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 ‘Quality Control’

After two weeks without blogging…Robert M. Groves is back

Wednesday, June 9th, 2010

Census Bureau Director Dr. Robert M. Groves hasn’t been blogging for two weeks. We suspect that this is to avoid all of the problems that have consistently come up surrounding the 2010 Census. You would think that he would use his blog to debunk criticism, but since he hasn’t we will have to assume that there is a significant amount of truth in what has been reported on MyTwoCensus.com. However, yesterday Dr. Groves (or a PR lackey on his behalf) posted again:

We’ve finished the fifth week of the Nonresponse Followup stage of the 2010 Census.

The completion of interviews in this phase is proceeding roughly on schedule. As of Sunday, we completed over 84% of the entire workload.

Some local census offices, those with smaller than expected workloads are entering the final phases of their nonresponse followup workload.

We are now engaged in a variety of quality control procedures. We redo a portion of each enumerator’s work, to gain some assurance that our data quality standards are being maintained. Then we will launch an operation that verifies that cases that the enumerator has recorded as vacant on April 1, were correctly categorized. I’ll say more about our quality assurance procedures in another entry.

Investigative Series: Spotlight on Harris Corp. (Part 3)

Thursday, May 21st, 2009

Here is a first-person account (written by a highly qualified Census Bureau employee who has requested anonymity) submitted to us about the Harris Corp’s handheld computers that have been used in the field by the Census Bureau’s address canvassers during the first stage of 2010 Census operations:

I’d say the biggest bug in the handhelds was due to the government trying to assure privacy. They had the handhelds set up to hide information from us after we entered it. So after declaring a street or an area “done,” the computer hid that information so we couldn’t go back to check, or to compare or verify our work. (So, we learned to avoid marking things “done” until we were absolutely sure we wouldn’t need to check back.)

The handhelds provided an advantage, in that they served to level the information-recording playing field amongst the canvassers. When the GPS was working (which was 99% of the time for me, the only time I had a bad signal was in a very wooded area), it made it quite easy to “map-spot” all the residences, and those spots will be used by USPS workers when delivering the census. Remember that in addition to the easy, obvious residences, there are plenty of residences that aren’t so evident. Cabins at the end of dirt roads, where people live there but have no mailboxes in favor of a PO Box. Trailers parked in driveways with separate families renting space. Rental apartments in the back-rooms of businesses or the basements of libraries. Our handhelds let us map all those places, and made it possible for everyone’s map-spotting to be equivalent. If we had been doing pencil-and-paper mapping, each canvasser’s information would have been different, because each would just be guessing where on the map each house was. Since we all had the same GPS technology, we’re guaranteed to be mapping residences at the same quality level. Also, by using the GPS/handheld technology, we probably cut our work time down by 3/4.

So I definitely think adding the handhelds was a good idea, it’s just too bad they implemented it poorly via a custom-contractor.

Confidential Memo Leaked To Us: Beware of the Inspector General

Wednesday, May 6th, 2009

The following memo was leaked to us by a Census Bureau employee who has requested anonymity, so we crossed out all identifying information. We particularly love the line “Don’t be a chatterbox.” We haven’t witnessed a pep talk written with as much vigor as this one since last season’s finale of Friday Night Lights…

We’re waiting for an update to see if anyone got canned as a result of the Inspector General’s visit to this office, but for now, here’s the dirt:

From: XXXXXXXXXXX@census.gov
Sent: XXXXXXXXXXXXXXX
To: XXXXXXXXX@census.gov
Subject: RE: The Inspector General – - Some Things to Inspect

Hello team,

As you all know by now, the Inspector General will be visiting your office Monday morning for an entire week. They are to observe the office and may ask to receive general reports to review. Please be courteous to them. They are in no way to obstruct Address Canvassing activities for any reason. If you are not sure how to handle a particular situation in dealing with the IG, please talk to XXXXXXXX or myself before committing yourself to an action or verbal statement. The IG comes off as very nice people and they are but there job is too find out what is WE’RE NOT doing correctly. It has come down that they have actually baited listers and office staff into doing wrong procedures. They will say things like” I just don’t add that entry it’s no big deal” or say “Oh just skip that house and go to the next”. This is how people in other offices and regions got dinged.

Trust me when I say the XXXXXXXX region is counting on XXXXX to come through for us. Your report from the IG will go straight to Washington, DC, Suitland, and all the other 12 regions. Here’s what you should do:

1. make sure you and your staff know all the procedures for their area and have the manuals handy.
2. Certain basic questions staff should be able to answer and be able to reference the manual(s) on what they are saying.
3. If you don’t know something, say I will get back to you on that and do it quickly.
4. Only tell them what they are asking for., Don’t get wordy with them be courteous and respectful but don’t be a chatter box.
5. Field staff have got to make sure they are following all procedures and not taking short cuts even when baited.

XXXXXXXX, they are going to come directly to the QC area because this is where all the crazy things have been happening with people in the field. make sure your well versed in your manual and that listers know to knock on every door and not skip houses.

I know you all will do fine and make the rest of the region proud.

Good luck to you all !!

XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX
Area Manager
XXXXXXX, Regional Census Center