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 ‘Robert M. Groves’

Breaking News & MyTwoCensus Payrollgate Investigation: The Census Bureau has failed to pay thousands of employees!

Thursday, May 13th, 2010

SHOW ME THE MONEY! It’s simple. When you’ve got hundreds of thousands of employees working for you, pay them on time. MyTwoCensus.com has received more than a dozen complaints within the past 12 hours from Census Bureau employees, at offices throughout the nation, who have not been paid on time. It is unknown whether this inexcusable error by the Census Bureau is a result of computer system failures (a problem that has plagued the Census Bureau for months if not years — even though Census Bureau Director Robert M. Groves said two days ago that the problems were fixed). Even though most of the 500,000+ Census Bureau employees who are out in the field this week are temporary employees, they still depend on this income from the federal government. A great number of these temporary employees were unemployed before their Census Bureau work came about, and thus are now living paycheck to paycheck. Unfortunately, when those paychecks don’t come, everyone is hurt. This is particularly damning because many employees lost their unemployment benefits to take Census Bureau jobs, and will have an extremely hard time getting these payments again once the work is finished.

(Interestingly, a marketing firm called GA1 that had a contract with the Census Bureau publicly accused the government of not paying them on time back in March, but it’s unknown to me at this time whether the situation was resolved.)

One disgruntled employee wrote me the following about her experience, which sounds more like a Kafka novel than an account of living and working in the world’s greatest democracy:

I started working for the census on April 12, 2010. My first paycheck was supposed to be deposited on April 28 but it wasn’t. I called my LCO that day and was informed they entered the wrong account number into their system. They asked me for the correct account number and told me that they updated the system. Next they told me that I had to call the hotline to start the re-issuance process for the missing check. I did as instructed and was told it would take 5-7 business days to be deposited into my acct. The next payday was May 5 and check #2 isn’t there and #1 is still “missing”. I again call the hotline (got the answering machine the first 20+ times) when I finally found a human they wanted to take a message, I refused because I had left countless messages with no return call. So I waited on hold for over 25 minutes. I was told again that the check would be reissued in 5-7 days. Week 3 pay date May 12, finally a paycheck! However it was only for the last pay period. #1 and #2 still missing. I called the hotline today and I’m getting the run-around. They won’t tell me anything! I called DOL and was told they can’t help because technically I’m a federal employee and they gave me another number to call. I called this number and was told they couldn’t help because I was a temporary employee. What can I do? I need my money, I am a single mom with kids to feed. Right now I’m wishing I would have just stayed on unemployment. To top it all off, the uncaring attitude of my LCO doesn’t help… they just say don’t worry. You’ll be paid eventually, we don’t know when but eventually.

To the hundreds of thousands people who are victims of this lax payment plan by the government, know that I am here to fight for you. Please submit your stories in the comments section below. This behavior by the Census Bureau is unacceptable. Today, I am calling Dr. Groves (the Census Bureau Director), Steve Jost (the Census Bureau’s Communications Director), the Public Information Office, and officials who are responsible for the payroll to get to the bottom of this mess.

For now, MyTwoCensus.com urges ALL EMPLOYEES who have not been paid to contact your Member of Congress and your Senators. Go to their offices if you can, but if not, lodge complaints by phone and e-mail. If you wish, please send me your complaints privately as well. MyTwoCensus is in contact with both Democrat and Republican Members of Congress who will hopefully be able to have some clout to get this problem resolved immediately.

UPDATE: Here’s another update from an anonymous Census Bureau employee Asheville, North Carolina, which to my knowledge is the only place where the media has actually reported these problems:

No one out of the Asheville office was paid properly today. I received 0. Three of my crew also received 0. two got 1 days pay/ 5 got 2 Days pay.
When manager raised cain was threatened with firing.
One enumerator had to borrow 8 dollars for gas to get home. One is threatened with eviction from her trailer.
Asheville LCO told another enumerator to expect to be paid on the 26th.
Asheville LCO said not to worry it was a nationwide computer glitch.
Asheville did not care that these folks had been out of work and need the money…especially the gas they have been buying to do the job.
Please do not use my name or email or I will get fired too.
We heard from other census workers in different cld that they also had widespread pay issues.
No one we heard from in Asheville district got the correct pay.
What can we do? If we raise a stink they will fire us.
The Census is now hiring at $9.00 per hour. we were hired at $11.50/ Are they trying to force us out to hire cheaper workers?

Transcript from most recent Census Bureau press conference now available…

Saturday, May 8th, 2010

Click HERE to read the transcript and/or watch the video from last Monday’s briefing at the National Press Club. Stay tuned for analysis of the transcript on Monday, particularly focusing on the failures of the paper-based operations control system (PBOCS) that Dr. Groves and reporters have discussed…

Ed O’Keefe of The Washington Post analyzes yesterday’s report from the Inspector General

Friday, May 7th, 2010

Thanks to Ed for  the following:

Frequent glitches in the computer system built to manage the 2010 Census could jeopardize its accuracy and drive up costs beyond its $15 billion price tag, according to a new watchdog report.

The findings by the Commerce Department’s inspector general come as roughly 600,000 census takers fan out nationwide to visit about 48 million addresses where nobody mailed back a census form.

The quarterly progress report found that problems persist with the agency’s paper-based operations-control system, a computer program developed to manage data collected by census takers. Several local Census Bureau offices are experiencing outages of several hours to entire days, the report said.

Those delays contributed to $1.6 million in clerical overtime costs in the first quarter, and the cost will probably rise in the next two months as census takers complete their work, the report said.

Because of computer delays, local census offices also could misplace completed paper questionnaires that are waiting to be processed.

“Questionnaires can be misplaced, for example, by storing them with questionnaires that have already been checked in,” the report said. If those forms are not processed, “the persons identified in the questionnaires may not be counted.”

The report reinforces concerns raised last week by the Government Accountability Office during a congressional hearing on census operations.

The Census Bureau developed the computer system in 2008 after scrapping plans to use handheld computers built for the agency. The decision left little time to develop the software, and officials have since said the system probably poses the most risk to census operations.

“As we have publicly disclosed to Congress, our oversight agencies and the press, the operational control system is not optimal, and remains a risk,” Census Bureau spokesman Stephen Buckner said in an e-mail. “However we do not foresee cost overruns of the type speculated upon in this report.”

Census Director Robert M. Groves has vowed to keep census operations under budget in hopes of returning funds to the Treasury. But he acknowledged potential operational issues this week in a blog post written to his 600,000 new hires.

“Nothing as large as the decennial census can be trouble-free,” Groves said. “Despite the years of development, things will go wrong.”

MyTwoCensus Editorial: The Census Bureau PR Machine is at it again…Return rates for 2010 are not better than return rates for 2000, and here’s why

Wednesday, May 5th, 2010

In mid and late March, the return rate for the 2010 Census wasn’t looking good. In fact, it appeared that return rates from the 2000 Census (that lacked this year’s multimillion-dollar ad campaign) would exceed the 2010 Census rates. In a comment posted on this blog on March 25, 2010, Steve Jost, the Census Bureau’s Associate Director of Communications wrote “It is tricky business comparing 2010 to 2000 for lots of reasons…2000 had a Long Form and a Short Form. 2010 is a Short Form only Census.” This is an excellent and true point. (The long and short forms for the 2000 Census can be found HERE.)

In 2000, some 16% of decennial census questionnaires were “long form” versions of the census with more than 100 questions — many of which take a significant amount of time to answer. This year, the census is the shortest ever, with only 10 questions. However, since the public was informed that 72% of American households mailed back there 2010 Census forms, the Census Bureau has had no problem comparing apples to oranges as it praises this year’s participation rates over those from 2000. My point is clear: In the 2000 Census, approximately 20 million households received the long form.  Any statistician or communications expert will tell you that it is infinitely more difficult to convince someone to complete a 100+ question form than a 10 question form.

So when the Census Bureau claims that it has exceeded its 2000 return rates, let’s not kid ourselves: In 2010 it’s like every household has to learn first grade math, whereas in 2000, some 20 million households had to learn calculus.

Here are some screenshots from the official Census Bureau analysis of the 2000 Census Mail Return Rates to illustrate my point:

The chart above illustrates that those people receiving the long form in 2000 participated in the census at significantly lower levels than those people who received the short form.

