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 ‘San Antonio’

Is speaking English a requirement to become a 2010 Census employee? Apparently not.

Monday, May 17th, 2010

The following report comes from San Antonio. Has anyone else experienced a 2010 Census worker who doesn’t speak English or is this an isolated case?

By Steve Lindscomb

SAN ANTONIO-Census workers are knocking on doors to get unanswered forms, but what would you do if that worker couldn’t speak your language? That’s what happened to one woman recently. When we first asked the Census Bureau about this incident that a viewer wrote us about, they found it hard to believe, but when we told them we ran into the very worker ourselves, and he really could not speak english, they had some questions to answer.

Sylvia Turner told us she was shocked. The census worker she talked to was very nice and courteous, but could not hardly put two or three english words together. “I tried, I stood there, I tried to be very patient and he could not speak one work clearly.”

She said she was surprised because she thought every census worker was tested for fluency in at least english. She didn’t want to get the worker in trouble, but somehow, the system broke down.

Her question was “are they speaking to these individuals or are they just taking applications.”

When we cruised around this north side neighborhood we happened to run into a census worker. And wouldn’t you know it…it had to be the same guy, because after talking to him for ten minutes, neither one of us knew what the other was trying to say. We didn’t want to embarrass him so we aren’t identifying him, but we did ask the census bureau if workers are tested and screened to communicate with the public.

A spokesperson would only read a statement to me over the phone. “While enumerators can take the skills test in Spanish, they must also then pass an English proficiency test. Enumerator training is conducted in English and, afterward, workers are observed and evaluated for English proficiency and their ability to conduct the survey. ”

The Census Bureau did tell us that if you run into a similar language problem, the worker has a form where you can indicate in which language you can answer questions. Another worker fluent in that language should come back to your house the next day.

MyTwoCensus Investigation: Why is the Census Bureau pointing at some cities to improve while others are left lagging behind in silence?

Thursday, April 1st, 2010

Imagine you’re in first grade and you’re playing soccer for a team. Imagine if you’re one of a handful of kids who isn’t playing as well as the others. Now, imagine that the coach tells a few kids who are playing poorly what they’re doing wrong, but he doesn’t tell you anything. So what do you do? You keep doing what you’re doing, which is lousy. It’s lousy because you will never get better. Well, this is what the Census Bureau has done in recent days by pointing out that some states, cities and towns have poor “participation rates” while letting others linger in the darkness.

Just yesterday, I worried that Connecticut didn’t have enough resources for its Questionnaire Assistance Centers. Today, my fears were confirmed when the Census Bureau called out Connecticut on its low response rates. The Census Bureau sent out a press release with the following:

2010 Census Mail Participation Rates in Parts of Connecticut
Behind Rest of the Nation

Census Bureau Director Robert Groves noted today that some areas are
lagging behind the rest of the country in mailing back their 2010 Census
forms. With Census Day on April 1, parts of Connecticut still have some of
the lowest rates of mail participation. Nationally, 50 percent of
households have mailed back their forms. But in parts of Connecticut, the
participation rate is significantly lower, with Hartford one of the
farthest behind at 32 percent.

“We’re concerned about the relatively low response from parts of
Connecticut,” said Census Bureau Director Robert Groves. “Every household
that fails to send back their census form by mail must be visited by a
census taker starting in May — at a significant taxpayer cost. The easiest
and best way to be counted in the census is to fill out and return your
form by mail.”

Why single out Connecticut and Chicago when other states and cities are performing even worse? (Conspiracy theorists may start here when they notice that both of these regions tilt Democratic and it would be an insult to the President if Chicago underperformed…)

On Tuesday, a concerned reader wrote to me (note the following numbers have changed since Tuesday…), “This morning the Bureau issued a press release calling out a number of cities and states concerned with their mailback response.  The Bureau called out Anchorage, AK (41% participation response) and Montgomery, AL (41%) as low performing areas.  They also called out several cities in Florida and Jackson Mississippi which have participation rates in the 30’s.

Why did the Census Bureau single out some areas in press releases and not others?  As of Tuesday’s update, these major cities all had participation rates in the 30% range – Houston, TX 33%, Philadelphia, San Antonio and Dallas each at 37%, Austin, TX 33%, Columbus, OH 35%, and Memphis, TN 31%  — yet weren’t mentioned anywhere.

Why call out some locales and not others? If there is a method to this madness, Dr. Groves, Mr. Jost, Mr. Buckner, and other Census Bureau officials are requested to let us know in the comments section why there is such disparity in the levels of attention given by the Bureau to specific poorly performing areas.