Tuesday, December 22, 2009



After printing hundreds of millions of census questionnaires, "successfully opening" roughly 500 Local Census Offices, and readying three massive processing centers (Phoenix, Baltimore, and Jeffersonville, IN) to scan tens of thousands of forms an hour, the Census Bureau is preparing to launch a $300 million advertising campaign in mid-January and enumerate residents of remote Alaskan villages at the end of that month. Ads will run during the Golden Globe Awards on January 17, as well as during the Super Bowl, for what Census Director Robert Groves called the "shortest census in our lifetimes."

At his second operational press briefing on December 14, Dr. Groves highlighted 135,000 official census partners, organizations like AARP, Black Entertainment Television and Telemundo, the National Urban League, Target Corporation, and thousands of local groups that "volunteer to get the message out about the census" to their constituencies. The Census Bureau has employed about 3,000 partnership specialists and assistants for the 2010 census, five times the number it hired for the 2000 count.

Thirty-seven states have formed Complete Count Committees, bringing together representatives of a community's population and sectors to promote the census, Dr. Groves reported. The bureau, which has catalogued 9,100 such committees -- some formed by local governments, some by communities of interest -- nationwide, is now trying to "energize" these stakeholders, the director said. He commended Complete Count Committees for their creative activities, including census booths at block parties and community centers and promotional messages on garbage trucks.

The director said that the paid media campaign will feature "tailored messages to very small areas," such as census tracts, targeting communities where mail response was especially low in 2000. Advertising also will try to convince people who hold anti-government views that the census can benefit their communities and families, he added in response to a reporter's query, saying that distrust of government is "part of the American spirit." Regional promotion will start in early January, when 13 vehicles set off on a road tour (one national; one for each of the 12 Census Bureau regions), stopping at local events to drum up interest in the 2010 count.

Operational preparations continue: In a large canvassing operation last spring, the Census Bureau checked 145 million addresses on its Master Address File, as well as those submitted by cities, towns, and states under the Local Update of Census Addresses (LUCA) program. The final list contains 134 million addresses, about two percent more than the most recent independent, annual housing unit estimate. Canvassers couldn't find some addresses on their list; about 100,000 housing units can't be placed in an appropriate census block, Dr. Groves noted. The bureau will continue to update the address list through the LUCA appeals program, local government submissions of newly constructed units, and a final comparison with the Postal Service's Delivery Sequence File. Most housing units added to the master list this close to the start of the census will not receive a questionnaire by mail; census takers will visit the homes during later field operations.

The bureau completed a new program to confirm the location of facilities that house groups of people (called Group Quarters), such as college dorms, military barracks, prisons, and long term nursing homes. Field workers are building an address list, independent from the one used to conduct the census, that will set the universe for the post-census accuracy check survey (called Census Coverage Measurement). The Census Bureau ran a "large load test" on key software that will help it manage data collection and field operations. Dr. Groves said the test revealed "some glitches" for which the bureau had solutions; a follow-up test was scheduled for last week.

The director acknowledged that "not everything will work perfectly" once the census starts and that "there will be bumps" along the way. The key to a successful enumeration, he said, is to "calmly, quickly, and wisely" fix problems at they occur. The expertise and experience of Census Bureau staff managing the census give him confidence, Dr. Groves said, that the agency can meet the challenges of such a massive undertaking.

Recruitment campaign helped by recession: High unemployment in many areas has made census jobs more "valued," Dr. Groves observed at the press briefing, resulting in an applicant pool of "unprecedented" quality and skill. The Census Bureau is recruiting 3.8 million applicants to fill 1.2 to 1.4 million temporary positions in 2010, with as many as 700,000 of those workers on board during peak operations from May through early July, when enumerators visit households that didn't mail back a census form. The Census Bureau tries to "hire locally," giving priority to applicants from the neighborhoods in which they will work and bilingual applicants in areas where a language other than English is primary.

The safety of both the public and enumerators is "paramount," the director said. Candidates for census jobs must submit to an FBI background and fingerprint check; any felony conviction disqualifies an applicant from employment, and applicants must demonstrate they are not a danger to others if their background check turns up a lesser crime. To help ensure their safety while going door-to-door, census takers in higher-crime neighborhoods will work in pairs or have escorts. The agency is "acting aggressively to make sure enumerators and the American public are safe," Dr. Groves asserted.

