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 ‘undercount’

Rahm Emanuel Wants A Re-Count For Chicago – Disputing 2010 Census Results

Tuesday, February 21st, 2012

In the run up to the 2010 Census, Rahm Emanuel took a significant amount of flack for trying to bring the 2010 Census under the auspices of the White House. Republicans were enraged that President Obama’s then chief-of-staff had the chutzpah to try to transform an independent agency into a White House subsidiary. But now Emanuel is in the news for other reasons. As Mayor of Chicago, Emanuel is fighting for the $1,200 that each resident is worth in terms of annual federal subsidies. The Chicago Tribune reports:

Mayor Rahm Emanuel is mounting a challenge to 2010 U.S. Census estimates that Chicago lost about 200,000 residents.

Big city mayors regularly contest the once-a-decade census results, which determine how much federal funding flows to different parts of the country. Chicago would gain about $1,200 annually for the next decade for each person added to the official population, according to Emanuel’s office.

Emanuel’s predecessor, Mayor Richard Daley, launched an unsuccessful bid to get Chicago’s 2000 population numbers increased. In 1990, Daley and other mayors tried futilely to get Congress to give them additional time to fight the census results.

The 2010 census estimated Chicago lost about 181,000 African-Americans and about 53,000 whites. Meanwhile, the Latino population grew by about 25,000 and the Asian population went up more than 20,000. Overall, the city’s estimated population in 2010 was 2,695,598.

City workers used estimates of the occupancy rates of housing units in particular neighborhoods to come up with areas they believe the census numbers were low, according to a news release from the Emanuel administration.

2010 Census news roundup…

Thursday, April 7th, 2011

Hi everyone, it’s been a long time. Unfortunately, life has made it such that MyTwoCensus.com isn’t my #1 priority at this moment, but that doesn’t mean that the impact of the 2010 Census is any less pertinent. In fact, there has been tons of news lately about the 2010 Census. Some key stories that I’ve been following:

1.  As I would have predicted, specifically in the case of New York, where I identified myriad problems with 2010 Census operations, the city is disputing its 2010 Census numbers as it will likely be missing out on a ton of federal funding ($3,000 per resident not counted per year). Here’s some info.

2. Despite its inflated advertising budget (don’t forget that bomb of a Super Bowl ad), the Census Bureau’s 2010 Census ad campaign is winning awards…but again, these are industry awards created by the industry, for the industry, so don’t take them too seriously. When you compare the amount of ad dollars spent in 2000 vs. 2010 to the participation rates, it is clear that 2000 was a better performance proportionally.

3. This shouldn’t be a major shock, but America’s demographics are  CHANGING. While the surge of Hispanics was expected, people didn’t expect the number of Asians in America to be growing so quickly. Here’s some info.

4. Minorities are moving to the suburbs and whites are moving to the cities, reversing trends that started in the post-war era. This is very interesting.

5. The GOP’s (Republican Party) success in the 2010 Elections may translate to redistricting success. Here’s a look at how the GOP won big in the 2010 Census.

On a more positive note, I have become quite interested in genealogy in recent months and I can tell you that US Census records have been invaluable in tracing my family’s history. In this sense, I am quite happy and proud that my family participated in the 2010 Census, because maybe, long after I’m gone, a future generation will be able to access information and learn about life in the year 2010.

AOL News: 2010 Census reveals possible undercount

Saturday, November 6th, 2010

MyTwoCensus thanks the astute reader who noticed this article (published 4 days ago) about a 2010 Census undercount (written by Andrea Stone, AOL’s Senior Washington Correspondent) that was then mysteriously removed from the internet by AOL. We’re not sure if this was because of an inaccuracy or some other reason. Nonetheless, here is a saved PDF file that shows the article. What do you think?

Undercounting AND a lower participation rate?

Sunday, July 11th, 2010

We have already addressed concerns of under-counting in the state of Texas.  News 8 in Austin is reporting that Texas has an average response rate that is 3 points below the national average.

“According to bureau officials, Texas has an overall lower participation rate than 2000. The census bureau office reported a 72 percent average participation rate across the nation, but only a 69 percent participation rate in Texas.”