2010 Census Body Count: 6

Monday, May 3rd, 2010

UPDATE: Census Bureau Communications Director (aka Public Relations/Media Spin Guru) Steve Jost has tried to censor this site by posting a comment in the comments section directing me to be more sensitive with the way I describe things. As you can read in the comments section below, I will not be sensitive, I will report the truth — before any other media outlet does –  as I have done since the inception of this project.

According to Census Bureau Director Robert M. Groves, six employees involved in NRFU operations have been killed (presumably all in car accidents) since April 27. Is taking a 1-2 week job worth your life? Stay tuned for more details from today’s press conference…

The Associated Press reported the following:

The Census Bureau said Monday that six of its workers died in auto accidents in the past week. “When you have 600,000 people, all sorts of bad things happen,” Robert Groves, the bureau’s director, said. Two workers died Friday near Lubbock, Tex., when their vehicle was struck by a tanker truck after they apparently failed to yield at a stop sign. There was a third death in Texas, and others in California, Florida and South Carolina. In the 2000 census, 13 workers died in traffic accidents; another was fatally attacked by a dog.

Dr. Groves calls a software change from two years ago a “late change” in operations strategy. MyTwoCensus says this is nonsense.

Saturday, May 1st, 2010

Earlier today, the Associated Press released a short article (below) that discusses the Census Bureau’s repeated paper-based operations control system failures. In response to Census Bureau Director Robert M. Groves’ comment that, “the problems stem from a late change from a handheld device system to the paper-based system” I can simply point to a response I just received from Michael Cook, Chief of the Decennial Media Relations Branch at the Census Bureau’s Public Information Office. Cook wrote me, “The change to a paper-based NRFU operation ordered two years ago by then-Commerce Secretary Gutierrez, required us to develop PBOCS in a compressed time-frame.” Now, this makes no sense. TWO YEARS IS NOT A COMPRESSED TIME FRAME. It is a ridiculously long amount of time to use engineers to tweak and test a system to make it perfect. Once again, the Census Bureau’s IT failures are pathetic and unaccepptable in the year 2010.

LOS ANGELES — The U.S. Government Accountability Office says a computer system needed to finish the 2010 census may not be up to the job.

GAO Strategic Issues Director Robert Goldenkoff said Friday before a congressional hearing in Los Angeles that the Paper Based Operations Control System hasn’t demonstrated the ability to meet peak requirements of the census as it seeks to count residents who did not return forms by mail.

Census Director Robert Groves says in a statement that the problems stem from a late change from a handheld device system to the paper-based system.

He says the system has worked well so far but that the agency is not out of the woods yet.

The GAO says the Census Bureau is otherwise well-positioned to finish the door-to-door count, which begins Saturday.

Census Bureau IT problems remain unresolved

Friday, April 30th, 2010

Finally, a source other than MyTwoCensus.com has noticed and reported on the multitude of IT failures at the Census Bureau. H/t to Edwin Mora of CNSNews.com for the following piece…but hopefully the mainstream media — not just Conservative media outlets like CNSNews — will start to address these problems:

Census Still Struggling With IT Problems That May Affect Count’s Accuracy
Friday, April 30, 2010
By Edwin Mora


Census Bureau Director Robert M. Groves. (AP Photo/U of Mich.,Paul Jaronski)
(CNSNews.com) – The U.S. Census Bureau is still having problems with its computer system that handles the data for households that did not return a census form. However, the Census Bureau director said the system has successfully printed out the assignments for the enumerators who will conduct in-person interviews with households that did not mail in their forms.

“We continue to struggle with the software system called the paper-based operation control system, but we passed, just amazingly, a wonderful threshold last week where we printed out assignments for all these enumerators,” said Census Bureau Director Robert Groves. “It worked.”

The Census director made the comments at a press briefing on the Census participation rate, which took place at the National Press Club in Washington on Thursday.

Groves said the Bureau is not fond of its paper-based operation control system (PBOCS), which is used to manage the non-response follow-up (NRFU). The NRFU, set to begin May 1, is the Census’ largest operation and involves census workers personally interviewing millions of people nationwide who did not respond to the mailed Census questionnaire.

“Slightly more than 72 percent of U.S. households believed to be occupied mailed back their 2010 Census forms, the same rate that was achieved in 2000,” the U.S. Census Bureau announced on Apr. 28.

“Not that it is the most loved piece of software in the Census Bureau, but it’s working well enough to get the census down so far,” said Groves.

“We have assignments ready for 600,000 people who are ready to hit the streets on Saturday,” he added. “So we’re proceeding.”

According to a Mar. 25 Government Accountability Office report entitled, “Data Collection is Under Way, But Reliability of Key Information Technology Systems Remains a Risk,” the Census Bureau was experiencing problems with two IT systems, one of which is the paper-based operation control system that Groves mentioned during the press conference.

The GAO reported last February that “key IT systems — most notably an automated system used to manage field data collection known as the Paper-Based Operations Control System (PBOCS) and a personnel and payroll processing system called the Decennial Applicant Personnel and Payroll System (DAPPS) — were experiencing significant performance issues.”

On Thursday, Robert Goldenkoff, the director of strategic issues for the GAO and author of the March 25 GAO report on the IT problems affecting the Census, told CNSNews.com:  “The [paper based] operational control system used to manage the field follow-up operation was still having stability issues last week; the Census Bureau continues to work on it.”

On Mar. 25, Judith Gordon, the principal assistant inspector general for Audit and Evaluation at the Department of Commerce, which runs the Census Bureau, testified about the IT problems affecting the Census before Congress, saying that the Census’ decennial count’s accuracy was “at risk” because of IT issues.

“IT problems place the efficiency and accuracy of Non-Response Follow-Up at risk and final decennial costs remain uncertain,” Gordon told lawmakers, and as CNSNews.com reported. Gordon had testified before a subcommittee on the Census of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee.

In the same Mar. 25 GAO report, Goldenkoff revealed that “an estimated 50 million housing units out of a mail-out universe of about 120 million” would be non-respondents and would require an in-person follow-up to count. The operating budget for the NRFU is $2.7 billion.

Article 1, Section 2 of the U.S. Constitution calls for a decennial enumeration (census) of the American people to be used for allocating U.S. House seats among the states.

Census Bureau Press Release: Door-to-Door Visits Begin

Friday, April 30th, 2010

Census Takers to Follow Up with About 48 Million Households Nationwide

WASHINGTON, April 30 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ — About 635,000 2010 Census takers across the nation begin going door to door tomorrow to follow up with households that either didn’t mail back their form or didn’t receive one. An estimated 48 million addresses will be visited through July 10.

(Logo: http://www.newscom.com/cgi-bin/prnh/20090226/CENSUSLOGO)

“America’s had a very successful first half of the 2010 Census, where more than 72 percent of the nation’s households mailed back their census forms,” U.S. Census Bureau Director Robert M. Groves said. “But achieving a complete and accurate census requires us to now go door to door to count all the remaining households we’ve not heard back from.”

If a 2010 Census worker knocks on your door, here are some ways to verify that person is a legitimate census taker:

  • The census taker must present an ID badge that contains a Department of Commerce watermark and expiration date.  The census taker may also be carrying a black canvass bag with a Census Bureau logo.
  • The census taker will provide you with supervisor contact information and/or the local census office phone number for verification, if asked.
  • The census taker will only ask you the questions that appear on the 2010 Census form.
  • Transcript from Census Bureau Press Conference

    Friday, April 30th, 2010

    Here’s the transcript from Census Director Robert M. Groves’ press briefing on Wednesday. Unfortunately, my microphone (on Skype) cut out at the moment that I hoped to ask Dr. Groves a series of questions, which concerned why there are still failures of the paper-based operations control system and who (if anyone) is being held accountable for these errors. I forwarded these questions to Stephen Buckner at the Census Bureau’s Public Information Office, but have still not received a reply. Dr. Groves did briefly acknowledge errors in the PBOCS during his speech, but it is unlikely that any members of the mainstream media who don’t cover 2010 Census operations regularly would know about such a system and what those errors mean. Dr. Groves said, “We continue to struggle with the software system called the paper base operation control system, but we passed, just amazingly, a wonderful threshold last week where we printed out assignments for all these enumerators. It worked. We have assignments ready for 600,000 people who are ready to hit the streets on Saturday. So we’re proceeding. Not that it is the most loved piece of software in the Census Bureau, but it’s working well enough to get the census down so far.”

