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 ‘Statistics’

2010 Census results will be released tomorrow…

Monday, December 20th, 2010

11AM EST tomorrow. The data dump you’ve all been waiting for. Early predictions are that the GOP will score big (because of wins in the November elections that will enable the GOP to redraw the maps of many Congressional and state districts).

Take a look at the Census Bureau’s interactive map HERE.

PS – It’s a shame that there are so few demographics reporters out there these days to deeply analyze this data at the local and regional level.

Data releases begin; more to come

Wednesday, September 29th, 2010

H/t to Ed O’Keefe of The Washington Post for the following:

“We’re going to be releasing a lot of population data in the coming months,” Census Bureau Director Robert Groves said last week at a meeting with reporters. “There is a potential for confusion.” (See a full schedule below.)

Indeed. For example, the ranks of the nation’s poor rose last year, according to Census statistics released Tuesday.

Those stats come from the American Community Survey, a questionnaire randomly sent on an annual basis to households nationwide. The survey helps determine the status of 40 different topic areas, including annual income, housing levels, educational attainment, family structure, commute times and the number of disabled people.

Some conservative activists and Republican lawmakers wrongly assumed that these questions were part of the 2010 Census forms. But no, the ACS replaced the old census “long form” that was randomly sent to some households in the past. (And yes, skeptics: It is constitutional for the Census Bureau to ask questions beyond a simple count of people.)

In December the Census Bureau will release ACS statistics based on data collected between 2005 and 2009 for geographic areas of all sizes. A third set of ACS data collected between 2007 and 2009 and covering all areas with populations of 20,000 or more will be released in January.

The results of the 10-question decennial census forms completed earlier this year will be released in December, as required by the U.S. Constitution. (Article 1, Section 2 states that “[An] enumeration shall be made within three years after the first meeting of the Congress of the United States, and within every subsequent term of ten years, in such manner as they shall by law direct.”)

The December release will include the nation’s new total population figures and state-by-state congressional apportionment information. Other information on redistricting will be released in February or March.

UPCOMING CENSUS BUREAU RELEASES:

OCTOBER:
2009 American Community Survey estimates

DECEMBER:
2010 Census state counts

Census Bureau demographic analysis

2005-2009 American Community Survey estimates

JANUARY:
2007-2009 American Community Survey estimates

FEBRUARY TO MARCH:
Redistricting data from the 2010 Census

Wall Street Journal: 2010 Census hiring blitz will alter job figures

Tuesday, June 1st, 2010

The Wall Street Journal asserts that the national unemployment rate will fall this month, and this is in large part due to the thousands of people who are temporarily working for the 2010 Census. Here’s the article.

Why the 2010 Census matters

Monday, January 4th, 2010

Sacramento Bee editorial writer Pia Lopez has a piece today responding to SacBee commenters and politicians like Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.) who want to boycott the census.

It’s a good read, and a reminder that the Census is about more than funding and congressional representation. Here’s Lopez’s central argument (check out the full piece here):

The U.S. census provides an essential portrait of who we are as a people and how we live – from 1790 to the present.

The census gives us a person-by-person, family-by-family, street-by-street, community-by-community, state-by-state set of details about Americans. It is not just “America by the Numbers” – an impersonal compendium of population numbers for a statistical atlas.

Lopez used census information to look into her own family history — and what she found is pretty interesting. The 1900 Census reveals that her great-grandfather was the only boarder on a New York City block of Swedish, Irish and German immigrants. Most could speak English, read and write, but not everyone could.

The census, she writes, gives us details about how Americans lived — and protects privacy because the page-by-page details aren’t disclosed until 72 years later. Lopez encourages those who receive the in-depth American Community Survey to willingly fill it out:

If you get that longer questionnaire, which delves into 40 topic areas – including such things as income, citizenship, disability, plumbing and heating in the house, telephone service, family relationships and educational attainment – just remember that the information won’t be released until 2082. And when it is, it will provide indispensable information about technological change, standard of living and the work people do.

In the short-term, the 2010 Census is crucial for fairly appropriating funds and ensuring just representation in Congress. But for future historians and regular people who want to know their family’s past, it provides a comprehensive yet specific look at American society. The story of Lopez’s great-grandfather is just one of the millions that show the value of the census.

