, red Census 2010 polo shirts, the label on the front, the multi-colored hand logo on back. The two found eight shirts, and ended up buying all of them for fear that “anyone could buy one and do with them what they wanted,” said Sorenson.

Or, more specifically, that anyone wearing those shirts could look official enough to gain your trust, maybe more.

“They could ask your name, your social security number, your phone number,” Mills said.

“Potentially, your personal information getting into the wrong hands,” added Sorenson.

A U.S. Census Bureau spokeswoman said there is no official “uniform” for census takers – rather, they are encouraged to wear comfortable clothing that will help them as they walk long distances. However, some may choose to wear Census paraphernalia.

The best way to identify an official Census worker, they said, is to look for the government-issued I.D. badge, which will have the local Census office phone number, and a messenger bag.

Any residents suspicious of the person at their door are encouraged to call the local office to verify the Census taker’s identity. A Census taker also will never ask to enter a home, nor ask any questions beyond what is on the official survey, said the bureau.

Sue and Laurie said they’re worried not everyone will know that and will take the shirts at face value.

“I don’t know where they came from, where else could they be? They could be in thrift stores all over the country,” said Mills.

KING 5 stopped by the Shoreline Goodwill and found 20 more of the printed Census shirts, as well as some Census 2010 travel bags.

But when notified, employees immediately took the items off the shelves, while a manager said she’ll send an e-mail to all the other Goodwills in the area with a picture of the shirts.

As for where the shirts came from, a Census spokesperson said they were likely promotional items shared with a local partner agency, probably left over from a marketing event, and donated with good intentions.

Belated Earth Day Special: The Census Bureau Waste Continues (with hard evidence attached)

Wednesday, April 28th, 2010

Last week, I planned to publish this piece, but the data from a New York area census office didn’t come in until yesterday…Check it out:

Here’s the hard evidence:

10-02 DISPOSITION OF 2010 GQAV MATERIALS (1)

10-10 DISPOSITION OF 2010 QAC MATERIALS

It seems like the Census didn’t know April 22nd was Earth Day. In honor of it the printers ran non stop from morning to midnight in 494 offices across the nation printing out all the address listing pages and assignment preparation for Non Response Followup.

Cost to print NRFU Address Listing Pages of every housing unit in the United States single sided and then ship it to the National Processing Center Fed Ex Priority Overnight

Cost to print out hundreds upon thousands of maps single sided only to not even be looked at

Cost to print all the training materials on high quality printer quality paper

Cost to print all the glossy recruiting brochures, partnership posters only for them to be unopened and thrown out by the palette like this everyday (see pictures below)

–  Some food for thought. These boxes are filled with 500 brochures a piece and has been happening everyday for months and in all 494 offices everyday –

Cost to print all the Be Counted Questionnaires which were all taken back from the Be Counted and Questionnaire Assistance Centers to be thrown away even though New York City wanted to extend the program by 30 days and some to count the estimated 500,000 illegal immigrants.(see attached disposal list)

Cost to print all the GQV Questionnaires which we still have two palettes left. (see attached disposal list) And that is just one of the forms on the attached list to throw out…Here we go:

10-02 DISPOSITION OF 2010 GQAV MATERIALS (1)

10-10 DISPOSITION OF 2010 QAC MATERIALS

Photos of materials on their way to be destroyed/recycled:



Can someone send me a “Partnership Specialist” handbook?

Sunday, March 21st, 2010

I would really love to know if the Census Bureau tells its “partnership specialists” to proclaim every 2010 Census an event a success, even if it is actually a colossal failure. From reading recent articles about poor turnouts at Census Bureau events that are called “successes” by staff members, this seems like a probably strategy. I hope that there’s a reader out there who can clarify this information for me. Many thanks in advance. – SRM

Census could shape corporate strategy

Friday, January 8th, 2010

Besides states seeking funding and representation in Congress and workers seeking temporary employment, another group stands to benefit from the 2010 Census: corporations.

The Economist reports that businesses plan to use census data to help them make decisions about where to open stores and what to stock. Target, for example, tells the magazine that it began offering more Spanish-language children’s books and hair products for African Americans after seeing data from the 2000 Census.

And due to the economy, more firms than ever are expected to utilize census data:

According to Zain Raj, the boss of Euro RSCG Discovery, a marketing firm, even more companies than normal will be poring over the census this year. The recession has made them reluctant to expand without good market data, he argues, yet it has also caused them to cut back on research, making the free census data all the more vital.

And some experts predict that this year’s data will lead more companies to push micro-targeted ad campaigns:

Peter Francese, a demographer at Ogilvy & Mather, an advertising agency, thinks the 2010 census will permanently change marketing. When companies analyse the census data, they will see that cities, and even some neighbourhoods, are so diverse now that broad advertising campaigns are no longer suitable. Mass-market advertising, he says, will become “extinct”. Marketers will instead have to focus on reaching specific households—just as the Census Bureau is preparing to do.

The Census Bureau has about 47,000 corporate partners that are helping to market the census, more than double the number in 2000, according to the Economist. It’s clear that the businesses, too, have a stake in the data.