    STEPHEN BUCKNER: Good afternoon. Welcome to the Census Bureau’s news conference on the mail participation rates. I’d like to welcome everyone here in the room, and also those joining us online and via telephone. If you take a few moments, we have some information in your press kits, and also available online, including all the charts that Dr. Groves will be going over today as he walks you through America’s accomplishment in the mail participation rate for the 2010 census as we start to go door to door later this weekend.

    Following Dr. Groves’ remarks, we will have a brief Q&A session for the media. Please state your name and organization prior to your question. We’ll try to get to as many questions as we can during the news conference. And with that, I’ll turn it over to Dr. Groves. Thank you, Dr. Groves. (Applause)

    DR. ROBERT GROVES: This is the first time I’ve heard applause. Well, welcome. I’m happy to be here and happy to see friendly faces in front of me. Today is a big day for us because we announce the end of the first half of the 2010 census. And we have good news, because we can thank the American public for really the first major achievement of the 2010 census, I think. So first, I need to say why are we honoring the American public in this way, and why is this a notable achievement? You need to know something about levels of participation in surveys in this country, and in fact in the western world over the past few decades to understand how wonderful what happened really is.

    For the last 20 years, response rates, the level of participation of the public in sample surveys, in all sectors, the commercial sector, the government sector and the academic sector, have been falling. In fact, in the Census Bureau’s own survey, take the American Community Survey, this very large thing that we do continuously, we’ve lost 5 percentage points from the 2000 experience to now. So when I took this job, I really expected that any achievement close to the 2000 rate was beyond each. In fact, I urge you, urge the journalists here, to call up your favorite survey researcher and ask them one question: could you achieve the response rate today that you received ten years ago on the same survey? And see what they say.

    So we had low expectations on getting close to where we were in 2000. And where were we on 2000? The combined short form and long form participation rate in 2000 was 69 percent at the time we cut off for the non-response follow-up. So if we believe those lower rates, we would have expected something lower than that. The short form only rate, out of the 2000, the portion of the households that got the short form, their participation rate was about 72 percent. We chose that as a stretch goal. We were preparing for response rates between 65 and 72 percent in our simulations. Well, what happened was the American public hit that stretch goal, and it was a wonderful display, we think, of civic participation. And I can tell you, the folks at the Census Bureau are dancing down the hallways.

    There are a lot of neat things about that; 28 states met or exceeded their 2000 rate, that’s cool. Some of these are pretty large states; Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Michigan, New York, Pennsylvania and Texas. In addition, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico exceeded their 2000 rate. There are 11 other states within 1 percentage point of their 200 rate. North Carolina and South Carolina are kind of the poster children of 2010. They exceeded their rate in 2000 by 8 percentage points, just off the charts, so as they say these days, need a special shout out, I think. And there are thousands of jurisdictions around the country that have exceeded their 2000 rate.

    Let me just give you a sense of this. In your press kit, I think you have notes that seven of the ten most populous counties equaled or surpassed their 2000 rates. Eight of the ten most populous cities did that, likewise. So once again, this is, I think, a congratulations due to the American public for their act of civic participation. And we are grateful and happy to report that.

    It might be good to ask the question of why, why was that rate achieved? And the first thing that I want to point out are some hard data we have. The first unambiguous result in the why, I think, has to do with the replacement form. So if you look at this chart, let me help you read this chart. And for those of you on the phone, this is a chart that’s labeled 2010 average mail back participation rates for census tracks by assignment of 2010 replacement form. So it’s a busy graph, I’ll help you read it.

    The X axis here is a day, sort of the life cycle of the mail out/mail back process. The Y axis is the participation rate. So the first thing you’ll see is that all of the lines rise as you go from left to right as the mail back rate built over days. Now, there are a lot of different lines here. The solid lines are from the 2010 data. The dashed, or dotted, lines are from 2000. There are three groups of lines color coded. The red line are those tracks that got replacement forms in a blanket fashion. If you lived in that track, whether you returned the form or not, you got a replacement form. The green line are tracks that were targeted. If you yourself did not return a form, you got a replacement form. If your neighbor did, they did not. And then finally, the blue line are the tracks where no replacement form was given.

    Look at the dashed lines first. We targeted for blanket treatment the toughest tracks. They had low response rates in 2000. That’s the lowest line, the red dashed line, is low. And the green line were the targeted tracks. They had sort of medium participation rates. But you can see, both of those are pretty far below the blue. So we targeted the replacement form to those areas that tended in 2000 to have low participation rates.

    What happened? Well, this replacement form worked. It’s just unambiguous in the data. Let your eyes focus on the solid red line. Look how after the blanket replacement mailing was complete around the 3rd of April, it starts pumping up. It just gets higher than the dashed line and stays higher. And then notice how the green line, solid green line, starts getting higher after the target replacement form. In fact, I can tell you, the green line is still pumping out cases as w speak. This is a good thing for the 2010 census because now let your eye go to the dashed lines and just look at the difference in height between the blue dashed line and the red dashed line. That variability in participation rate is not good for a census. We’d like everybody to have the same participation rate. We squeezed together those lines to this replacement form.

    So the first question, why did we get a good participation rate, is the replacement form worked, and it worked in a wonderful way to reduce the variability in response rates. There’s another reason, and we have some data on this but it’s not as hard as these data; we think the advertising and the partnership worked. I think in prior discussions we’ve had, we showed you how the awareness of the census rose dramatically as the advertising and partnership campaigns evolved. That seems unambiguous, that that was a good reason why.

    And then there are other things that have to do with judgments. I just told you that the participation rate in 2000 for the combined short and long form was 69 percent. And for the short form only was 72 percent. We’re pretty sure the short form was a great idea based on that comparison. We don’t have an empirical comparison of the long and short form in this census, but one clear, I’d be willing to make this speculation, one clear answer to the question why a high rate of participation rate, or why a high rate of participation, is that the short form reduced the burden on the American public and they cooperated at higher rates.

    We are going to do tons of other analysis over the coming weeks to figure out other answers to the question why did this seem to work. That’s our job in order to prepare for the 2010 census. But those are the early findings on the reasons for success.

    I want to turn to another issue, and that is the patterns of response rate. You can see on the map that we showed earlier that there’s variability in the response. If you just look at the colors, the colors are related to different response rates. Red is really good, blue is bad, and you can see how the colors vary. We’ve been publishing this map every day on the web, a lot of you have been watching it. You start looking at a map like that and you begin to make up hypotheses about geography as the cause of the participation rate. We’re pretty sure that’s a misinterpretation of this. And I want to give you a sense of the patterns of response.

    You know that for several decades, the Census Bureau has tracked differential under counts. When the whole census is finished, differential under counts by race, ethnicity and age, and the patterns are very clear over decade after decade, that younger people, that minority groups, tend to be disproportionately missed in the census. I can tell you day by day, we were watching those differences on participation rates in this first half of the census to see if we were seeing those patterns.

    The classic patterns emerge in 2010, they’re there. But the biggest drivers in the participation rate are not race and ethnicity in the 2010 census, but a variety of other indicators. And I wanted to give you a sense of what those look like. A lot of them are indicators of the socioeconomic status of the area. So let me describe what this is. This breaks the census tracks. There are about 65,000 census tracks in the country, into four groups of equal size by the rate of vacancy in the area. What proportion of the houses were vacant based on American community survey data over the past three years? So the X axis here separates all of the census tracks into four groups, from low vacancy rate to high vacancy rate.

    The Y axis here is the participation rate. The pattern is beautifully monatomic, as they say, in the statistics business. It goes down with each added quartile from 76 percent way down to 64 percent. Tracks that have high vacancy rates tended to have low participation rates. And it’s a pretty strong effect.

    Let me show you the next one. This does a similar sort of thing. It breaks the tracks into four groups by their level of percentage of multi-unit structures. And on the X axis, you see what those rates are. Similar sort of finding; pretty strong effects from 77 percent participation rate down to 64 percent. Tracks that have a lot of multi-unit structures or mobile homes versus those that have single family structures had lower participation rates.

    Let’s look at the next one. Renter occupied housing units, same sort of divisions on the X axis, participation rate on the Y axis, moving from 77 to 64. Census tracks, neighborhoods with a lot of rental units had lower participation rates. Let’s look at the next one. Education. We can identify the proportion of people on the tracks with less than a high school degree, same sort to pattern. Tracks that have a lot of people with low education tend to have lower participation rates. And is that the final one? One more, poverty. The American community survey allows us to estimate the proportion of households under poverty threshold; 77 to 64, same thing.