It will be interesting to find out how much federal money Texas will loose because of their reduced response rate and undercounting.

Mississippi feels that the Census Bureau “dropped the ball” on the 2010 headcount

Sunday, June 27th, 2010

Here’s the article.

Census Bureau Official: The Worst Local Census Office In the Nation

Monday, May 10th, 2010

The following piece comes from an anonymous Census Bureau official in New York whose identity has been verified but will remain protected by MyTwoCensus.com. This work below does not necessarily represent the views of Stephen Robert Morse or MyTwoCensus.com:

From the outside our LCO looks great. It sits in a high end commercial office building with beautiful views of Park Avenue and the Grand Central Terminal. But on the inside the office is the prime example of the appalling waste, lack of accountability, sabotage and finger pointing that has become widespread here at the 2010 Census.

Our LCO contains the upscale doorman buildings of the East Side, the multi-million dollar condos in Union Square and the Lower East Side, Fifth Avenue retail stores such as Louis Vuitton, Chanel, Bergdorf Goodman and famous restaurants such as Tavern on the Green and Smith & Wollensky. The average rent for a one bedroom apartment is upwards of three thousand dollars a month. For months, numerous employees warned everyone the demography of the residents and the high real estate prices was going to be a problem finding applicants for $18.75 an hour and free training space. The recruiting and partnership assistants had trouble finding partners that would donate space that we could use five days a week for eight hours a day. The LCOM made clerks cold call high end banquet halls, and conference rooms in private office buildings but most of them refused because in such a recession these businesses could be generating revenue instead of donating their space. Some spaces though were nice enough to say that if we would be willing to offset some of their custodial, security costs or even the cost for toilet paper they would offer us the space. But the Census Bureau was adamant about not paying a single cent for space.

The other problem was recruiting enough applicants. The office clerk rate of $14.25 and field employee rate of $18.75 an hour was chump change for what is considered one of the highest real estate prices in the country. Most of the people who take a job for these pay rates are students, public housing or subsidized housing residents or retirees. For this very reason we were ranked last in the nation when it came to recruiting enough applicants to do the census.

To no one’s surprise since recruiting numbers were not being met the career census employees at regional census center (RCC) and headquarters pointed fingers, blamed the local census office managers and bring in outsiders. They brought in regional technicians and other recruiting assistants from Queens to show us how to plaster and flier neighborhoods with posters. Nevertheless they didn’t even make a dent in the recruiting numbers. Looking for someone to blame the RCC fired the recruiting manager and asked another one to take over. When the second one refused to work with the LCOM, the solution was fire her too. Then they offered it to a Westchester manager who declined also. (smart move) And the regional technician from Queens spent a week there before he was fed up. Are you starting to notice a trend? You know there is a problem when people would rather be fired than work with the LCOM.

The employees refused to work with the LCOM because she was condescending, oftentimes publicly humiliating and sabotaging other managers from getting their job done. Most of all, the LCOM had it out for the AMQA. She [LCOM] diverted a strong OOS from quality assurance to recruiting and told recruiting assistants to refrain from finding training sites and questionnaire assistance centers (QACs). When the area manager sent partnership assistants to help look for additional QAC sites the LCOM diverted them also. Then they sent a regional technician to help her. He mapped the geographic location of all the QAC sites and figured out the hours they would be most effective. Then he coordinated some recruiting assistants to help telling them exactly where he needed QACs and what hours he needed them. She threw away the work and tried to get the regional technician fired.

At the climax, when the LCOM resigned her going away party featured a clerk who impersonated her in a wig and stormed the lobby like a drama scene from a reality television show. After the LCOM left, an RCC employee became the acting LCOM. Like other RCC employees he offered little constructive help but sitting at his computer falling asleep or basically hovering, standing over, watching as temporary hourly employees slave away at processing work on an antiquated system that does not work.