Interview With Robert M. Groves: Census Director focuses on putting IT to the test before the big count

Friday, November 27th, 2009

H/t to Gautham Nagesh of NextGov for the following interview with Census Bureau Director Robert M. Groves:

Since his confirmation in July, Census Bureau Director Robert Groves has found himself in charge of the costliest and most controversial census to date.

Well-publicized technology issues and budget overruns have hampered the bureau’s preparations for the 2010 count. Last month, Groves told lawmakers that the budget overruns leading to the decennial count’s $15 billion price tag were “intolerable.”

But he told Nextgov on Monday that the bureau plans to push the limits of new technology in tests scheduled for after the Thanksgiving break in hope of making sure the census goes as hitch-free as possible in April 2010.

Groves was the director of the Survey Research Center at the University of Michigan’s Institute for Social Research and served as associate director of the 1990 census in 1990. Nextgov reporter Gautham Nagesh spoke with him on Monday about the preparations for the 2010 census and the bureau’s progress on solving some of the technology problems that the Government Accountability Office and the inspector general found.

Nextgov: What is the status of the bureau’s preparations for the 2010 decennial census, especially concerning the information technology systems needed to support it?

Groves: I came in July and had not been there since 1990. There are a couple things to note on the IT side: First, I’ve been focused clearly on decennial IT issues, not on looking backwards. We have a new chief information officer, Brian McGrath, who came in weeks before me, and he was engaged in sort of the same thing I’m doing — checking the nature of the infrastructure for the decennial.

We had on our table GAO and IG reports concerning the lack of testing in an integrated way of the various subsystems used for the decennial census. We had some outside folks take a look at whether core subsystems were being tested in an integrated way.

We also have a new set of software we’re building as a result of the abandonment of the handhelds that will support paper-based nonresponse follow-up. That is the critical task on the software side I spend the most time on. After Thanksgiving we will perform a load test on systems that will be in action during nonresponse follow-up. We’re going to make sure we break the system to measure the capacity.

The other thing that’s notable from your readers’ perspective: We’re 80 percent through opening 500 different local Census offices, each of which has its own computer network issues. That was done through Harris Corp., part of the Field Data Collection Automation contract. We’ve got 400 local offices up and running, each site is its own little story. After some initial bumps that seems to be going well.

Nextgov: What was the situation like when you arrived regarding IT systems development? What in your view caused or contributed to the IT challenges at the Census Bureau?

Groves: I haven’t spent much time going back and diagnosing those problems. I have to focus on the future.

But I am a believer in certain philosophies when you develop software and hardware products for large, diverse sets of users, including that a user has to be at the table from Day One. The user has to be part of the inspection process for all the intermediate products as they are developed. The notion of writing down all the specs for complex systems and getting them right the first time, having programmers go away for a while and code those specs, that’s an approach that brings with it big risks.

In my past life in software development I have learned from a management perspective that you’ve got to get the user there all the time. They have to be part of the development. Humans can’t anticipate all the features of a software system before they see the first version of it.

But I need to emphasize that my job hasn’t been postmortem on handhelds, I have just not done that.

Nextgov: There were reports that the handhelds had some problems during address canvassing, particularly regarding their mapping function. How are you dealing with those?

Groves: There are two parts of the master address file: the geographical information that provides boundaries for aerial units and the address records. The big good news is that after this gigantic address canvassing operation, the number of records we have is very close to independent estimates of what it should be: 134 million households. That’s a good thing, based on the independent benchmark we get from sample surveys.

Now we’re going out and checking for clusters of records deleted [during address canvassing]. If you were listed in address canvassing and you noted that an address was improperly placed in a block, your job [as a canvasser] was to delete that one address and add it in the correct place [using the handheld]. We’re scrutinizing any clusters of deletes. In some regions we’ve reinspected areas that look suspicious.

Nextgov: What do they find upon reinspection?

Groves: We’re getting spotty results. It’s not a slam-dunk one way or the other. When we go out and have a whole group of addresses deleted, sometimes everything looks fine, sometimes the ones that were deleted were duplicates, and sometimes they were deleted in error. There’s no typical result.

Nextgov: The idea of using the Internet to collect responses was proposed and rejected last year, despite conducting a pilot in 2000. What’s your opinion on allowing responses online? Is that something you think should be explored for 2020?

Groves: My son filled out a questionnaire for the 2000 census on the Internet. The decision to eliminate the Internet option for 2010 was made before I got here. I haven’t diagnosed that decision. I know the most commonly cited reason is concerns about security, which are indeed real and completely legitimate.