    Now in your press kit are other graphs that look at ethnicity and race. You’ll look at those and see smaller effects across those groups than you see across the socioeconomic indicators. Was this present in prior censuses? I suspect it was. Did we have the right data to do this sort of analysis? Now, this is a wonderful benefit of the American community survey that we can track in almost real time other indicators. These are the strongest drivers to participation rate, not the race, ethnicity indicators. But they’re pretty powerful drivers, as you see.

    So we can say that tracks that have high rental units, low education, low income, are disproportionately where our non-response follow-up workload is. Those are the neighborhoods that we will be visiting disproportionately in the coming weeks.

    I want to say just a bit about our current operations and then open it up for questions. We are proceeding on all sorts of operations now. I’m happy to report that every operation we’ve done since addressing canvassing in summer of 2009 are on time and on budget. Those are going well. We continue to struggle with the software system called the paper base operation control system, but we passed, just amazingly, a wonderful threshold last week where we printed out assignments for all these enumerators. It worked. We have assignments ready for 600,000 people who are ready to hit the streets on Saturday. So we’re proceeding. Not that it is the most loved piece of software in the Census Bureau, but it’s working well enough to get the census down so far.

    I want to remind everyone that we have another press conference on Monday. And this is really a press conference to look forward to the non-response follow-up process. It’s a gigantic effort. It’s a complicated effort. We want to make sure you have all the facts that we do about how it’s going. We’ll talk about that. It’s important to note that although we report this mail back rate as if we’ve reached a final stage, this is really the end of the first half and that the census is not over. We will have a disposition on 100 percent of the units that we have on our list, those who didn’t get forms will be visited. Those who got forms and didn’t mail them out will be visited. We will collect information on everyone before we’re through, and that’s the second half that we’re now beginning. So I want to stop at this point and entertain questions. (more…)

    Press Release: Census Bureau to Announce Final 2010 Census Mail Participation Rates

    Wednesday, April 28th, 2010

    What: As the U.S. Census Bureau prepares for the door-to-door follow-up phase of the 2010 Census, Director Robert Groves will announce how well America responded by mail to the once-a-decade census. Groves will discuss how the mail participation rates compare geographically as well as by demographic characteristics, such as home ownership, income and language spoken.

    When: Wednesday, April 28, 1 – 2 p.m. (EDT)

    Who: Robert M. Groves, director, U.S. Census Bureau

    Where: National Press Club, 13th floor

    Holeman Lounge

    529 14th Street, NW

    Washington, DC 20045

    Members of the media may also participate by telephone. (Please dial-in early to allow time for the operator to place you in the call.)

    Dial-in number: 888-603-8938

    Passcode: 2010 CENSUS

    Thus far, is the 2010 Census a success or failure?

    Wednesday, April 28th, 2010

    Obviously, for me, the jury is still out on the above question. But on Monday, Ed O’Keefe of the Washington Post tackled this question:

    At least 72 percent of American households returned their forms to the U.S. Census Bureau this year, matching returns for the 2000 headcount. Final numbers will be announced on Wednesday and Obama administration officials cheered the early numbers late last week as evidence of successful outreach efforts.

    But a leading Republican Census critic phoned The Eye within minutes of Friday’s announcement and raised an interesting point:

    “This census cost more than double what the census cost in 2000,” said Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah). He finds it curious that officials would be happy to only match 2000 figures despite a 2010 budget that was more than three times what was spent ten years ago.

    “They spent $300 million on advertising that a lot of us were critical of and they’re getting poor results in the places we know we have problems,” he said, referring to a controversial Census Bureau Super Bowl ad panned by critics.

    The agency’s 2010 budget was the same as 2000 on an inflation-adjusted basis, said Census Bureau spokesman Steven Jost.

    “We spent just 5 percent more in equivalent dollars this year on a population that was 10 percent bigger,” he said in an e-mail. The 2000 Census was also the first conducted with a paid advertising campaign, so 2010′s headcount needed an equally robust ad strategy to stay even with previous numbers, he said.

    In his e-mail Jost listed other reasons for only breaking even with 2000: The country has grown in size and diversity since 2000 and the last headcount was conducted at a time of economic prosperity when Americans had a better opinion of government.

    “Most observers of the census during the last several years predicted these factors would make the job tougher in 2010 but so far the public has got us off to a great start,” Jost said, noting that the second part of Census operations kicks off soon when census takers start knocking on doors.

    So who’s right? Chaffetz or Jost?

    Leave your thoughts in the comments section below

    Korean translation errors on 2010 Census form irk some in New York

    Tuesday, April 27th, 2010

    We must have missed the following report when it was originally published two weeks ago. Nonetheless, it is still interesting to learn about these problems as MyTwoCensus.com has repeatedly criticized the Census Bureau and its contractor Diplomatic Language Services for doing a shoddy job. Thanks to the Queens Courier in New York for the following:

    Slam errors in census forms

    Koreans, Chinese, Latinos complain

    BY VICTOR G. MIMONI
    Wednesday, April 14, 2010 2:06 PM EDT

    Assemblymember Grace Meng says she’s “angered” over translation errors in the Korean version of 2010 census forms and communications trouble on the Census’ language hotline.

    Meng is one of several lawmakers who have called on the Asian community to respond to the census forms. “We have stated over and over again that our schools, hospitals, housing, transportation, police and other services depend on the census,” she said.

    But now, constituents have told her that where the English language form asks for “County,” the Korean form asks “Country;” instead of “State” the Korean form asks “Province.”

    “It’s confusing. In Asia, ‘Province’ has a specific meaning,” she said, speculating that people who get stumped on a question might not mail in the form.

    Meng also complained that some Chinese and Koreans in her district said that the persons on the hotline “do not speak their native language fluently.”

    “Someone didn’t understand ‘House Number’ and the help line operator could only explain what ‘house’ and ‘number’ meant,” Meng recounted. “They couldn’t or wouldn’t explain that it meant the address,” she said.

    Northeast Queens Census Supervisor Nan Min was distressed. “I heard about the forms – they came out of Washington months ago,” she said, powerless to do anything about it. Min explained that the toll free help number directs to the Washington, D.C. area.

    “We have a local help line number – 347-783-1049 – that is staffed with people from around Flushing,” said Min, who is fluent in Korean, Spanish and Portuguese.

    “We have speakers of at least four of the more popular Chinese dialects, Korean and other languages spoken around this area,” she added. “We’ve been working hard – we’re 10 percent ahead of the response in the last census.”

    Some people, especially in the Hispanic community, have expressed confusion about questions 8 and 9, relating to “origin” and “race,” but Min explained that you can check all boxes that apply to you. “We want you to self-identify – write-in or check off what it takes to describe yourself.”

    “I can’t comment on that,” regional census supervisor Patricia Valle told The Queens Courier, promising to contact the supervisors at the language hotline.

    Brazil’s Census is way more technologically advanced than ours. This is pathetic.

    Tuesday, April 27th, 2010

    It is a pretty pathetic and sad story when a developing nation’s ability to integrate technology with governance far exceeds our own. Brazil’s strategy saves massive amounts of both time and money. Yet, this is something that I’ve discussed for quite some time with regard to other nations, like Australia. Here’s some news from Brazil which makes you wonder why more people who made decisions about the 2010 Census in the mid 2000s weren’t fired on the spot:

    The Harvard Business Review‘s Daily Stat for Tuesday, April 6, 2010, highlighted a disruptive innovation in, of all things, census-taking. According to the publication:

      It’s a national census of hundreds of millions of people across 8 million square kilometers, using a workforce of 230,000 and budget of $1.4 billion. The 2010 U.S. Census? No, it’s Brazil’s 2010 census. The current U.S. headcount, by contrast, requires 3.8 million workers and $14 billion. Census takers in Brazil use PDAs and laptops; those in the U.S. still rely mainly on paper. – Source: Instituto Brasileiro de Geografia e Estatístic

    While the United States tends to be seen as the technology innovation capital of the world, it seems we’re falling down in “government services innovation.” Doesn’t the US Census fall under the administration’s social innovation program? What other program is intended to have an impact on every single citizen of the US, if not this one?

    On any corner of a typical US city, one can buy GPS-enabled, off-the-shelf, 3G-powered mobile devices, with local storage for data collection and Web-enabled connections to the back office. In short, the perfect mobile device for census collections is almost a commodity.