When it came time to hire enumerators for non response follow-up our office still didn’t have enough training spaces but told to select applicants anyways. Despite being the worst LCO in the country the office managed to select almost 2,000 applicants, hiring a negligible number of non-citizens and those who scored below 70 from an applicant pool of about 5,000. (the original applicant testing goal was over 12,000 applicants) Instead of finally compromising and paying for much needed space RCC asked the LCO managers to create a schedule to take advantage of every single seat in a classroom, moving and splitting crews of enumerators from one training site to another each day. A great idea from the outlook; but when you try to implement this it can be a logistical nightmare. We promised jobs to thousands of applicants but couldn’t fit them into training space so all this week we fielded phone calls from thousands of irate applicants who were desperate for work or enumerators who don’t even know where and when their next day of training is. While the office is fielding phone calls headquarters is making sure we key enough hires in the system. The office resorted to training their employees in the hallway of a high end commercial Park Avenue South office. The managers have to work from morning to midnight, sometimes through the night and everyday there are employees who basically break down and burst into tears in the office. The Census Bureau could of saved themselves money simply by pay their partners a stipend to offset custodial or security fees or even the toilet paper than pay the wages and overtime for the entire office which is probably in the tens of thousands.

Another example of government waste at its finest is how they bring in huge cubic dump containers to throw out entire storerooms of materials for the group quarters enumeration, recruiting brochures, and questionnaires. I ask myself if it was worth firing our AMQA over lack of Questionnaire Assistance Center sites when entire cubic containers of be counted census forms were just thrown out? In a few weeks during the non-response follow up operation we have to enumerate all the housing units in entire high rise apartment buildings in Manhattan because no one received census forms. This is simply because headquarters and RCC rushed and told people to work faster last year. If New York City is missing entire high rise apartment buildings imagine how many single family homes are missing across America. The joke of the office is if things don’t work headquarters will fly in people who will come in take over and magically “finish the job”. This is simply why places like New York City get undercounted.

So when the newspaper reporters are standing outside our office demanding interviews about why the office won’t respond to applicants request about job training. Why don’t they ask the RCC and headquarters? From the first look you can blame the temporary local census office but the real blame falls onto the RCC and headquarters who evaluate purely on numbers with little regard to the demography and real estate costs of one of the most expensive neighborhoods in America. The New York East 2230 office is the prime example of career level census managers who have tunnel vision. These people are former statisticians, mathematicians and geographers who are great at quantitative analysis but have little management experience and strategy.

If this LCO works just like any other office in terms of the waste it shows what must be happening in 494 offices across the nation every day. The Census Bureau MO “when things don’t work throw more money, resources and people at it.” This is why the census costs 15 billion dollars. The Census needs someone with real management experience and who is a real visionary. The employees at regional census center and headquarters should be ashamed of themselves. And to think the inspector general’s office was here just weeks ago makes it even more appalling. You can be sure I’ll be writing the congressional subcommittee about this.

Natural disasters and recession mean more families doubling up…

Sunday, March 7th, 2010

A New York Times article about Haitian families “doubling up” in the wake up the January earthquake highlights yet another issue that census-takers will have to deal with…primarily in Florida, New York, and other areas with large Haitian communities.

In other areas, such as Cleveland, Ohio — a city that some institutions suspect was undercounted in 2000 — the financial crisis and subsequent loss of jobs has resulted in extended families living temporarily…or long term…with one another. Nobody ever said enumeration would be easy…

California relying on nonprofits in 2010 Census

Saturday, January 2nd, 2010

In California, nonprofits are expected to play a key role in 2010 Census outreach, but a lack of organizations may hinder efforts in some areas.

New America Media reports that there’s a shortage of nonprofits in some of the state’s poorest areas, which could lead to an undercount in those locations:

“This is a big, big challenge,” said Ted Wang, a census consultant with Grantmakers Concerned with Immigrants and Refugees, which is coordinating private sector funding for outreach in California. “Neighborhoods that have the least amount of infrastructure often are the ones that are the most difficult to count.”

San Francisco is a case in point. No county in California has spent anywhere near the city’s $570,000 investment on outreach, according to city officials. San Francisco is also home to 2,879 public charity nonprofits – more per capita than any other county in the state, public records show. But an investigation by New America Media found that despite these achievements, in Bay View-Hunters Point and Visitacion Valley, neighborhoods where the response rates to the 2000 Census were lowest and the need for outreach in 2010 is arguably greatest, there are disproportionately few nonprofits and very little capacity to do outreach.

