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 Francisco’

Wired Magazine and Techies: Census Bureau’s Super Bowl Ad Is A Dud

Tuesday, February 9th, 2010

Click here for some scientific evidence about the Census Bureau’s failure to choose a worthwhile ad for the Super Bowl…here’s the quote in question:

“After the game, I asked to see more data. They found one interesting case where the US government’s 2010 census advertisement had low effect on the viewers and the Google commercial that followed it sparked the audience’s interest.”

San Francisco Public Press: Census methods could provide lift to hidden homeless

Wednesday, February 3rd, 2010

The following article comes to us from the San Francisco Public Press, a worthy non-profit that is trying to revive the journalism industry in the City by the Bay (full article here):

By TJ Johnston

The 2010 Census could help address one of the thorniest problems in dealing with San Francisco’s long-standing homeless problem — getting an accurate head count.

The city’s homeless figures have ranged between about 6,500 and 8,600 people in the last decade, but the real number is anybody’s guess. The sketchy knowledge of who is living on the street has been a big impediment to perennial attempts to solve the crisis.

Temporary census workers will spend three days at the end of March interviewing homeless people at their usual gathering places, including shelters, soup kitchens, parks and highway underpasses. The census workers will ask questions similar to those asked of people who do not reply to questionnaires delivered to households.

The official number of homeless people in the city matters because it can potentially affect the number of representatives for state and federal legislative because they’re drawn based on population. It also impacts federal, state and city grants for social service programs for the homeless.

Part of the problem has been that for each count, the methodology changes, and so does number of workers and time dedicated to the count. These tallies have been conducted by the city and an array of private nonprofit service and advocacy groups, each with its own political agenda and definitions of homelessness.

Politicians and advocacy groups have also been known to use different numbers depending on the audience. And no one in the government is quite sure of the real number.

“Part of it has to do with conflicts between academic estimates of the homeless population and community and activist estimates,” said Chris Bettinger, who teaches sociology at San Francisco State University.

Bettinger said the Census Bureau, which has only been including homeless people in its counts since 1980, could not guarantee that this year’s numbers will be definitive, or even better than other methods. The advantages are that the counting of the homeless across the country will be somewhat standardized and conducted by paid staff, not volunteers.

Cash Cuts May Cost California Billions

Friday, November 20th, 2009

From the San Francisco Chronicle:

By Marissa Lagos

(11-16) 04:00 PST Sacramento

California has slashed the amount of money it will spend on the 2010 census, a move that experts warn could lead to a flawed count and cost the state billions in federal aid over the next decade.

Additionally, the U.S. Census Bureau – which recognized early that states wouldn’t have as much cash on hand – is redoubling its efforts. For example, in 2000, 18 census outreach workers were dedicated to the Bay Area; this year, the bureau assigned 160.

The U.S. government hands out about $400 billion to states and local jurisdictions every year based on population counts made during the nation’s decennial census. The money pays for local hospitals, schools, public housing, highways and unemployment insurance.

While the federal government pays census workers to take counts, states and local governments spend money on census outreach efforts to stress to residents – particularly those who may be wary – the importance of the census.

But because of deep budget cuts in the 2009-10 California spending plan, the state has earmarked less than $2 million for 2010 census outreach, down from nearly $25 million a decade ago. The cut in state census outreach funds is a problem that federal officials said is playing out across the country.

In California, the cut means many counties, which 10 years ago received grants from the state for outreach in addition to using their own money, will get little or no state funding for 2010 census outreach. Some counties struggling with their own fiscal problems also have cut local funding for census outreach.

Undercounts costly

Sonny Le, a spokesman for the U.S. Census Bureau, said outreach is critical to ensure residents fill out the census forms that will be delivered to every home in the United States in March. Many people don’t understand the reason for filling out the form, while others are reticent to share information with the federal government.

Each uncounted resident could result in the loss of $1,000 a year in federal funding for a state, according to the nonprofit Grantmakers Concerned With Immigrants and Refugees.

Ted Wang, a census consultant working for the group, said state and local outreach efforts play a critical role in communicating with populations that historically have been difficult to count.

An undercount also could cost California a congressional seat for the first time in its 150-year history, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has said.

In 2000, 70 percent of the U.S. census forms that were sent out in California were returned – though only 58 percent were expected, said Eric Alborg, a spokesman for the California Complete Count Committee, a group formed by the governor in June to oversee the state’s census outreach.

Even with a higher-than-anticipated rate of response, Assemblyman Felipe Fuentes, D-Sylmar (Los Angeles County), estimated that California lost $2 billion to $3 billion in federal funding over the past decade because some people were not counted.