    But it seems the US Census Bureau made the classic Innovator’s Dilemma mistake of choosing the slow, safe (and expensive) player, while the consumer mobile world blew by.

    The supplier in question is Harris Corp. (NYSE: HRS), which started work on the mobile census project in 2006. It turns out that four years is an eternity in the modern mobile world, and Harris simply couldn’t match the speed of the market with its own proprietary, custom-built devices.

    In contrast to the US approach to having custom devices built, Brazil partnered with LG Electronics Inc. (London: LGLD; Korea: 6657.KS) , as noted in TechTicker: “Brazil will start taking its population census in the second half of this year and to ensure a smooth and efficient counting, the Instituto Brasileiro de Geografia e Estatistica (IBGE) has roped in LG to supply 150,000 GM750 phones.”

    The GM750 is ruggedized and comes with its own application; but otherwise, the core phone itself is a device anyone with $100 or less could buy at the corner mobile store.

    You may be thinking, who really cares? Perhaps we all should. According to CNN, Hermann Habermann, a former deputy director of the Census Bureau, thinks that without handheld data collection via mobile phone, the government is missing out on a chance to get information more quickly and cheaply than through the mail.

    The technology would also help to better identify which Census tract a home is in, which determines an area’s representation in Congress and the distribution of more than $435 billion in federal funds every year. With GPS, according to CNN, the Census Bureau’s Daniel Weinberg, assistant director for the decennial census, anticipated placing residences within a 0.5 percent error rate into the correct tract. Without GPS, the Census Bureau places approximately 5 percent of residences in the wrong tract.

    Unfortunately, with the fallback to paper, the error rate is likely to remain, as is the (inadvertent) mis-distribution of funds. While a 4.5 percent error differential may not seem like much, when you’re distributing billions of dollars each percentage point is quite significant in its effect on the local and state economies.

    Lessons learned? Pay attention to the trends happening in parallel to your “normal” business and technology world — or you may find that your technological innovation has been disrupted by the fast movers you couldn’t be bothered to notice.

    Whether in private, public, government, or other spaces, look around, and you’ll see disruption creeping up on you. Be aware of the technology environment and evolve! Or suffer the costs.

    — Dan Keldsen is a Principal and Strategic Advisor at Information Architected.

    MyTwoCensus Editorial: My Mad Men moment…What 2010 Census ads should have said…

    Thursday, April 22nd, 2010

    I’m a few years behind the rest of the world as I only recently started watching Mad Men, the hit TV series about the world of advertising. The show got me thinking about many things related to the 2010 Census ad campaign. Rather than advertising with “Portrait of America” themes, Christopher Guest nonsense, and other ads that seem to be unclear, unpointed, and uninteresting flops. Why not go straight to the numbers? The simple ad campaign I would have created for the Census Bureau would have gone as follows:

    Cost to mail back your census form: 42 cents.

    Cost to send a Census Bureau employee to your house if you fail to return your form: $57.

    Amount of federal money at stake if you aren’t counted: $1,333.*

    Total amount of available funding that you are community should get its fair share of: $400 BILLION.

    2010 Census – Mail it back and Participate.

    (Back in February, Census Bureau Communications Director Steve Jost told readers of this blog — see the comments section — that the Census Bureau and Draftfcb were in the process of creating a 2010 Census ad competition for the public to compete in…clearly that never happened!)

    *The Census Bureau uses the term $400 billion for the total amount of money at stake. $400 billion divided by 300 milli0n people (an approximation of America’s population) is $1,333 per person. Some estimates determine that it is about $3,000 per person missed. Shelley Lowe of the Census Bureau’s Public Information Office said of the per person figure, “We don’t calculate that, but other organizations have attempted to.”

    Anatomy of a Paper-Based Operations Control System (PBOCS) failure…

    Wednesday, April 21st, 2010

    Below are e-mails obtained by MyTwoCensus.com sent from Brian Monaghan and Barbara M. Lopresti at Census Bureau Headquarters to every regional Census Bureau office in America that describe IT systems failures:

    From:
    Brian Monaghan/FLD/HQ/BOC

    To:

    FLD Regional Directors

    Cc:

    FLD Deputy Regional Directors List, Barbara M LoPresti/TMO/HQ/BOC@BOC, Chad G Nelson/TMO/HQ/BOC@BOC, Janet R Cummings/FLD/HQ/BOC@BOC, Gail A Leithauser/FLD/HQ/BOC@BOC, Marilia A Matos/DIR/HQ/BOC@BOC, Annetta Clark Smith/DMD/HQ/BOC@BOC, Michael T Thieme/DMD/HQ/BOC@BOC, Timothy P Olson/FLD/HQ/BOC@BOC

    Date:

    04/20/2010 09:52 AM

    Subject:

    PBOCS and NRFU

    OK, folks…   here’s where we are as of 8:45 a.m. Tuesday morning  -

    As of 6:00 p.m. or so Monday evening, the last of the LMR automated removal occurred.  On Friday, April 23, there will be a PBOCS deployment which will include the reports of LMRs since Monday.  Those reports will then be available for clerical line-through of LMRs on the assignment registers (which are hopefully being printed by then).

    We are expecting all of the even numbered AAs to have their reports (listings, labels, etc.) generated in the system by 11:00 a.m. this morning.

    The system continues to be somewhat unstable, so at midnight tonight we need all LCOs and RCCs to get off PBOCS and stay off until Thursday morning (we hope).  That will give us a clean opportunity to generate the majority of reports for the odd numbered AA’s (we hope).  So…  no users on the system starting at midnight tonight and lasting through Wednesday.

    Our # 1 priority is to get all of the reports generated and copied to an alternative printing site, so that if PBOCS goes down, the LCOs will still be able to print materials needed for NRFU assignment prep.   Once the even numbered AAs have all of their reports generated (by 11:00 a.m. this morning), we will begin the process of exporting the files to an alternative print site.   Several additional meetings need to occur to work through all of the details, but our hope is that DOTS will be testing this alternative printing site in, say, one LCO per region…  ideally nearby the RCC so your LSC can observe…  either this afternoon or tomorrow morning.  It’s not clear at this point whether we will be able to pull everything together that quickly.

    Bottom line is that we are still planning for the LCOs to begin printing assignments for the even numbered AAs Thursday morning…  either through PBOCS or the alternative print site.  At this time, we are assuming all other PBOCS users will also regain access to the system Thursday morning.   We have asked that odd numbered AAs be made available on a flow basis of some sort…  groups of LCOs or regions…  rather than waiting until all reports are generated to make them available for printing. This weekend will be a huge crunch time for the LCOs…  all hands need to be on deck…  as they prepare assignments for all of the even numbered AAs and as many of the odd as possible.

    Please make sure the LCOs are firing on all cylinders with NRFU map printing. That task is outside of PBOCS, so the downtime tomorrow will not be a problem.  It’s really critical to get this job done ASAP, so that the printers in the LCO are not tied up with NRFU maps, and are available for assignment prep.    If you cannot get all NRFU maps done by COB Wednesday, give top priority to the even numbered AAs, so assignment prep can be completed for work headed to the field first thing next week.  An added impetus to the NRFU map printing work is that there is a remote chance that LCOs may be able to start assignment prep for even numbered AAs tomorrow (Wednesday) if we are able to get the alternative print site set up, files exported, systems tested in some LCOs, and instructions prepared.   LCOs which have completed NRFU map printing will be likely candidates for this somewhat unlikely event.

    We can talk more at the RD Conference Call this afternoon, or call me if you have an immediate concern.

    From:
    Brian Monaghan/FLD/HQ/BOC

    To:

    FLD Regional Directors

    Cc:

    FLD Deputy Regional Directors List, FLD Decennial Branch Chiefs, FLD Decennial Assistant Division Chiefs List, Marilia A Matos/DIR/HQ/BOC@BOC, Barbara M LoPresti/TMO/HQ/BOC@BOC, Michael T Thieme/DMD/HQ/BOC@BOC, Chad G Nelson/TMO/HQ/BOC@BOC

    Date:

    04/14/2010 09:48 AM

    Subject:

    PBOCS

    As you may know, PBOCS went down last night.  The 40 LCOs that were scheduled to be ingested did not get ingested.  PBOCS is back up this morning and available for your use, but the concerns about instability remain.