San Francisco hired 13 nonprofits to do $300,000 in census outreach, but none of those organizations are from the Bay View and Visitacion Valley areas. Nonprofits in those neighborhoods were encouraged t0 apply, officials said.

“We were looking for people that knew the population and the population trusted,” said Adrienne Pon, executive director of the city’s Office of Civic Engagement and Immigrant Affairs.

City officials hoped to fund a team of nonprofits that were already regularly engaged with the same hard-to-count residents they would be targeting for the census.

But that task was difficult because in San Fransisco and elsewhere, nonprofits tend to cluster in areas with more civic engagement, such as downtown, rather than in poorer areas. That discrepancy could have big census repercussions for California, where nonprofits are expected to play a larger-than-typical role due to the state’s fiscal crisis. California spent nearly $25 million for the 2000 Census, but has cut its allocation for the 2010 Census to less than $2 million. The challenges of location and funding mean that California’s nonprofits have a big task ahead of them to prevent an undercount in the state’s poorest areas.

Iranian Americans urged to specify ethnicity in Census

Tuesday, December 29th, 2009

We’ve written about the extensive (but controversial) outreach to encourage Latinos to participate in the 2010 Census — and now, Iranian Americans are also the target of outreach efforts.

According to the Los Angeles Times, this year’s outreach campaign is the first time Iranian Americans have been encouraged to specifically identify themselves as Iranians on their Census forms.

The protests that followed the reelection of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad  are expected to help. Since the 1979 Iranian hostage crisis, the LAT reports, Iranian Americans have been reluctant to identify themselves. But that’s changed since this summer:

“It has created a sea change in the way Americans view Iranians,” said Reza Aslan, author of “How to Win a Cosmic War,” who moved to the U.S. from Iran in 1979. “No doubt about it, it’s now cool to be Iranian.”

Some hailed it as a sort of coming out for Iranian Americans. The hope is that the effects of that change will be seen in the census count next year.

“It was a sort of boost or a shot in the arm,” [Census Bureau partnership specialist Nadia] Babayi said, because people were encouraged to say that they were Iranian. They weren’t hiding anymore.”

After the Iranian hostage crisis in 1979, many Iranian Americans and expatriates chose to keep a low profile in what some saw as a hostile environment. The 1991 film “Not Without My Daughter” was blamed for helping to cast a negative light on Iranian men. Starring Sally Field, it depicted an American woman and her daughter fleeing Iran and an abusive husband. And in 2002, then-President Bush declared Iran a member of the “Axis of Evil.”

About 300,000 Iranians were counted in the 2000 Census, a figure thought to be highly underreported. The U.S. government classifies Iranians as “white” and some didn’t know they could specify in the “other” category that they were Iranian.

Troubles in Rural America

Tuesday, May 12th, 2009

By Reynolds Farley, Ph.D.

I worked as a crew leader for address canvassing from March 23 to May 7. Reflecting the economy, five of the 18 members of my crew had post bachelor’s degrees. Several had given up lower-paying jobs to canvass for the Census Bureau. All had been told that they would have six to eight weeks of work. Canvassing took place from April 17 through May 6.

Our area was a rural one with numerous lakes and isolated homesteads not visible from unpaved roads. In many places, dirt roads lacked names, homes lacked numbers and residents claimed that the post office did not deliver their mail. The vehicles of three canvassers became stuck in mud. Maps on the hand-held computers bore no more than a remote relationship to what we found. Quite often we came upon an array of a dozen or two mailboxes sitting side-by-side at the end of a dirt lane. Some had numbers, some did not. Then there would be a dozen or two homes scattered about a lake, an estuary or a river front. Matching numbers with residences was extremely time consuming, if possible.

Address canvassing went well from April 17 through May 1. Our local census office was located in a suburban area adjoining a major metropolis. Officials there appeared to be unfamiliar with canvassing in a remote rural area. We were told that our district was the only one in the local census office not completed by the week-end of May 2.

Rather than letting us work for another week to finish the job competently, canvassers from urban areas were sent to our area in great numbers and at considerable cost. There appeared to be no interest at all in quality control. The emphasis was solely upon completing the canvassing before an arbitrary deadline.