“If this year is a bad count, how many more billions could we lose?” Fuentes said.

The governor’s office defended the cuts as necessary and pointed out that in 2000 – at the height of the dot-com boom – the state was flush with cash.

‘Hard to count’ groups

“Given the breadth of the recession and the toll on state revenues, we had to make cutbacks in virtually every area,” said H.D. Palmer, a spokesman for the Department of Finance, who added that state officials recognize the importance of the count. “We’re pleased we are able to commit resources for outreach efforts to reach individuals that are hard to count.”

California is home to 10 of the nation’s 50 counties with the largest “hard to count” populations, which include people of color, young adults, immigrants and low-income residents. Alameda and San Francisco counties are among the 10 counties, topped by Los Angeles County.

People harder to find

Further compounding the challenge is the economic and political climate, experts said. The financial crisis, including the waves of foreclosures, has forced people into homelessness or nontraditional housing, making them hard to find.

Officials said some immigrant populations are expected to be even more wary of the count than usual because of an uptick in immigration raids and anti-immigrant rhetoric in recent years – including an attempt by several Republican U.S. senators to exclude undocumented residents from the count and require respondents to disclose their immigration status. The amendment was defeated, but sponsor David Vitter, R-La., has vowed to raise the issue again.

To make up for the cut in state census funds, the state is working closely with elected, religious, nonprofit, community and educational leaders to develop plans to reach out to residents and get accurate counts via the California Complete Count Committee.

The state is also developing a Web site that will offer tool kits in census outreach to community partners.

Meanwhile, some local jurisdictions are trying to bridge the gap left by state cuts. San Francisco and Santa Clara counties ponied up money in their budgets to fund local efforts. For the first time, San Francisco created a “complete count committee,” which includes community, business, labor and nonprofit leaders to help with outreach.

Still, serious challenges lie ahead, says Adrienne Pon, who is leading San Francisco’s efforts.

“There are no (state) funds this time around, and populations are more dispersed and diverse … (so) we’re trying to be more street smart and direct outreach mobilization efforts,” she said. The largely African American Bayview-Hunters Point “had the lowest rate of return in 2000. We know of eight neighborhoods like that one which we are targeting.”

Cali Gets Boo$t From Endowment

Friday, August 28th, 2009

California’s task of counting all of its citizens just became a wee bit easier. Thanks to the California Endowment, an additional $4 million has been added to the pot of the deficit-stricken state:

LOS ANGELES – (Business Wire) To ensure that every Californian is counted in the 2010 U.S. Census, the state’s largest, private health foundation today announced that it will make $4 million in grants towards a statewide campaign that will promote the importance of participating in the Census, particularly in the large number of “hard to count” communities throughout the state.

“Hard to count” populations are among California’s most vulnerable residents – low-income communities and communities of color.

The federal government makes funding allocations based on population counts from the Census, and for every resident not counted, the state will lose an estimated $11,500 in federal funding over the course of 10 years according to 2009 data from the Brookings Institution.

“At a time when the state is facing declining revenues, it is critical to the people of California that we ensure every resident is counted so we don’t lose out on federal funding essential to the health and well-being of all Californians,” said Robert K. Ross, M.D., president and CEO of The California Endowment.

“If 10 percent of California’s population of 37 million is not counted, the state stands to lose $42.4 billion in federal funding over the next decade,” Ross added.

About one-third of that funding is directly tied to health services, while all of the funding is tied to individual and family well-being which, in turn, is a significant component of health status.

California is home to 10 of the 50 counties in the nation that have been identified as being the hardest to count: Los Angeles, San Diego, Orange, San Bernardino, Fresno, Riverside, Alameda, Sacramento, Kern and San Francisco. These counties are home to large populations that have been historically underrepresented in the Census, including immigrants, people of color, low-income communities, rural areas and those who live in multi-family housing.

San Francisco vs. The U.S. Census Bureau

Thursday, August 20th, 2009

H/t to the San Francisco Chronicle:

City Hall takes on the U.S. Census — again!

Squaring off against the U.S. Census is nothing new for City Hall officials – and they’re doing it again this week over the “advanced letter” the census sends all U.S. residents explaining the census questionnaire several weeks before they get the real thing.

City Attorney Dennis Herrera wants the U.S. Census to have a heartPaul Chinn/The Chronicle

In 2000, the advanced letter was sent in a variety of languages including Cantonese, Mandarin, Vietnamese, Korean and Tagalog. But in February, the letter will go out in English only, with Spanish versions included in some census tracts.