    We must do the following to prepare for NRFU:

    PBOCS will be taken down tonight at 8:00 p.m., and will not be available again until Monday morning, April 19. Hopefully, minimizing the number of users and uses will increase the stability of the system, allowing the full ingest of all LCOs to be completed over the next several days.  As you heard at the Regional Directors’ Conference, this is a critical first step in the process of preparing for NRFU assignment prep.

    DOTS will be sending out a separate notice to you and your automation folks, and each of the Decennial Branch Chiefs will issue ops logs with suggestions and cautions about getting through the next several days.  For example,  it’s critically important not to send completed work to the processing office unless it has been checked out through PBOCS.  If you box up and send in ICRs/MCRs without going through the formal PBOCS check-out process, we will lose the critical linkage with their Group Quarters.   We will be asking you to hold completed work in the office until PBOCS is back up and running.  Of course, work on all operations can and should continue in the field.

    This will be a really important time for the LCOs to stay as organized and systematic as possible…   labeling and sorting piles of completed and pending work in  a way such that, when PBOCS is made available, we can rapidly recover.  If work needs to go to the field while PBOCS is down, the LCOs will need to manually track the assignments, so they know who has what, and when  they got it.  Once PBOCS is made available on Monday, the LCOs will need to key in this information to get the system caught up.

    Thanks for your patience as we work through these challenges.

    From:
    Brian Monaghan/FLD/HQ/BOC

    To:

    fld.regional.directors@census.gov

    Cc:

    fld.decennial.assistant.division.chiefs.list@census.gov” <fld.decennial.assistant.division.chiefs.list@census.gov>, “Barbara M LoPresti” <barbara.m.lopresti@census.gov>, “Chad Nelson” <chad.g.nelson@census.gov>, “fld.deputy.regional.directors.list@census.gov” <fld.deputy.regional.directors.list@census.gov>

    Date:

    04/08/2010 05:57 PM

    Subject:

    Fw: PBOCS System Outage starting Friday April 9th at 500pm ET.

    We need to shut down PBOCS at 5:00 p.m. Friday, April 9, instead of waiting until midnight.  We had a lengthy discussion today and, as you can imagine, time is a critical commodity.  Lots of work has to be done in preparation for NRFU, and if it means an extension for ETL or delays in check-in of GQE and UE, so be it.

    Call me if you have any questions or just need to vent.  We wouldn’t be doing this full weekend shutdown if it wasn’t really necessary.

      Inactive hide details for Barbara M LoPresti Barbara M LoPresti

    —– Original Message —–
    From: Barbara M LoPresti
    Sent: 04/08/2010 05:02 PM EDT
    To: Brian Monaghan; Chad Nelson; Janet Cummings; Gail Leithauser; Annetta Smith; Michael Thieme; Pamela Mosley; Marilia Matos; Arnold Jackson
    Cc: Thomas McNeal; Curtis Broadway
    Subject: PBOCS System Outage starting Friday April 9th at 500pm ET.
    Brian,
    In the 430 meeting today, Tom and Curtis felt it was best to take the Pbocs system down at 5::00 pm eastern time on Friday, April 9th (tomorrow).
    Please let me and Chad know when you have informed the RDs and then we will get a DOTS message out to the RCCs.
    Thanks
    Barbara


    Transcript from Tuesday’s Press conference…

    Wednesday, April 14th, 2010

    Note my questions near the bottom of the first page, and further note how they weren’t clearly answered…(My questions discussed allegations made by Census Bureau employees about QACs…)

    STEPHEN BUCKNER: Good morning, everyone. I’m with the Public Information Office at the U.S. Census Bureau. I’d like to welcome everybody joining us on the telephone today, and also here at the National Press Club. Today, Dr. Groves, the Director of the Census Bureau, is going to be talking about mailing back your form. We have five days left to get your form back in the mail. He’s also going to be providing a brief overview of operations since our last operational press briefing on the 22nd of March where we launched the Take Ten Program, challenging local areas to mail back your form and beat your participation rate from the 2000 census. We’re off to a good start, and Dr. Groves will touch base on that.

    In your press kit, you’ll see a variety of materials on the topics of today’s operational press briefing. Online, they’re also available under the news conference page for those listening and online. We will have a Q&A session following the Director’s comments, and we’ll try to alternate between the telephone and those here in the room. With that, I will give you Dr. Robert Groves. Thank you.

    DR. ROBERT GROVES: Great, thank you, Stephen. Thanks a lot for coming today. This is an operational update, but really the headline of today’s briefing is that we have five days left for the over 120 million households around the country to mail back their form. And by that we mean if you get your form in the mail by April 16th, this Friday, there’s a much, much, much lower probability that anyone will come to your door to do follow-up work in the later phases of the census.

    Today, this week, we begin a week of transitions. The transition is moving from this massive phase that we call the mail out/mail back phase where people fill out their census by mail, to one where we begin to hire a large number of people who will go out throughout the country, knocking on doors of houses and taking the questionnaire information in a personal interview.

    I want to end with remarks on that, but I want to begin, really, by doing a quick update of recent operations. And in a word, things are going quite well. I guess that’s two words, quite well. Let me run through the things we’ve done. We have finished three operations that are notable that are complicated and are now in the hopper. The update leave operation, by that we mean in areas where postal delivery is not reliable, where many people have postal boxes, and also in those areas where in the, say for example the gulf coast where the housing unit stock is actually changing quite rapidly, we drop off questionnaires. We completed that on April 2nd, the dropped off questionnaires are being mailed back now at great rates. This operation is complete, it was on schedule and under budget.

    We also finished, today we will finish, a count of people living in transitory locations. By that we mean RV parks, campgrounds, hotels, motels, marinas, circuses, carnivals throughout the country. We’ve completed that work on schedule, we’re happy to say. And then in a complicated operation called service based enumeration. We reached out and counted people who are affected by various types of homelessness. We counted people in shelters, soup kitchens, at regular stops of mobile food vans, outdoor locations and a variety of other places, about 65,000 locations throughout the country. This, as you might imagine, is a complicated one and we’re happy that we did that on time and with safety, relative safety, of all our enumerators and the people counted.

    We had a problem in the New York/Boston area. You might remember there were torrential rains around the time we were doing this. We had to postpone one day to finish that work there.

    Then I want to note two operations that we’re right in the middle of because they’re relevant to some folks who haven’t received forms because we do the enumeration in different ways. We don’t mail out forms to different areas. Ongoing right now is an operation called Update Enumerate. By that, we mean we go out with census takers and house by house do interviews with people in those areas. These are areas like the remote parts of Maine, certainly parts of Alaska, American Indian reservations, disproportionately, a lot of areas with seasonal housing. And the settlements called colonias on the border of Texas and Mexico are handled this way. It’s about 1.4 million households that we’ll visit in this way. We’re about 38 percent through with that operation. We’re way ahead of schedule on that, so that’s going well.

    And then finally group quarters, another category of folks who don’t receive forms in the mail. These are areas that are like nursing homes, assisted living facilities, prisons, dormitories, barracks, and so on. We’re in the middle of that operation. We’re about 22 percent complete, that’s on schedule. That’s going to go through May 21st. That’s ongoing now. So for people in those situations, they should not have received the mail questionnaire, and indeed we’re reaching out to them and doing the measurement in different ways.

    As of Friday, I’m happy to note, if you’ve been following this on the website, 65 percent of American households we’d estimate have returned the forms. This is over 77 million households in the country who have completed the short form and mailed it back. We’re going to post an update today at 4:00 on our website. If you’ve been following that, that will make that number be higher, no doubt. It is notable, if you look at those data, that there are states that are above 70 percent at this point already, 10 states have that status. It includes large states like Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania. When we started this operation, the states in the upper middle west dominated the early returns. That’s mainly because they received those questionnaires by hand using our census takers to drop off questionnaires at their houses. Now you see states, other states, catching up that received them by mail.

    It is interesting to note that on April 8th, South Carolina as a state, surpassed its entire 2000 census performance. And today, both North Carolina and South Carolina have beaten their own 2000 participation rate. So that’s a notable and noteworthy event, I think. Kentucky is really close, this could happen today for Kentucky. We have hundreds of jurisdictions around the country who have beaten their 2000 participation rate already, and to all of them we salute you for your civic participation and we hope you’ll be joined by hundreds of others in a matter of days.

