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 ‘university’

Note to America: Your 2010 Census data is being handed over to private citizens

Thursday, October 28th, 2010

The Census Bureau has long touted that it keeps data private and confidential for 70 years after it is gathered. This concept proved to be false as recently as 2004, when the Census Bureau didn’t put up a fight as it turned over information about Arab-Americans to other government agencies.

The Census Bureau also readily hands over data to research centers at universities, both public and private. This is a little-known program that has not been mentioned in the press. While I may personally agree that universities with data access can provide benefits for society, I stand against the Census Bureau handing over this data on the principle that  the American people have not agreed that the Census Bureau can use their data in this way.

Take a look at this recent Census Bureau press release that highlights the 10+ sites around the country where universities have access to your data:

The Center for Economic Studies at the U.S. Census Bureau, in
partnership with the University of Minnesota, has opened a new Research
Data Center (RDC) laboratory on the university’s campus in Minneapolis.

RDCs are Census Bureau facilities where researchers from academia,
federal agencies and other institutions with approved projects receive
restricted access to unpublished Census Bureau demographic and economic
microdata files. These secure facilities are staffed by Census Bureau
employees and meet stringent physical and computer security requirements
for access to confidential data.

“The Minnesota Research Data Center will serve researchers from a broad
range of academic disciplines, with particular strengths in demography and
public health,” said Census Bureau Director Robert Groves. “The Minnesota
RDC will contribute not only by providing researchers with assistance in
using the demographic, business and health data but also by developing
improved or new data collections.”

“The research lab is housed in the Minnesota Population Center (MPC),
which has a tradition of collaboration with the Census Bureau and other
statistical agencies. As a world leader in the improvement, dissemination
and analysis of census data, MPC is equipped to make unique contributions
to the RDC program,” Groves said.

Before gaining access to the information at RDCs, researchers must
submit proposals to the RDC and the Census Bureau for approval. The review
process ensures that proposed research is feasible, has scientific merit
and benefits Census Bureau programs. In addition, RDC operating procedures,
strict security and strong legal safeguards assure the confidentiality of
these data as required by law. Researchers, for instance, must pass a full
background investigation and are sworn for life to protect the
confidentiality of the data they access, with violations subject to
significant financial and legal penalties.

The Minnesota Census Research Data Center joins similar centers that
have been established in Boston; Berkeley, Calif.; Los Angeles; Washington;
Chicago; Ann Arbor, Mich.; New York; Ithaca, N.Y.; and Durham, N.C. The
center at Berkeley has a branch at Stanford University in Palo Alto,
Calif., while the center at Durham has recently opened a branch at Research
Triangle Park, N.C. An additional center is scheduled to open at a site in
Atlanta in spring 2011.

Last year it was cash4gold. Now it’s cash4censusforms

Wednesday, March 31st, 2010

Question: Is it ethical for cities, universities, or other entities to offer cash prizes in exchange for participating in the 2010 Census?

The following comes from DailyNorthwestern.com:

City, Northwestern offer incentives for completing 2010 census forms

By Katie Park

Northwestern and Evanston have teamed up to provide cash incentives for students to fill out the 2010 census, which will be available for students on campus next week.

While students living off campus should have already received their census forms in the mail, census workers will distribute the forms to students in dormitories next Monday through Thursday, said Lucile Krasnow, NU special assistant for community relations.

“Students might be asking, ‘Am I really a resident of Evanston?’” Krasnow said. “It’s where you live the majority of the year. They should indeed fill out the census in Evanston.”

With the last census in 2000, the University saw about a 98-percent participation rate, Krasnow said. Students filled out the census form as part of their on-campus housing process, a system that no longer exists.

Instead, the University will award cash prizes to residence halls, fraternities and sororities with the highest participation rates, Krasnow said. Dorms with up to 85 people will be eligible for a $250 cash prize, dorms with 86 to 150 people will be eligible for a $500 prize and dorms with more than 150 residents will be eligible for a $750 prize, she said.

Greek houses will meet with census workers throughout the month of April to distribute the forms. The fraternity and sorority with the highest participation rates will each be eligible for a $250 prize.

“The idea is to encourage everybody to take part in the census,” Krasnow said. “It’s a very quick, easy form, and it’ll take less than 10 minutes to fill out.”

McCormick sophomore June Choi lives on campus and said the participation competition was not an incentive for her.

“I was going to fill it out anyway,” Choi said. “I would think people would just write it up. It’s really short.”

In addition to developing the competition for student residents, Krasnow has worked with Downtown Evanston, a group of local businesspeople and property owners, to develop an event for both students and Evanston residents. During Community Savings Weekend, April 9-11, more than 20 Evanston businesses will offer discounts to thank residents for their participation in the census.

“The idea is that—it’s on the honor system—we hope you did fill out your form,” said Downtown Evanston Executive Director Carolyn Dellutri. “(The census has) a big impact on the community overall, and we’re doing it as a partnership with the city and University.”

SESP senior Daniel Diorio said he was interested in the discount program.

“I’m a fan of incentives for anything,” he said. “I never thought of businesses having interests invested in the census.”

Diorio lives off campus and said he has already sent in his form.

“It’s a no-brainer,” he said. “It helps the government allocate resources more effectively, and it’s only five minutes of my time.”

Census workers will follow up with students living off campus who do not fill out their forms, Krasnow said.

Each NU student counted in the census will bring about $980 per year to the city of Evanston for the next 10 years, Krasnow said. This money can finance federal and state initiatives such as transportation programs, student loans and grants.

“We really see this as part of our civic responsibilities,” Krasnow said.