Foreclosures, legal deadlines pose challenges: Most of the population will receive their census forms in the mail in mid-March 2010. The Census Bureau is still evaluating factors that could affect mail response, Dr. Groves said, emphasizing that the national mail-back rate is a "very fragile number" that could change due to unforeseen, widely-reported events. The foreclosure crisis will likely contribute to lower initial response rates because the numbers are calculated based on all housing units on the address list, whether occupied or vacant. Dr. Groves predicted that new initiatives for 2010, such as bilingual (English-Spanish) forms and targeted replacement questionnaires in low response areas, would help boost cooperation during the "mail-out/mail-back" phase of the census.

Census workers will hand-deliver questionnaires to residents of rural and remote areas, Indian reservations, and other areas that lack city-style addresses or are undergoing significant housing upheaval, such as communities still recovering from Hurricane Katrina. People should return their forms by April 1, Census Day. (Census takers will collect information from residents when they deliver the questionnaires in some very remote areas, including Indian reservations, in an operation called Update/Enumerate.)

Door-to-door visits to unresponsive homes will take place from May through early July. High vacancy rates add to the scope and cost of the Nonresponse Follow-Up operation, the director warned, as field workers try to confirm that no one lives in a unit. Those displaced by foreclosures "went somewhere" and could be doubled-up with relatives or friends, he added. The Census Bureau is under a "very hard [legal] deadline," Dr. Groves emphasized, to report state population totals to the President by December 31, 2010, for the purpose of reapportioning the 435 seats in the U.S. House of Representatives.

Correction: Based on an inadvertent misstatement at the last census advisory committee meeting, the November 8, 2009 Census News Brief #81 incorrectly stated that 15,000 local governments would participate in the Local Update of Census Addresses (LUCA) appeals process, which allows them to challenge the final address lists resulting from last spring's nationwide canvassing operation. There were only 7,600 governments eligible to take part in the final phase of LUCA. The Census Bureau reported that roughly 15,000 local governments, out of 29,000 eligible jurisdictions, said they were interested in the New Construction Program; just over 6,000 of those jurisdictions registered to take part.


National advocacy groups and grassroots organizations are launching campaigns targeting hard-to-reach populations, hoping to reverse the persistent, disproportionate undercount of people of color, low income households, and young children in the census. Using December 22 -- which marks 100 days from Census Day (April 1) -- and the Christmas season to draw attention to the decennial count, the activities will highlight the birth of Jesus while Mary and Joseph were traveling to Bethlehem to be counted in the census and set the stage for the start of the Census Bureau's massive paid media campaign in mid-January.

The Unity Diaspora Coalition (UDC), an alliance of organizations representing the interests of Black Americans, met with Commerce Secretary Gary Locke and Census Director Robert Groves last week and announced their plans to encourage census participation in native-born and immigrant Black communities. Meeting participants included Marc Morial, National Urban League president and chair of the 2010 Census Advisory Committee; Melanie Campbell, Executive Director/CEO, National Coalition on Black Civic Participation; National Council of Negro Women chair Dorothy Height; census subcommittee chairman and Congressional Black Caucus member Rep. William Lacy Clay (D-MO); NAACP president Ben Jealous; the Reverends Jesse Jackson Sr. (Rainbow PUSH Coalition) and Al Sharpton (National Action Network); census subcommittee Chairman William Lacy Clay; Danny Bakewell, Sr., National Newspaper Publishers Association president; Benjamin Afrifa, African Federation Inc.; and Dr. Claire Nelson, Institute on Caribbean Studies president.

The UDC leaders pledged to work closely with the Census Bureau to reduce the undercount of Blacks in the census. The coalition will launch the I count. You count. We count. campaign before the Martin Luther King Jr. Holiday weekend in January. While nationwide in scope, the initiative will focus on boosting census participation in eleven metropolitan areas with high concentrations of Black residents, including Los Angeles, Houston, Atlanta, New Orleans and Gary, IN. The coalition asked the Census Bureau to increase advertising buys in Black-owned publications, which the advocates said reach significant numbers of people at the neighborhood level; the current plan devotes $2.5 million to this component of the paid media campaign. The UDC's platform also includes revising census residence rules to count prisoners in their home communities, instead of at their places of incarceration; increasing contracting opportunities for Black-owned businesses; and modifying the census and American Community Survey race questions to gather more detailed information on Black population subgroups.

The Leadership Conference on Civil Rights Education Fund (LCCREF) is distributing posters that tie an accurate census to important community benefits, such as grant money for schools, health centers, and public transportation. The It's Time. Make Yourself Count. campaign is encouraging faith leaders to discuss the importance of a complete count through sermons and church bulletins.