Looking forward, I can say I can’t imagine a 2020 census without some Internet use. At the same time, in the same breath we have to know that neither you nor I have any idea what the 2020 Internet is actually going to be capable of. When I say we must have an Internet option, I must admit I’m not quite sure myself. We have to take advantage of the technology; other countries already are. In 2006, 18 percent of Canadian households responded to their census on the Internet.

Nextgov: Do you plan to serve beyond next year? Would you like to be involved in the planning for the 2020 count?

Groves: I serve at the pleasure of the president and will serve as long as he is pleased with my service. I’m terribly interested in 2020 and also interested in innovation in all of the other surveys the Census Bureau does, thousands depending on how you count. The challenge of doing economic and social measurement in this country is never-ending. The rate of innovation lets us use technology in new and important ways; it can change the way we measure the country. That pace has to pick up in any organization like the Census Bureau. I’m terribly interested in being part of that.

Latest Federal Funds Report Released

Friday, October 2nd, 2009

Check out the latest Federal Funds Report that explains how population and income statistics effect the distribution of federal funds (with a heavy focus on Census Bureau data!) This is further proof that participation in the 2010 Census/providing a complete count will lead to tangible re$ult$ from the federal government.

Statistics=Sexy

Thursday, August 6th, 2009

At this moment, the #1 most e-mailed New York Times article is called “For Today’s Graduate, Just One Word: Statistics.” To all of the statisticians out there, this one’s for you.

Obama Administration employment figures are lies: Why the numbers don’t add up…

Thursday, June 4th, 2009

As MyTwoCensus has consistently reported for the past few months, the U.S. Government’s unemployment figures are completely misleading. The government factored the 140,000 people who assisted with the Census Bureau’s first round of address canvassing operations as having new jobs that were created during these most troubling economic times.

However, as hundreds of our readers have expressed through their comments, contributions, and by contacting us, most of the employment for these early canvassing operations was extremely brief, lasting anywhere from a few days of training (without ever being called in for the actual job) to a couple of months (for the luckiest of employees).

Only now, after months of  neglecting these misleading statistics and happily toeing the Obama party line about job creation, is  the mainstream media beginning to pick up on these reporting errors, about the very limited job creation for 2010 Census operations. Thanks to the Associated Press for the following report:

Part-timers form a hidden unemployment rate

TOWNSHEND, Vt. (AP) — When the monthly unemployment figures come out Friday, Greg Noel will go from collecting government statistics to becoming one. Again.

Noel, 60, was among more than 60,000 Americans hired in April to help with the 2010 Census. But he’s out of work once more and moving back on the unemployment rolls because his temporary gig is finished.

It’s a familiar predicament in today’s economy, in which some 2 million people searching for full-time work have had to settle for less, and unemployment is much higher than the official rate when all the Americans who gave up looking for jobs are counted, too.

For the past month, Noel and more than 140,000 Census workers fanned out to create a map of every housing unit in the country, part of what will be the largest peacetime mobilization of civilian workers.

He roamed the spine of the Green Mountains with a handheld GPS unit for several weeks, wandering down dirt roads and chatting with people whose livelihoods are also uncertain. Work was good: The sun was out, the snow was gone and the blackflies hadn’t begun to hatch.

Because of the surge of Census hiring, April unemployment only rose to 8.9 percent — a much slower increase than had been feared. But the latest unemployment figures aren’t likely to get similar help. Thousands like Noel who were among one of the largest segments of the work force — people who have taken part-time jobs because they can’t find full-time work — have returned simply to being unemployed.

Consider the numbers:

_The 8.9 percent April unemployment rate was based on 13.7 million Americans out of work. But that number doesn’t include discouraged workers, or people who gave up looking for work after four weeks. Add those 700,000 people, and the unemployment rate would be 9.3 percent.

_The official rate also doesn’t include “marginally-attached workers,” or people who have looked for work in the past year but stopped searching in the past month because of barriers to employment such as child care, poor health or lack of transportation. Add those 1.4 million people, and the unemployment rate would be 10.1 percent.

_The official rate also doesn’t include “involuntary part-time workers,” or the 2 million people like Noel who took a part-time job because that’s all they could get, plus those whose work hours dropped below the full-time level. Once those 9 million workers are added to the unemployment mix, the rate would be 15.8 percent.

All told, nearly 25 million Americans were either unemployed, underemployed, or had given up looking for a job in April.