That means a lot of San Francisco’s 325,000 residents who speak a language other than English may not understand what to do with the census questionnaire. And that means they may skip it altogether, go uncounted and cause the city to lose out on federal money.

City Attorney Dennis Herrera and David Chiu, president of the Board of Supervisors, have sent a letter to the census asking that it reconsider its policy change. Chiu also introduced legislation at the board calling for an inclusive advanced letter.

The city has a long history of waging battles against the census. In the 1970s, Chinese residents sued over an undercount in Chinatown. In 1990, the city sued over another undercount. In 2000, the city said the census undercounted by a whopping 100,000 people – causing the San Francisco to lose out on $30 million a year in federal funds. (The census compromised, giving the city another 34,209 people.)

Sonny Le, a media specialist with the census, said nothing about the advanced letter has been finalized. We asked him numerous times why the language change had been floated in the first place, and he couldn’t give an answer, only saying it was “a combination of different things.”

MyTwoCensus Editorial: Continue outreach by using highly skilled professionals

Monday, June 8th, 2009

In recent editorials, MyTwoCensus has questioned the effectiveness of the U.S. Census Bureau’s outreach efforts. However, today, at San Francisco’s Israel in the Gardens celebration, I was able to witness firsthand the effectiveness of highly qualified partnership specialist Pnina Levermore as she communicated with hundreds of members of the Bay Area community who don’t necessarily speak English as their first language. As a long-time employee of Russian and Jewish community organizations in the Bay Area, Levermore is a huge asset to the Census Bureau. I watched as she bounced between English and Russian, fielding inquiries from children as young as five to octogenarians (who have surely lived through many decennial headcounts), answering all questions asked of her with accuracy and care.

Levermore went so far as to create her own Russian language handout about the 2010 Census (we have been told that the Census Bureau will have their own national handouts printed in many languages soon) to distribute at this event.

The Census Bureau should continue to hire highly skilled people like Levermore. Many of the millions of Americans who applied for jobs at the Census Bureau speak more than one language, but hiring someone who has a deep knowledge of the community he/she will be assisting as well as the foreign language skills that he/she will be using on the job is of the utmost importance. We urge the local and regional 2010 Census offices to hire partnership specialists based on intangible factors that won’t necessarily show up on job applications and will only be revealed after in-person interviews and carefully examining individuals’ personalities.

We applaud the San Francisco 2010 Census Office for hiring someone like Levermore and we hope that other offices around the country will follow suit with similar practices.

Multimedia Essay: A Squandered Opportunity for The Census Bureau

Wednesday, May 27th, 2009

At Sunday’s Carnaval parade in San Francisco, the Census Bureau made a major blunder by not participating in the parade and only setting up a dinky little booth at an event in the vicinity of the parade that lacked the visibility of the main event.

The Census Bureau could have participated by creating something like this:


  

But instead, all the Census Bureau did to reach out to minorities was this:

Editorial: Census Bureau Squanders Outreach Opportunity in San Francisco

Tuesday, May 26th, 2009

On Sunday, the Carnaval parade in San Francisco’s Mission District brought together tens of thousands of individuals, most of whom who are members of ethnic minority groups. Dozens of Central American, South American, and Caribbean nationalities were represented. All of these people are classified as “hard to reach individuals” by the U.S. Census Bureau.

In addition to the elaborate floats that represented community organizations, schools, arts organizations, and more, government agencies like BART and government partners such as the Sunset Scavengers had their own floats. One organization that was noticeably absent from the parade was the United States Census Bureau.

For a government agency that always touts how many millions of dollars it will save for each household that returns Census forms on time (by Census Day, April 1, 2010), the Census Bureau’s outreach to self-proclaimed “hard to reach” groups has been sub-par.

Yes, the Census Bureau had a tiny stall staffed by two bilingual workers at Carnaval’s accompanying festival. However this stall was inadequate as only a fraction of the people who attended the parade walked past it, let alone stopped to speak with representatives.

Hopefully the Census Bureau will learn from this mistake and correct this problem for next year’s festivities, which fall after Census Day, but before all of the surveys are due back to the federal government.

Mayor wants same-sex marriage recognized on 2010 Census form

Thursday, May 14th, 2009

San Francisco’s Mayor, Gavin Newsom, recently announced his bid to become California’s governor in 2010. Today he stepped onto the national stage, as he took a decisive stance on the pro-gay rights issues that he has so vehemently supported. The San Francisco Chronicle reports that “Newsom asked the Secretary of Commerce and U.S. Census Bureau to recognize same-sex couples in the 2010 Census.” Is there be time to add “gay marriage” to the 2010 Census form? What legal hurdles would need to be overcome to turn this proposal into reality?