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December 31, 2009 6:45 AM   Subscribe

The US Census has a blog - Robert M. Groves, director of the U.S. Census Bureau is writing about the changes, challenges and stories of the 2010 Census as the US gears up for it's decennial tally of "we the people."

The 2010 Census blog addresses some interesting issues like that of snowbirds (the new census has been adjusted to account for multiple residences) and of populations displaced by natural disasters like Hurricane Ike:
[Galveston, Texas] officials are quite worried that the city will fall below the 50,000 population mark, a threshold for several funding programs... The Census Bureau must count the population living there around Census Day.
College students are proving to be problematic too, since undergrads living at school tend to still see the parental home as their primary residence:
One son was surprised that the Census Bureau would mail a questionnaire to his off-campus housing. He thought that my wife and I would report for him, just as we pay his tuition, remind him to pay his rent, make sure he has enough money for books each term, and fill out insurance forms for medical expenses... The notion that he and his roommates would have to collaborate to fill out a single 2010 Census form was a shock. They don’t think of themselves as a “household.”
[Previously.]
posted by DarlingBri (22 comments total) 5 users marked this as a favorite

 


I used to work at the census bureau doing IT work. The head of the Telecommunications Department there had the serial plate from UNIVAC 1 (the first commercially produced computer) on his desk as a paperweight. It was a neat thing to hold in my hands. Really should be in a museum, though.
posted by empath at 7:16 AM on December 31, 2009


I have a hard time envisioning college students filling out the forms and returning them. Had they sent them to me and my housemates when I was in college, they likely would've been tossed, unread or swept up in the refuse of the latest party.
posted by blaneyphoto at 7:25 AM on December 31, 2009


I was listening to a piece about the census on NPR thi9s past Sunday. Apparently, some leaders in the Latino community are urging their constituents to not participate in the census until there is comprehensive immigration reform.

So, this might be another group that proves problematic for census takers.
posted by reenum at 7:29 AM on December 31, 2009


I suspect that I'm a weirdo for being excited about the Census since it's my first one living alone and therefore, being my own household. I don't know what to expect though.
posted by sperose at 7:44 AM on December 31, 2009


Am I the only person who doesn't understand this whole "not participating" in the census as a way to voice your opinion? It seems like that's saying "shut up!" to voice your opinion. I can't wait to tell the census taker that I am gay and I live with a partner to get real information about who I am added into statistics. The fastest way to make change is to build up those numbers, not to leave a gigantic hole in them for certain communities.
posted by msbutah at 7:55 AM on December 31, 2009 [6 favorites]


reenum: Apparently, some leaders in the Latino community are urging their constituents to not participate in the census until there is comprehensive immigration reform.

That seems utterly counter-productive to me. Accurate data is important - it's one of those rare instances where the very people who refuse to be counted can easily end up being denied much needed services directly because of under-reporting:
It’s likely that many who live there do not have legal documentation... the people who live in these areas depend greatly on health, education and social services provided by programs informed by census data. They need to be counted to get their fair share of such funding.
sperose, there's a simplified sample form here if you're interested in what the census will look like and the kinds of questions it will ask. I can't remember if the US one asks about religion but I assume it does.
posted by DarlingBri at 7:57 AM on December 31, 2009


hmm how does this work for me? i live in a dorm as a non-resident in a staff apt. do i get to be counted? we have an address, but its centralized at a Res Life office.
posted by Mach5 at 7:58 AM on December 31, 2009


I think we got the short form last time around, and I kept meaning to fill it out, but never did.

A nice young man came by and we sat on the porch while he filled out all our information.

I remember being excited because it was my first household, too, and they'd finally gotten rid of making you choose only one race - finally it included us mixup people.

And yeah, I get the reasoning behind not wanting to make yourself known to the authorities if you even look like you might be deported. Too bad the census has been used in bad ways before.
posted by lysdexic at 8:03 AM on December 31, 2009


Here is some reasoning behind the immigrant census boycott (which doesn't really seem to be taking off):
Furthermore, census data is used to set electoral districts and allocate federal funds. If not everyone is counted, Keller says, Minnesota is in danger of losing a representative — and funding for public services.

Rivera dismisses these arguments. Aside from education, he says, "There's no such a thing as services for undocumented immigrants. Let's not kid ourselves."

On the issue of congressional representation, Rivera says that an accurate counting of immigrants who can't vote will lead to the creation of "ghost electoral districts" where a small minority will hold disproportionate power. In practice, he says, that often leads to anti-immigrant laws and ordinances, "especially in rural areas."
I managed to get through 2000 (the first census year in which I didn't live with my parents) without ever receiving a census form in the mail or being visited by a census-taker, so it hardly takes the wilful effort to avoid the census that people sometimes seem to imply.
posted by enn at 8:03 AM on December 31, 2009


Apologies, I meant to link the source for that blockquote.
posted by enn at 8:04 AM on December 31, 2009


Mach5: And yeah, I get the reasoning behind not wanting to make yourself known to the authorities if you even look like you might be deported. Too bad the census has been used in bad ways before.