    We remain focused on return rates, participation rates in large cities, in some rural areas. The large cities pose interesting problems to sample surveys and censuses. They are low this decade, as they were last decade. Notable is New York, Chicago, Detroit, Philadelphia and a set of others. You can go to our website and see this. In fact, if you look at this map here, the colors we love to see on this map over here are those that are yellow, orange and red. And the colors we don’t particularly like to see are those blues. You can see the Texas/Mexico border as an area that is challenging for us. You can see the middle of the state, or the middle of the country with those higher than average performances.

    We are focused on all of these areas. We are looking at this daily through a variety of statistical models and intense scrutiny of partnership and other activities. We’ve made changes in our advertising to have much more targeted advertising into the areas and into the subgroups that look like they’re responding at a lower rate.

    I want to turn to an issue that you in the media could help us get the word out on, and that is those people who didn’t receive a form, what should they do at this point? And we have a variety of reasons that that might have happened. You might be living in one of those areas where census takers are coming to your door right now over the next few days and weeks. You might have a post office box where you receive your mail, rather than having your mail delivered to your home. You might be in a house newly built that was added just recently and we tried to get about two million of those kind of cases into the mail stream. You may have just received a form, but you may not have gotten it yet.

    For all of those people who have not received a form, we have a very simple thing you can do, two alternatives. First, you can call our telephone assistance center, and these numbers are posted right here. The English number is 1-866-872-6868. And starting today, you can call between eight a.m. and nine p.m. local time every day, every day of the week. And there are numbers for different languages and for the hearing impaired.

    And starting today, you can take the interview right on the phone. You can answer your census questions right on the phone. It’s the simplest thing you can do. You supply the address where you’re living, and you answer the questionnaire over the phone. Alternatively if you wish, you can go to over 40,000 sites around the country that are questionnaire assistance centers or labeled Be Counted sites. How do you know where they are? You can call these same numbers to find out where they are. You can go to our website, 2010census.gov, and find where the questionnaire assistance centers are. And there, you can pick up what we call a Be Counted form. You supply your address information and fill out the form that looks very similar to the mail out form.

    We want to make it as easy as possible for those who haven’t received the form to get it. This is a massive operation, going to over 134 million households. Missing a few households is something that happens every census, and we want to make sure that you have an easy way to get a hold of the form.

    But in closing, I want to turn to the most important message. We are counting down the days, the clock is ticking, and we are asking you, if you have a form sitting in your home that you haven’t filled out yet, to take a few minutes to fill it out and mail it back. If you can mail this form back by Friday, April 16th, the odds that someone will come to your house to follow up and ask census questions are much lower. Each passing day makes that likelihood higher. We would love to avoid sending census takers to large numbers of households around the country. And the easiest way for those of you who have a form sitting in your house to avoid that is to fill out the form and mail it back.

    I remind us that for every one percent of the households that do that, we save us taxpayers $85 million nationally, a very large sum of money, for a very small act on your part. Taking it down to the personal level, if you fill this form out and mail it back, it costs us taxpayers 42 cents. If you don’t, it costs us taxpayers about $60 to send someone out and take the information in person.

    This is a moment, these last few days, where our over 225,000 partners throughout the country and social and political leaders need to come together and get the word out that we are ticking away the clock to return these forms. This is the moment where we can all come together. Ask your neighbors if you filled out your form whether they filled out their form. Pass the word that we have just a few more days left, and this will be a much cheaper census if we can do that.

    Starting at about the third week of April, we will begin to build the large files that will identify the addresses that our interviewers will have to go out and call on case by case. We will begin that work on May 1. It will continue through July 10th, and we will have other briefings on that large operation that we call non response follow-up. But this moment, at this time, the message is very clear. If you have a form sitting in your home and you haven’t turned it back, you haven’t returned a form at all, now is the time to fill it out and mail it back. Thank you very much, I’m happy to take questions. Carol?

    CAROL MORELLO: Can you talk a little bit about what’s going on?

    MR. BUCKNER: Just one second. So as we start our Q&A process, we’ll start here in the room. Please state your name, organize, and your question. Wait for the mic, and then we’ll jump to the telephone as well. First up, Carol Morello, question posed?

    CAROL MORELLO: Hi, could you talk a little bit about what you think is going on in the blue states primarily, or blue sections, primarily in the south and the west? How does it compare to 2000 at this point, and how much do you think maybe politically motivated by people who resent the questions being asked?

    DR. GROVES: Some of those rural areas that are in blue are traditionally what we call hard to enumerate areas. So you might first ask, so why is that? The challenge of rural areas is both that the kind of– first of all, these are based on either what we call update leave– these are the houses– the blue areas you’re looking at are houses where they have a questionnaire, either by mail delivery or dropped off. In some of those areas, we know we’re actually going to do enumeration, direct enumeration. They don’t even have a mail questionnaire yet. But rural areas pose difficulties, both in making sure we get all the areas. And then the other challenge, I think, in rural areas is that the impact of media that we use is more dispersed. If you think about it in an urban area, there are local media that we can use and local partnership activities that we can stimulate to get communities involved in the census. That kind of organization’s a little tougher in rural areas.

    At the same time, in some of those areas, there are language impediments. The Texas/Mexico border, a whole lot of those areas got a bilingual questionnaire, but not all of the areas, and that’s an impediment. So, these are not surprises. If you looked at the 2000 census, or the 1990 census, this is a fact that is replicated over censuses.

    CAROL MORELLO: So what impact do you think that politically the opposition to the census has had?

    DR. GROVES: Actually, this is a topic of press commentary right now. And the City University of New York has just done an analysis that’s kind of interesting. We’ve done our own analyses. We can’t find empirical support for that, but I can tell you no one has the right data. We can look at the characteristics of counties that are returning the questionnaire at different rates. We see no evidence that some counties that may have voted in one way are lower than other counties. But we actually don’t know individual level attributes of people returning the form or not returning the form.

    I can say one other thing, and that is the rate of forms that are being delivered with partial completes that force us to actually go back, they’re so incomplete that we have to go back and call on people’s houses, those are within or below the kind of tolerances we expected from our prior studies. So, we don’t see the evidence there for the impact of that on behaviors.

    MR. BUCKNER: Carol, I’m going to have to go to the telephone here and then I’ll come back. All right, on the telephone, I believe we have a question? Please state your name and organization?

    STEPHEN ROBERT MORSE: This is Stephen Robert Morse at mytwocensus.com. I have a couple of questions about the questionnaire assistance centers operation. Today, I posted an article on my website that was written by an assistance center employee that suggests that not all of the QACs are listed on the census bureau’s website. And it also suggests that all the organizations and corporations that are listed partners are not necessarily cooperating and working with QACs as they– and are not necessarily partners anymore. Please talk about this?

    DR. GROVES: I don’t know anything about the second question. The first question, we’re doing the best we can at getting the questionnaire assistance centers posted on the web and updated. This is a big challenge for us because they’re, as you know, these 40,000 units are moving around cities for different days and different hours. But we’re doing our best on that. (more…)

    MyTwoCensus Editorial: Take more questions at press conferences and fix your e-mail account!

    Tuesday, April 13th, 2010

    Yesterday, Census Bureau Director Dr. Robert M.Groves held a press conference at the National Press Club in Washington DC to answer questions from the media about 2010 Census operations. By reading media reports from across America, it is evident that most media workers don’t truly grasp what the 2010 Census is. After Dr. Groves’ gave his talk, the media had the opportunity to ask questions. The talk started at around 9:00AM and the Q&A portion of the press conference commenced at around 9:20. By 9:35 Census Bureau press spokesman Stephen Buckner ended the Q&A section when, as Buckner acknowledged, there were certainly people on the telephone who were participating in the press conference who still had questions to ask. This was wrong, as there were many questions that Dr. Groves didn’t have a chance to answer. (We will post the transcript of the press conference as soon as we get it.)

    Though Mr. Buckner and the Census Bureau have stated that the media can e-mail the press office at pio@census.gov to ask further questions, that e-mail address is not currently functioning. This is the year 2010 (duh) and such a simple tech failure is inexcusable. The Public Information Office must 1. Take more questions from the media and not keep press conferences to approximately thirty minutes (rather than holding a standard one hour press conference) and 2. Fix the Census Bureau’s e-mail system immediately.

