Census Pollsters to Knock on 42 Million Doors

greenspun.com : LUSENET : TB2K spinoff uncensored : One Thread


Pounding the Pavement Tracking Down Answer Is Costliest Chunk of $6.8 Billion Census

By Genaro C. Armas

The Associated Press

C H A N T I L L Y, Va. April 27  If you live in one of the 42 million households that havent mailed back a census form yet, you can expect someone like Charlie Owings to be knocking on your front door soon.

Today, the Census Bureau begins its 10-week operation of sending out some 440,000 census-takers to visit those homes and gather information considered vital to getting an accurate snapshot of the countrys population.

What kind of greeting Owings will get at the doorstep remains to be seen. Census director Kenneth Prewitt says he isnt sure how recent criticism over the intrusiveness of the 53-question long form will affect what kind of cooperation enumerators get.

I guess some people could feel like their privacy is being invaded, said Owings, who took the part-time job in suburban Virginia to supplement his income. If they didnt want to give the information, I guess I would just record it and move on.

About 78 million of the 120 million mailed forms were returned to the Census Bureau. Now, its up to people like Owings to get information on the missing millions, and Census officials have been busy training them this week on how to go about it.

Prewitt knows it will be a tough task, but is optimistic.

The enumerators are what this whole enterprise rests upon now  the quality of work they do, Prewitt said. But its hard to tell right now just how many households will not cooperate.

Rural Challenges

The job may be more difficult in rural areas, where more people got a long form. The gap in the response rate between the long and short form is 12 percent, twice as much as in 1990.

Most census-takers will be sent out alone, assigned to locate people in a specific area. In places where safety may be an issue, they will be sent in teams.

The Census Bureau made a big advertising push earlier this year to recruit workers for the part-time jobs, which pay $8.25 to $18.50 per hour. Prewitt said they wanted to ensure there were enough census-takers who were familiar with specific areas, instead of sending a stranger into an unfamiliar neighborhood.

Some are government retirees like Phil Vargas, of Falls Church, Va., who is looking to fill his spare time while writing a book. Others, like Peggy Washington, a nurses assistant also from Falls Church, are mainly seeking extra income.

I did my civic duty and I think everyone should, too, Washington said.

Julian Romero of Santa Fe, N.M., retired from his government consulting job recently to become a painter but decided to take a census job first. After enumerating rural areas for the past couple of months in a separate census operation, he will serve as a field supervisor in the Santa Fe County census office.

Most census-takers are aware they may come across uncooperative people but arent intimidated by it, Romero said.

This phase of the census is one of the costliest chunks of the $6.8 billion operation, the most ever spent on the once-a-decade count. For the most part, the at-home visits are getting support from Congress.

But at least one congressman, Rep. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., is encouraging people concerned about privacy to politely decline to answer a census workers questions they believe are intrusive.

If they come across an uncooperative person, Romero said we train them to be as polite and courteous as possible. My personal advice is not to take it personally and keep smiling.

Copyright 2000 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.

-- (in@the.news), April 27, 2000


I didn't get a census form. It wasn't mailed, stuck in a gate (as were some in this area) but I know that no one within a two to three mile radius of me received anything either.

Typical government "sloppy" handling. If any of these jokers had to go get a job in the real world, they wouldn't last five minutes.

Now they're gonna come knocking on the door? Hope they've got ID my dogs can read.

-- Richard (Astral-Acres@webtv.net), April 27, 2000.

Knock knock

Who's there?


Census who?

Sense us getting PO'd at $18.50/hr enumerators

-- (nemesis@awol.com), April 27, 2000.

I had a friend in San Francisco who invited the Census lady in to share a joint with him and then a roll in the hay, to boot. She later came to a party the next night! She came to my place first, but I wasn't smooth or cool enough, I guess.

-- Flash (flash@flash.hq), April 27, 2000.


My friend in New York City, lives on 8th Ave., tole me one of the building's front desk clerks left his job to go to work for the Census at $27.00 per hour.

Maybe they're paying different rates in different parts of the country. Of course going door-to-door in Manhattan, well, lets just say, they couldn't pay me enough for that!

-- Richard (Astral-Acres@webtv.net), April 27, 2000.