The ranks of involuntary part-timers has increased by 4.9 million in the past year, according to a May study by the Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland. Many economists now predict unemployment won’t peak until 2010. And since employers generally increase the hours of existing workers before hiring new ones, workers could be looking for full-time jobs for some time.

“You haven’t seen job loss numbers like this before,” said Heather Boushey, a senior economist at the Center for American Progress in Washington. “It’s been such a sharp dip down that you’ll see a lot of employers taking on temporary and part-time workers before they add employees.”

For tens of thousands of people like Noel, a part-time job isn’t their dream position, but it beats the alternative. A Pennsylvania native and veteran of the Silicon Valley boom-and-bust cycle, Noel settled in southern Vermont in 2003. He’s worked a series of jobs, commuting to his latest position as an auditor for a family-owned food and beverage distributor in Brattleboro before being laid off in early spring.

Vermont is in better shape than most states — but not by much. Real estate and tourism, pillars of the state’s economy over the past decade, are staggering.

Many parents who were frantic last year about sons and daughters serving in Iraq and Afghanistan — the state has sent a disproportionate share of its young people overseas — now are relieved their children have a steady job with benefits. Financial jobs are few. “The economy?” Noel asks between bites of a bison burger in a tiny diner. “You just don’t know if it’s ever going to come back. We may never have it so good again.”

When the Census Bureau offered him a part-time job mapping houses nearly an hour from his Windham home, Noel jumped at it. The money, between $10 and $25 per hour plus 55 cents per mile, was a big factor. But Noel said he also wanted to be part of a larger community effort, and the 2010 Census is nothing if not a large community effort.

When the first numbers are released in December 2010, the Census Bureau will have spent more than $11 billion and hired about 1.2 million temporary employees. The government conducts its Census every decade to determine the number of congressional seats assigned to each state, but the figures collected also help the government decide where to spend billions of dollars for the poor and disabled, where to build new schools and prisons, and how state legislative boundaries should be designed.

It hasn’t been the perfect job — that would be a full-time position with benefits — but Noel says the Census job worked out well. It eased the pain of being unemployed, giving him something to do, and made him realize his entire life doesn’t have to be about financial management.

“It’s just statistics,” said Noel, “but it’s important.”

But last week, he was unemployed again, a victim of the Census Bureau’s efficiency. Since the government was able to draw from a well-qualified but mostly out-of-work pool of applicants, the work done by more than 140,000 field employees went far more quickly than expected.

“We’ve always done well, but this time around was amazing,” said Stephen L. Buckner, a Census Bureau spokesman. “It’s a tough economic time.”

For some temporary workers, the outlook is brighter. Ian Gunn spent five weeks “being paid to hike. It was great.” Gunn, an 18-year-old high school senior heading to Renssalaer Polytechnic Institute next year to study computer science, hopes for a better economy when he graduates, one that offers more security than a series of part-time jobs.

“It’s going to take time,” he said, “but I’ve got four more years.”

Noel, though, is uncertain about the future. It’s possible he’ll be called back to work later in the fall for the final push. The Census Bureau expects to send roughly 1.2 million workers out to count people who don’t return their questionnaires; the hiring will push down unemployment numbers for several months during that period.

For now, Noel says, he and his wife are living without frills. He looks for another job and she runs Green Mountain Chef, a catering business near Stratton Mountain. Demand has slowed dramatically since the economic meltdown began, as it has for most tourism-dependent businesses in Vermont.

Noel hopes to avoid being a statistic for too long. Unemployment insurance will give him about $425 per week — enough to pay the mortgage, and maybe the health insurance bill. Right now, the couple pays about $280 per month, but that will climb to $850 in September, when his government-subsidized COBRA policy expires.

“I hope something comes up,” he says. “But there’s not an awful lot out there.”

Tribute to David Freedman: His views on fixing the Census

Saturday, February 14th, 2009

David Freedman, a highly regarded statistician and probabilist at the University of California at Berkeley passed away last October. He was a “leading skeptic of the view that the Census could be improved by statistical adjustments. In the New York Times Economix blog, Princeton professor Alan B. Krueger pays tribute to Freedman by implying that though he was initially skeptical of Freedman’s opinions, he eventually came to believe that Freedman made valid points with his argument that Census results should not be artificially adjusted.

*Click here to read the New York Times editorial titled “Census Crunch Time” that led to this Economix blog post from Krueger.