    Here’s a screenshot of the failed e-mail:

    Groves Speaks At Princeton

    Tuesday, April 6th, 2010

    Here’s what the Daily Princetonian had to say:

    Census head speaks about methodology

    By Ben Kotopka
    Staff Writer
    Published: Tuesday, April 6th, 2010
    Robert Groves, director of the U.S. Census Bureau, discusses new marketing techniques employed by the Census Bureau during a Monday lecture in Robertson Hall.

    “He made a pretty good case that the marketing budget cuts costs,” Atul Sood said. “He was a really humorous speaker — far more funny than you would expect a census guy to be.”

    Americans living in neighborhoods with poor census return rates had better watch out. Armed with signs, bullhorns and the sirens of local fire trucks, 250 of the Census Bureau’s local partner groups across the United States will begin the “March to the Mailbox” this Saturday. The march is an effort to urge residents of neighborhoods with low response rates to send in their forms, Robert Groves, director of the U.S. Census Bureau, said in a lecture on Monday.“This is a little out of control,” he said. “I don’t know what’s going to happen. It’s kind of unusual for a federal agency to do this.”

    In his lecture, held in Robertson Hall, Groves discussed the goals and methodology of the 2010 Census. The census, which is used to apportion seats in the House of Representatives and some federal funding to states, involves printing 120 million questionnaire packages — a total of more than 400 million forms — and contacting 134 million households, Groves explained.

    “The printing is such that we were right at the country’s capacity of printing,” he noted.

    To reach as large a population as possible, the Census Bureau provides guides in 59 languages. It also conducts a massive marketing campaign on television and online that targets specific ethnic groups with low populations in the United States, such as the Hmong, Groves explained.

    In recent years, the marketing process has been modernized.

    “In 1990 and earlier, public service announcements were used, [and] as with most PSAs, they ran at three in the morning and no one saw them,” Groves said. But, he explained, the introduction of paid advertising in 2000 helped reverse a three-decade trend in declining census returns and saved the Census Bureau money by reducing the number of follow-up visits to homes.

    The marketing effort is complemented by grassroots community-level involvement. The Census Bureau works with more than 22,000 partner organizations ranging from big-box stores such as Target and Walmart to small residential associations, Groves said.

    Groves also noted the Census Bureau’s unprecedented effort to track performance in real time. The agency now tracks response rates as census forms are received and posts them online, allowing for advertising “interventions” in undercounted areas, like the Texas–Mexico border.

    For all the census’s precision and organization, though, some problems are inevitable, Groves said.

    “Every day, there’s a crisis somewhere, in some little place in the country,” he explained. “There will be [Census Bureau employees] who will be killed … There will be crimes committed by our staff. Everything will happen. You have a massive number of human beings trying to do something in a very short period of time.”

    Groves also answered audience questions and said he had heard about the efforts of some University students to “queer the census.”

    As part of that effort, letters appeared in students’ mailboxes last week urging them to identify their sexual orientation on a sticker, which could then be placed on census envelopes.

    Though the census will report the numbers of same-sex couples in each state for the first time, it would not take reports of sexual orientation into account, Groves explained.

    “Some in the [LGBT] community would like much more detailed measures that would reflect how they view themselves,” Groves said. “We’re not going to do it.”

    He added that the wording and content of census questions has always been a source of controversy.

    “The census is a contentious thing … and the disputes always involve how a particular group believes they’re being viewed by the census,” Groves said.

    About 50 people — mainly faculty members, Wilson School students and town residents — attended the lecture. Their reactions to Groves’s lecture were generally positive.

    MyTwoCensus Editorial: 2010 Census Partners Google and YouTube Should Remove Propaganda Video Immediately

    Monday, April 5th, 2010

    When you search for “census” on YouTube, the first video that appears is by some nutcase named Jerry Day (representing some obscure outlet called Matrix News), who doesn’t have his facts straight and inaccurately describes Census Bureau procedures. This video has nearly two million views. It spouts many lies, as well as very biased statements. (Part of the problem is that the Census Bureau’s Public Information Office wouldn’t speak to him on the phone, but I’ll save that criticism for another day…)

    Google and its subsidiary YouTube  should remove this video immediately. It is more shocking that these organizations are enabling this nonsense, because they have already created a partnership with the Census Bureau. At the very least, it should not come up  so frequently in searches. The video likely only gains more and more viewers because it is the first video that appears on searches. The Census Bureau’s communications department (including Steve Jost and Stephen Buckner) as well as Census Director Dr. Robert M. Groves,  have failed in that they have not pressured Google to remove this video. Yes, Jerry Day is entitled to freedom of speech, but his reporting is full of lies, so Google, a private company, should not be propagating this anti-2010 Census propaganda.

    Here’s a screen capture of a typical YouTube search:

    Feud over counting homeless escalates: Census employee fired after taking worries to Rep. Doggett

    Sunday, April 4th, 2010

    The following comes from Statesman.com:

    By Andrea Ball and Suzannah Gonzales

    AMERICAN-STATESMAN STAFF

    U.S. Rep Lloyd Doggett has stepped into a dispute between Travis County officials and U.S. census leaders over how the area’s homeless population will be counted for the 2010 census.

    For weeks, the groups have been sparring over the times, methods and manpower needed to tally the area’s estimated 4,000 people living in shelters, camps, cars and hotels. But that conflict escalated this week when a census employee called Doggett to say she had been fired for raising concerns about the safety and accuracy of the count.

    On Friday, Doggett called U.S. Census Bureau Director Robert Groves in Washington.

    “Director Groves promised me he would investigate both the employee’s firing and review the best practices to accurately count the homeless,” Doggett said in a statement Friday.

    Census officials across the country plan to count the homeless on three days: On Monday, workers will tally people in shelters. On Tuesday, they’ll count people at mobile food kitchens. And early Wednesday, they’ll head outside to camps and public places such as bridges and sidewalks.

    It’s the Wednesday effort that has caused the most friction locally.

    That count is planned for midnight to 7 a.m., a time local homeless advocates deem unsafe for census employees. Critics also say the census is not providing enough people or allowing enough time to ensure an accurate count.

    “To count thousands of people over seven hours is unrealistic,” said Travis County Constable Bruce Elfant, a member of the Austin-Travis County Complete Count Committee. “This isn’t like going door to door.”

    A faulty count would mean losing out on millions of dollars in federal money.

    On Friday, Travis County Judge Sam Biscoe and Austin Mayor Lee Leffingwell sent a letter to a regional census official detailing their concerns about counting the homeless.

    “Your own Census staffers estimate that the homeless population could be undercounted by as much as 40%,” the letter states. “This would mean 1,000 or more homeless residents would not be counted in Travis County, resulting in the loss of more than $15,000,000 to our community.”

    Jeff Behler, deputy regional director for the U.S. Census Bureau, said the late-night hours were determined “because, in the research that was done by our staff, it was determined that would be the best time in which that population would be the least transient.”

    Local leaders proposed holding an additional daytime event Thursday at the Palmer Events Center with food, music and giveaways for those who came to fill out the census forms. Census leaders said no, Elfant said.

    “There appears to be very little wiggle room for communities that want to try innovative things,” Elfant said. “It’s been frustrating.”

    Homeless advocates also worry that census takers could get hurt wandering into the greenbelts and wooded areas that late at night. David Gomez, who works with the homeless for Austin Travis County Integral Care, said homeless people could be sleeping, drunk, high on drugs or otherwise impaired.

    In a memo obtained by the American-Statesman, U.S. Census Bureau employee Lisa Bayliff agreed.

    “There are camps that have barbed wire stretched about 3-4 inches from the ground to trip intruders from easy access,” she wrote. “There are camps that are known meth labs; they have signs posted around the perimeter to warn people to go away … The timing of the operation is flawed and is willingly placing all Census employees at peril.”

    Census takers, who will be wearing reflective vests and carrying flashlights, have been told not to wake up sleeping people, Behler said. They will travel in groups, try not to startle people and clearly communicate their intent, Behler said.

    Earlier this month, Bayliff took her concerns to the Austin congressman, Doggett spokeswoman Sarah Dohl said.

    But this week, Bayliff contacted the office to say she had been fired for speaking to Doggett, Dohl said. That prompted Doggett to call Grove.

    Bayliff declined to comment. Jenna Steormann Arnold, spokeswoman for the U.S. Census Bureau in Central Texas, said she could not talk about specifics of the case.

    “Yes, she no longer works for the Census Bureau, but since it is a personnel issue that deals with confidential information, we cannot discuss it,” she said.