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 ‘proxy’

Orlando workers walk off the job

Saturday, July 31st, 2010

The Orlando Sentinel brings us the following story:

3 census workers quit, citing waste and inefficiency

Census complaintFormer census worker Andy Miller, who quit over procedures he considered wasteful and illogical, in front of the Volusia County office of the U.S. Census Bureau –with his complaint papers in hand– in Daytona Beach, Tuesday, July 27, 2010. (JOE BURBANK, ORLANDO SENTINEL / July 27, 2010)

By Jeff Kunerth, Orlando Sentinel7:39 p.m. EDT, July 29, 2010

As the 2010 census winds down, three Volusia County census takers couldn’t wait for the latest phase of the headcount to end. They walked off the job three days after they started, adding to the complaints that the effort is wasteful, inefficient and frustrating.

Andy Miller, 54, of Daytona Beach said he quit after being told by his supervisor to return three times to a vacant house that he verified with a real-estate agent had been empty for more than six months.

“It was clear to me the Realtor had the information, but I was told, ‘No, go back. You might find someone who was living there that the Realtor didn’t know about,’” Miller said.

The same instructions — go back three more times — applied to an apartment above a store; the owner said the apartment was used for storage and was unoccupied. Miller also was told to go back another three times to a home where a relative of the homeowner provided all the information by proxy.

“If you get the person who lived there, you don’t have to go back. But if you get a proxy, you had to go back,” Miller said.

A Census Bureau spokeswoman said the check-back-three-times routine is standard procedure to make sure the census takers get the best information possible.

“That is the policy we expect people to follow,” said Pamela Page-Bellis. “We don’t want people to take the easy way out. They are to gather the most accurate information possible.”

Miller was told the same thing by his supervisor when he appealed what he considered absurd and illogical instructions. That was when Miller and two others in an eight-person crew walked out July 10 — three days into their summer job of checking for vacant houses and addresses that should be deleted.

Jeanne Tanke said she walked out with Miller because she was frustrated with the policy of going back to a vacant apartment or condo three times before being permitted to talk to the building manager about whether anyone was living in the units. In some cases, the same addresses had been visited three times by the door-to-door enumerators in the previous phase of the census.

“It didn’t seem logical to me that we kept knocking on the door when nobody answers, but we can’t ask the manager until we’ve been there three times,” said Tanke, 71.

The third person who quit said he objected in particular to having to go back three times to empty houses that are verifiably empty.

“It’s just inefficiency. That’s all it is,” said the 68-year-old retired sales manager who didn’t want his name used for fear it would jeopardize any future employment by the government.

All three former census takers worked during the manpower-intensive, door-to-door part of the census that ended in May. Thousands of enumerators were laid off, but they were among those chosen to continue in the slimmed-down follow-up efforts that started June 28 and are scheduled for completion by Aug. 25.

What the Census Bureau defends as being as thorough and accurate as possible, Miller and the others regard as a system designed to take as much time as possible. The attitude of managers, they said, was that the three-visit rule was a good way to make the job last longer.

“They alluded to this can take three days or three weeks. It’s up to us,” said the retired sales manager. “I don’t feel right about padding hours.”

Pew Research Center: 22% of NRFU based on proxy interviews is bad news for accuracy

Friday, July 16th, 2010

Despite yesterday’s claims by Robert M. Groves that the 2010 Census is accurate and trustworthy, the fact that 22% of NRFU interviews were done by proxies is scary. D’Vera Cohn writes the following:

As the 2010 Census information-gathering phase winds down and the Census Bureau turns to quality-checking and data-processing, Director Robert Groves offered some statistics at a recent operational briefing to assess how the national count has gone thus far. One indicator, the quality of the address list, appears to have improved since the 2000 Census. Another, the share of proxy interviews, has worsened.

The foundation of a good census is having a complete list of addresses because Americans are counted at their homes or the other places they are living. The quality of the address list is important in aiding census-takers who head out on follow-up visits to people who did not return their mailed-out questionnaires.

During the recent non-response follow-up operation, Groves said, census-takers found fewer non-existent addresses on their rounds in 2010 than their counterparts had in 2000. In 2000, 6 million non-existent addresses were deleted from the list because census-takers could not find them. In 2010, 4.1 million were deleted. During follow-up visits, census-takers also are supposed to look for addresses that are not on the official list, so they can be added. In 2010, Groves said, “we had fewer adds proportionately” compared with 2000, although he said this is not as much of a “hard quality indicator” because it could mean that census-takers did not follow procedures for including new addresses.

On another quality measure, Groves said census-takers who were trying to collect information at addresses from which census forms were not received had to rely more heavily on neighbors and building managers than was the case during the 2000 Census. In 2000, about 17% of follow-up interviews were from proxies, not from the householders themselves, compared with 22% in 2010. This is of concern because proxy data traditionally has been less accurate than information that people provide about themselves. Groves said “this fits the expectation we had with regard to the cooperation of the American public.” Some people were never home during repeated visits by census-takers; others refused to provide information about themselves.

Citizen Journalists: Census Bureau employees completing forms at fast food locales when residents are not around

Monday, June 14th, 2010

Examiner.com, a citizen journalism site that I wrote a couple of pieces for about the 2010 Census, published the following story from Houston. Is this going on elsewhere too? Thanks to Stephen Dean in Houston for the following:

While stopping in for a quick sandwich, people are seeing what they call suspicious behavior by US Census Bureau ‘enumerators’ throughout the Houston area.
Workers are opening up personal census questionnaires and then filling in box after box, sometimes seeming to fill in every entry on some forms.   Other times, the workers are seen opening up the forms and erasing entries and then marking in new entries.
In one northwest Houston fast food restaurant, a security guard who was on his lunch break spotted what looked like a group of census workers feverishly filling in other people’s forms so he confronted them.   He also called an investigative reporting team.
The man said it didn’t seem right that these door-to-door census workers would be filling in personal questionnaires without the citizens being present.  He said it defeats the entire purpose of having enumerators going door to door to get an accurate count.
When he confronted the workers off the West Sam Houston Tollway (Beltway 8) at Victory, he said one worker answered that census workers had to finish filling in the forms because citizens weren’t doing it.
But the security guard, who asked that his name not be divulged, said it seemed as though as many as a dozen of the Census workers had gathered in that restaurant to fill in forms so that they could shorten their workday by making fewer actual door to door trips.
He said he felt the 2010 Census would be inaccurate if workers are handed a stack of addresses to visit and they instead filled out the forms themselves without ever knocking on the doors.
The man wondered if it was happening elsewhere.
Sure enough, a woman in The Woodlands notified the investigative reporting team on the KPRC Local 2 Facebook page that she saw the exact same thing happening near her home, and what she overheard was troubling to her.
The woman wrote in her Facebook message,
These census workers were talking about a coworker who was making up information about the people they were trying to contact rather than actually doing the job to accurately document the information.”
She wrote that it seemed like these workers, at the Whataburger on Sawdust near I-45 in The Woodlands, had no plans on turning the person in.  They just seemed to be lamenting the fact that they were working with a deadbeat.
For that witness as well, it raises flags about the accuracy of the 2010 Census.   She wrote,
I use the census from years ago to help me with my genealogy research.  Overhearing that conversation did not make me happy to know that the information might not be accurate.”
The investigative team sent hidden camera crews into both restaurants and found the groups of census workers, sitting in the exact places that the tipsters described.
On the westside, hidden cameras were rolling as 8 different workers arrived in separate cars and started spreading out personal census forms on the tables. (more…)

What is the legality of Census Bureau employees contacting real estate agents?

Saturday, June 12th, 2010

Here’s an article that discusses this matter.