The National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials (NALEO) Educational Fund, part of the ya es hora! HAGASE CONTAR! campaign to urge census participation among Latinos, created a poster depicting the journey to Bethlehem for the census, in the hope of appealing to evangelical immigrants. (LCCREF is producing the poster in English, Korean, Vietnamese, and Creole.) The head of CONLAMIC, a group of Latino evangelical clergy, has called on undocumented residents to boycott the census unless Congress and the Administration enact comprehensive immigration reform, and some sympathizers have threatened to expand the boycott's reach to all Latinos. But in November, the two largest Hispanic evangelical networks, Esperanza USA and the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference (NHCLC), joined the ya es hora! HAGASE CONTAR! effort. NHCLC president Rev. Samuel Rodriguez called census participation "a moral imperative that the Faith community must address without trepidation." Rev. Luis Cortes, Jr., head of Esperanza USA, said Latinos "must be addressed as a legitimate and integrated part of this great nation."

The Asian American Justice Center, a member of the 2010 Census Advisory Committee, released four public service announcements urging Asian Americans to mail back their census forms by April 1, 2010. The PSA's feature Assistant Attorney General Thomas Perez, Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus Chairman Mike Honda (D-CA), and other prominent community leaders. The PSAs are posted on the Internet.

National and regional organizations representing Iranian Americans are mobilizing their community to participate in the upcoming decennial count through the Iranian American 2010 Census Coalition, whose goal is "to reach every Iranian American household in the country," according to a November 11 press advisory. Visit the web site of the National Iranian American Council, an official 2010 census partner, for more information on the campaign.

Organizations that advocate for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) people, including the Human Rights Campaign and Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD), launched Our Families Count, a "voluntary public education initiative promoting LGBT visibility and participation in next year's U.S. census." The campaign's web site, Our Families Count, features Frequently Asked Questions about the census, downloadable campaign logos, and materials in English and Spanish.


Congress passed an omnibus appropriations bill covering most non-defense agencies for Fiscal Year 2010, more than two months after the October 1 start to the budget year. The bill (H.R. 3288), which the President signed last week, allocates $7.325 billion for the Census Bureau, close to the amount the Administration requested. More than a dozen diverse stakeholder organizations participating in The Census Project had urged House and Senate negotiators to adopt the Senate-approved funding level, saying in their November 17 letter that the House's lower budget number "could compromise key [census] operations."

The larger of the bureau's two main accounts, Periodic Censuses and Programs, received $7.066 billion, most of which will be spent to conduct the 2010 census. Appropriators said the estimated life-cycle cost of the 2010 decennial is now $14.7 billion. The "Periodics" account also covers the Economic Census and Census of Governments, both of which take place every five years; the next such data collection efforts are slated for 2012.

In their conference report (H.Rept. 111-366), appropriators emphasized the importance of the 2010 census communications campaign, urging hiring diversity in the Partnership Program, "robust paid media efforts ... with a specific focus on hard-to-reach populations," and adequate funding for Census in the Schools and adult education materials. The report expressed concern about "flaws" in the fingerprinting process for temporary census workers and directed the bureau to "improve employee training and ensure the safety of the public." Conferees asked for updates from the Census Bureau on language outreach for the 2010 census and ongoing American Community Survey (ACS) and on efforts to improve the reliability of ACS data on small population groups. They also told the bureau to adopt recommendations issued by the Commerce Department's Inspector General, aimed at improving oversight of fee awards to contractors and compilation of an accurate address list.

The spending bill allocated $259 million for the bureau's second main budget account, Salaries and Expenses, which covers ongoing demographic and economic surveys and statistical programs, including the Survey on Income and Program Participation.


Four U.S. senators have proposed a "hiring preference" for people collecting unemployment benefits, as the Census Bureau gears up for next year's decennial count by recruiting millions of temporary workers in communities across the country.

In a December 2 letter, Senators Charles Schumer (D-NY), Mark Begich (D-AK), Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), and Jeff Merkley (D-OR) urged Commerce Secretary Gary Locke "to target the long-term unemployed" for census positions, noting that the roughly 1.4 million temporary positions the Census Bureau hopes to fill "presents an interesting opportunity to help a significant number of the long-term unemployed, thereby allowing them to shore up their savings or earn a paycheck" before their unemployment benefits run out. The lawmakers suggested recruitment activities at unemployment centers, including distributing census job applications and interviewing prospective hires on site.