The canvassers who started with this crew believed they would be employed for six to eight weeks worked three weeks at most. I suspect that the very many new canvassers who were sent in to complete the area had little, if any, familiarity with the rural area where we worked.For my entire career, I have used U.S. Census data in my teaching and research. The area we canvassed is one in which no address list could be complete and accurate. The canvassers working with me were serious and cautious. Two-thirds of the area was competently canvassed. One-third of the 29,000 address lines were canvassed in extreme haste implying that several hundred housing units may not receive a questionnaire when they are mailed next March 17. I hope that this emphasis upon speed rather than quality was a rare happening.

I had the good fortune of working with many excellent an dedicated canvassers in this brief period and a very competent Field Operations Supervision. I am, however, less sure about the dedication of some higher level local census office administrators to the important issues of minimizing undercount in the 2010 Census by getting an excellent address list.

Dr. Reynolds Farley is Professor Emeritus at the Population Studies Center and Department of Sociology at the University of Michigan, where he served as Chairman of the Sociology Department. Dr. Farley’s research interests concern population trends in the United States, focusing on racial differences, ethnicity, and urban structure. A recognized leader among social scientists who study race relations in the United States, Reynolds Farley is among the top echelon of social demographers, a leading authority on the demography of African Americans, and a penetrating and creative analyst of racial and ethnic relations over the past 40 years. His pioneering studies of the causes and implications of massive and continuing racial segregation have enlightened the national discourse on social policies concerning families, welfare, health and education. His current work includes an investigation of the residential consequences of revitalization in the Rust Belt. He earned his Ph.D. from the University of Chicago and first worked for the Census Bureau in 1962.

Today’s Editorial from The New York Times

Tuesday, March 31st, 2009


A Champion for the Census?

Confirmed by the Senate last week, Gary Locke, the new commerce secretary, is off to a good start. For his first official act, he attended a Census 2010 kick-off rally in the capital on Monday morning, after taking a red eye from his home state of Washington.

His attendance raises hope that the Obama administration is now truly focused on the upcoming census, which was largely mismanaged and undermined during the Bush years. As a result of those policies, the census is widely acknowledged to be at high risk of failure unless emergency remedial action is taken.

Mr. Locke’s high-profile attention to the census comes not a moment too soon. The decennial count starts in earnest this week, as 140,000 census workers, deployed out of 150 local offices, begin a street-by-street canvassing operation to verify and update more than 145 million addresses. Based on the canvassing results, some 120 million households will receive specially bar-coded census forms by mail early next year.

If all goes according to plan, about two-thirds of the recipients will complete and return the form; the government will try to interview the remainder in person by dispatching hundreds of thousands of census takers to nonrespondents’ homes. And that is only a snapshot of the undertaking. In terms of personnel, logistics, statistical expertise, managerial support and sheer human effort, the decennial census is the nation’s largest nonmilitary mobilization.

Mr. Locke has much to do besides rally the troops. The administration must, without further delay, nominate a new census director. Currently, the bureau is being run by civil servants who are dedicated and proficient but lack the authority — and political support — that comes from a director who has the ear of the commerce secretary.

Since it will probably take several months for a director nominee to be vetted and confirmed, Mr. Locke must also begin to tackle some of the thorniest census problems on his own. For instance, in the run-up to other censuses, the federal government has eased up on immigration raids and other intimidating forms of immigration enforcement in an effort to cut down on the number of people who are afraid to be counted. The word must go out from the Obama administration that it expects the same cooperation as the 2010 count approaches.

Mr. Locke and the administration must also undo some of the most damaging census decisions by the Bush administration — like the decision earlier in this decade to push the date for cross-checking the census numbers back to October 2010. The census counts people in the country as of April 1, 2010, and the double-check on the numbers — which reveals an undercount or overcount — has always taken place in June or July. If the numbers are not checked until October, it will be virtually impossible to get a gauge of their accuracy, because the longer the time between the count and the cross-check, the less reliable the data will be.

Inclusiveness and accuracy are essential to an honest, robust count. After years of neglect, it will take a heroic effort to pull off a worthy 2010 census. We applaud Mr. Locke’s initial effort.