I'm not surprised but I'd be interested in some examples. My (admittedly weak) impression was that data couldn't be against non-documented residents: "We talked about the strength of the law that guards census data, how it trumps the Patriot Act..." and "The law protecting census data is so strong that I can refuse even a presidential request for individual data, and that that people need not worry about their documentation status..."

On a second reading I guess that maybe implies to Census Bureau can refuse to comply but doesn't have to. I'd be very interested to learn what the real legal situation is there.
posted by DarlingBri at 8:29 AM on December 31, 2009 [1 favorite]


On the one hand, I agree that it doesn't make sense to exclude oneself in protest about being excluded.

OTOH, I can definitely understand the anger that would lead to that. "Oh NOW important that I participate in YOUR census? where were you when my kid was dying outside the emergency room? fuck off."
posted by DU at 8:30 AM on December 31, 2009


Dear Census Blog Readers,

How are you doing? I'm doing great but let me tell you running a census sure is tough! Keep in touch!

Love,
Robby M. Groves
posted by wcfields at 8:50 AM on December 31, 2009


"College students are proving to be problematic too, since undergrads living at school tend to still see the parental home as their primary residence"

This has also been a point of contention in Utah, where at any given time there are as many as 55,000 young Mormon men and women who will spend 18 months to two years out of state serving church missions. In the 2000 census this may have resulted in Utah failing to pick up a fourth Representative in the House. The margin was 857 residents.
posted by mr_crash_davis mark II: Jazz Odyssey at 9:20 AM on December 31, 2009 [1 favorite]


I just signed up for employment with the census and they provided a little bit of information about what the forms are going to be like in 2010. Apparently there are a lot fewer questions and there is no longer a "long answer" form. Also, interestingly enough, I was told that the census is having a hell of a time hiring people for 2010, at least in my area. If you're looking for what seems to be a decent part time job then I'd suggest giving the census a look.
posted by deacon_blues at 9:27 AM on December 31, 2009


Mach5: I think your residence depends on where you sleep, not where you get your mail. See for example the topmost comment at this post.
posted by madcaptenor at 9:51 AM on December 31, 2009


That was me, DarlingBri:

The Census was used to identify Americans of Japanese descent in WWII

Now if you want to be almost Bachman in your paranoia, here's IBM's involvement in the Holocaust [cracked.com]
posted by lysdexic at 11:08 AM on December 31, 2009


I have a hard time envisioning college students filling out the forms and returning them.

They've actually done this before, you know. "Many residents who do not complete and return a 2010 Census form will receive a replacement form. If no form is mailed back, residents can expect a personal visit from a census taker some time after March 2010. The census taker will ask you the questions on the form, record your answers and then submit the form for your household."

In addition, localities that are concerned about transient populations generally have local committees that do outreach, on top of federal efforts.

Am I the only person who doesn't understand this whole "not participating" in the census as a way to voice your opinion?

I dunno. There's been a pool of census rejectionists as long as I can remember. They used to be your typical Bircher-survivalist, similar to tax protesters; now there's a Tea Party penumbra. There have also always been mickey-mousers who answer as the Jewish-Sudanese lesbian transgender Eskimo with children who are black, white, and Chinese. I don't know what the census does about such jokers.

Too bad the census has been used in bad ways before.

As far back as I can remember (e.g. 1980) there has been public outreach regarding the privacy of census answers, though the real effort to count undocumented residents began later.
posted by dhartung at 1:17 PM on December 31, 2009


empath, that guy's initials didn't happen to be DB, did they?

I worked at the Census Bureau (as a contractor) for about 1.5 years (May '08 to Oct '09), and part of that involved doing a prototype Web-based form for the 2010 Census. The project ended up getting scrubbed, but let me tell you what -- people who only get to do something every 10 years get really, really intense about making sure it's done right.
posted by genehack at 3:19 PM on December 31, 2009


I can't remember if the US one asks about religion but I assume it does.

No, it doesn't. Neither does the American Community Survey. I don't know if they are specifically prohibited from asking by law, but it would not surprise me if it were. However, the Census does disseminate data on religion collected by other sources.
posted by desjardins at 8:41 AM on January 1, 2010


I was in college, living in the dorms, during the 2000 census. I was disappointed that I did not get a form to fill out for my "household". I'm pretty sure that my mom included me on her form, though, even though I asked her not to, because she was afraid of losing her tax deduction for me.

I heard later (and don't know if it's true) that the university that I attended provided information about on-campus residents directly to the census.
posted by donajo at 11:11 AM on January 4, 2010


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