We've been hit by the census lady tonight!

Ha! My SO who gave me a hard time about the census got to answer the door and respond to her questions. I stayed safely hidden in front of the computer.

I wanted to send the long form we recieved with only the minimum questions answered (as in the short form), but he insisted we just ignore it and not send anything in. He ended up answering all the questions she asked him with her honey sweet, giggling ways.

Sucker that he is! I'll get my way with him tonight. MUHAHAHA!!!

-- (y@x.x), April 27, 2000.



My x father in law be a census dude in Va., TRUST me, he WONT be pounding pavement cheaply!!!

But nookie, well, that might intice him....


-- consumer (shh@aol.com), April 28, 2000.

I wonder how risky a business Census enumerating is these days? I suppose that it depends upon where you live. South Central L.A.? No thanks!

-- enumerator (justa@census.taker), April 28, 2000.

Census taker arrived at my door tonite (I received the long form and refused to send it in). She's a woman my wife knows so I really wasn't as rude as I wanted to be. When I refused to answer more than the number of people and their ages she tried the old community benefits routine claiming that the money to justify a recent highway expansion was based on the last census (It wasn't; it was a bond referrendum I supported). I told her this and she became flustered and said that's what she'd been told.

She then told me "Someone else will be coming by later this summer. If you still refuse to answer they will knock on your neighbors door to see if they know the information you are refusing to give." Well, that just set me off. I told her "How dare they! I have a real problem with the government using informants to obtain information about me that I refuse to give! My neighbors know nothing about how far I drive to work or how many bathrooms I have. You mean you'd rather take someones incorrect guess than have no answer at all? If you're telling me that then the census itself is worthless!" She again became flustered and said that this is what she was told to tell people and that she was sorry to have upset me and then left.

My wife, who is normally very middle of the road about government stuff, was fuming! The idea that they would question our neighbors about us was just going waaaayy over the line. Before, she wasn't sure I was doing the right thing by not sending in the form but now thinks I was absolutely right in refusing.


-- TECH32 (TECH32@NOMAIL.CON), April 28, 2000.


You said somewhere, some time ago that you were in northern jersey-I am within 30 miles of new york, in new jersey, so I have to believe that the same rap may be given to the enumerators in this area.

I think I will put in an anonymous call to the census bureau and find out the truth of this. Some average joanne doing the census could NOT make this up. Ask my neighbors-THAT IS NUTS-anyway, I just moved here- but, OH NO, the mayor of my town is the next door neighbor-Are they going to tie him up and ask him?

This is just about the most horrible thing I have heard about the census process. Thanks for sharing it.

-- FutureShock (gray@matter.think), April 28, 2000.

Blackwell discussed the confidentiality of the Census data. By
law, the Census Bureau cannot share anyone's information with any
other agency, including the FBI, INS, or the IRS. In addition,
Blackwell noted that to ensure public safety, census enumerators
would be easily recognizable.

If a census taker comes to your door, he or she will:

-- Wear an easily recognizable red, white and blue name badge
-- Have tote bag with "Census 2000" written on it
-- Carry official census forms
-- Have a printed statement verifying that your answers are
-- Never ask to come inside your house
-- Never request Social Security, drivers license or credit card
-- Have a local census telephone number you can call to verify
that he or she is a Census worker


-- (recognizing@the.enumerator), April 29, 2000.

This census seems to be a farce.

I wrote some time ago about how we got the short form and sent it in only to be confronted with an enumerator with a long form who insisted (and his supervisor insisted) that we also fill this one out. So we did--but have we been counted twice?

Perhaps that would be good because many, many people in Potter County have not received anything from the Census Bureau. In fact, it is so bad that the County Commissioners attempted to talk to the local census group. I say attempted because the Comissioners were promptly escorted out as soon as they identified themselves. Census Bureau personnel ONLY allowed in. So they pursued it through several levels in the state only to find out they should consult with John Turock or Peggy Kelsey or John Wingo. Sounds good--except the Comissioners ARE Turock, Kelsey and Wingo! Catch 22.

-- Pam (jpjgood@penn.com), April 29, 2000.

Moderation questions? read the FAQ