The Census Bureau abandoned plans for a national recruitment campaign after an unexpectedly large number of qualified candidates applied for address lister positions last spring. The senators suggested that the agency could use funds originally earmarked for a hiring publicity drive to recruit people at unemployment centers. At his December 14 press briefing in Washington, DC, Census Director Groves said the bureau was advertising for 2010 census jobs at unemployment agencies and was reaching out "disproportionately" to the unemployed to help fill temporary jobs.

The Census Bureau must recruit almost four million applicants to sustain its hiring goals during peak field operations from March through July. The larger-than-projected number of people looking for work has reduced the need to advertise census jobs in many areas. Instead, local office managers are narrowly targeting recruitment efforts, to ensure that census takers are indigenous to the neighborhoods they will canvass in the nonresponse follow-up operation. All applicants take a test and, after passing FBI background checks, are ranked according to their scores (veterans preference applies). Local Census Offices establish assignment areas and hire applicants based on their ranking and where they live; language skills also might be a factor in some immigrant communities.


New report examines undercount of children: A new report by the Annie E. Casey Foundation concludes that the census misses children under the age of five more than any other age group. Dr. William O'Hare, author of Why Are Young Children Missed So Often in the Census?, described the disproportionate undercount of young children as "startling, but ... not a new problem" and called on advocates for the nation's children "to act as partners in delivering the message that the census is easy, important, and safe."

The 2000 census missed more than 750,000, or nearly four percent, of children under age five, according to the study. The undercount of minority children in this age group was even higher, with more than five percent of both Black boys and Black girls missed. The report cited the greater likelihood of young children living in large (7+ persons) households, in more mobile families, in rental units, and in non-traditional households as primary reasons for the disproportionate undercount. Census Bureau research shows that it is more difficult to achieve an accurate count of households with these characteristics.

The Foundation, whose work focuses on "meet[ing] the needs of today's vulnerable children and families," is home to the KIDS COUNT project, which relies on census data and other statistical indicators to evaluate the well-being of children annually. Noting that many child-focused programs -- such as Head Start, foster care grants, and the children's health insurance program -- rely, directly or indirectly, on census data to distribute billions of dollars to states and localities, KIDS COUNT coordinator Laura Beavers observed that, "Children depend on the rest of us to make sure they are counted accurately ... and will be the ones to suffer" if their communities are undercounted.

The Casey Foundation report, which includes recommendations to help improve the count of children in the 2010 census, is available on-line at www.aecf.org.

Updated analysis of federal funding allocations tied to census data: The Brookings Institution completed an updated analysis of federal program funds allocated, in whole or in part, based on census data. The new study found that federal agencies used census numbers, or data derived from census figures, to distribute $431 billion through 194 programs in Fiscal Year 2008.

Tables showing the amount of funds allocated to each state (and the District of Columbia) and the amount of funds distributed through each program and by program function, such as transportation, are available on The Census Project web site. The Washington, DC-based think tank will release a full report describing key findings and its methodology, along with federal funding tables for the 100 largest metropolitan areas and 200 largest counties, next month.

Fact sheet offers guidelines for outreach activities: The Leadership Conference on Civil Rights Education Fund has prepared a fact sheet to help community based organizations plan appropriate census education and outreach activities that adhere to legal and procedural protocols for collecting personal information. "Guidelines for Community-Based Group Volunteers Promoting the Census," available at www.civilrights.org, suggests practical ways that grassroots organizations can help hard-to-count populations understand the census form and why participation is important, while honoring the law's strong confidentiality protections for individual responses.


2010 Census Web Site: The Census Bureau's new 2010 census web site offers useful basic information on the census process, as well as sample questionnaires, information on job opportunities, and in-language materials. Add it to your "Bookmarks" bar to track mail response rates daily for your state and locality next spring.

2010 Census Jobs: Visit this web page to download a Census Practice Test and find information about the application process and a Local Census Office near you.

The Census Project: Visit the Census Project web site for previous Census News Briefs, fact sheets, and a weekly blog in support of an accurate 2010 census.
Census News Briefs are prepared by Terri Ann Lowenthal, an independent legislative and policy consultant specializing in the census and federal statistics. All views expressed in the News Briefs are solely those of the author. Please direct questions about the information in this News Brief to Ms. Lowenthal at TerriAnn2K@aol.com. Please feel free to circulate this document to other interested individuals and organizations. Ms. Lowenthal is a consultant to the nonpartisan Census Project, organized by the Communications Consortium Media Center in Washington, DC. Previous Census News Briefs are posted at www.thecensusproject.org.

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