New York Regional Case StudyREGIONAL CENSUS CENTER
A. New York Northwest, LCO #2236
B. Queens Northeast, LCO #2240
On February 22 and 23, 2000, Board staff visited the New York Regional Census Center (RCC) and the New York Northwest and Queens Northeast local census offices (LCOs). The RCC visit lasted about three hours, and each LCO visit lasted one to three hours, which covered a briefing, tour and question and answer period.
The New York RCC is located in a federal government building in southern Manhattan. The 9th floor office includes sufficient space for the staff. Staff observed separate office areas for all divisions: recruiting, geography, partnership, automation, and payroll. Areas for a receptionist, top management, and assistants were also adequate.
In order to insure that pay is distributed accurately and on time, the RCC had recently added extra pay facilitator positions. Computers and office space had been provided for up to seven clerks to work full time on payroll support. In some divisions, such as Geography (which produces maps for enumerators), two or more work shifts are being employed.
Monitoring Board staff were briefed by the senior officials of the Census Bureau's New York Region, including the Regional Director, RCC Manager, Recruiting Manager, Partnership Manager, Geography Coordinator, and Automation Coordinator. Additional regional staff also participated.
New York Region Enumeration Strategies
|STRATEGY||NUMBER OFHOUSEHOLDS||PERCENT OF TOTAL|
Most households in the New York Region are designated as mailout/mailback. That is, they will receive (and are asked to return) a census questionnaire via the U.S. Postal Service. Ot her housing units in the region will be enumerated by update/leave or urban update/enumerate. During update/leave, enumerators update the Bureau address list while delivering questionnaires to households in rural areas. Respondents are asked to complete the forms and return them by mail. Urban update/enumerate is employed in certain targeted areas, and involves updating address lists and the simultaneous enumeration of households.
The New York RCC administers 39 LCOs centered around the New York City metropolitan area. Twenty-two LCOs are in New York City, while six are just north of the City and 11 are located in New Jersey.
According to the New York Regional Director, the region is unique in a few important respects. It leads the nation in population concentration and multi-unit dwellings. It also contains the largest number of urban HTE areas. The Regional Director emphasized New York City's unparalleled diversity, including representatives of virtually every language and culture from around the world.
The New York region has one significant advantage over others: it covers the smallest geographic area (only 309 square miles). This allows regional or partnership staff to make relatively quick visits to and from many of the region's LCOs.
Due to the New York region's small size, it elected to distribute Partnership Specialist responsibilities by race or ethnicity across the region, rather than assign one specialist to each LCO. The Regional Director noted limitations to this approach: race and ethnic groups far outnumber the 50 Partnership Specialists in the region. The region does not have sufficient personnel to cover each of the languages and cultures represented in New York City. However, the Regional Director indicated that assigning Partnership Specialists by race or ethnic focus allows the New York RCC to cover a broader range of races and ethnicities than individual LCO assignments.
Resources may be strained in some key areas, due to the complexity of the partnership workload. For example, managers at New York Northwest reported poor coordination with the partnership staff (see page 14).
According to the Regional Director, developing partnerships with government and various private sector entities has been the greatest task facing the New York RCC. This is the first census in which the Census Bureau has actively sought such a broad range of partners, and the workload has been heavier than expected.
The Board agrees that partnership with local leaders is invaluable to a successful census. Outside partners, particularly community-based organizations, are best able to motivate residents to participate in the census. Time spent developing local partnerships is therefore a necessary investment, particularly in hard-to-enumerate areas.
The Regional Director noted some partnerships, such as those with the State and City of New York, initially required considerable attention from the RCC, and now function effectively as an independent partner. Other examples cited require more "handholding" from the RCC. With approximately 3,000 partnerships, the RCC cannot work closely with them all.
According to the Regional Director, partnership and outreach efforts had consumed a significant amount of top management resources. He also stated the time demands of meeting with political leaders and oversight groups (including the Monitoring Board) had been significant.
Recruiting and Staffing
At the time of interview, the New York Region had exceeded its overall employee recruiting goal of 70 percent. As of March 1, 2000, the nationwide goal was 70 percent of the total applicants needed. By February 25, the New York region had recruited 90 percent of applicants needed.
New York Region Hiring Goals
|New York State||7,385|
|New York City||22,155|
The Bureau tracks the pass/fail rates for the employment test administered to applicants for enumerator positions. At the time of interview, 86 percent or 120,573 of 140,399 applicants tested had passed. No LCO reported less than a 75 percent passing rate.
The Bureau does not have a policy of contacting applicants after they have taken the test. Regional staff reported complaints from applicants who were not notified of failing the test, and responded with a regional policy. The region sent letters to all applicants who had not passed, informed them of their status, and encouraged them to re-take the test (which may be re-taken indefinitely).
At the time of interview, recruiting was largely successful across the region, with some pockets of concern. Of the region's 39 offices, 28 were ahead of their recruiting goals, and 11 lagged behind. The region had employed the Bureau's standard measures to escalate recruiting efforts where necessary.
Recruiting materials are generated at the RCC as well as the LCOs and by headquarter-contracted printing locations.
NEW YORK NORTHWEST, 2236
Congressional and Presidential Monitoring Board staff met with the management of the New York Northwest local census office (LCO) for approximately two hours during the morning of February 23, 2000. The LCO manager, assistant managers for administration, field operations, and recruiting were present, as well as the office's automation technician. Also present were the New York Assistant Regional Census Manager (ARCM), and the Regional Technician responsible for the office. The Census Monitoring Board liaison was in attendance.
New York Northwest is responsible for enumerating the historic neighborhood of Harlem. The almost wholly-minority area includes African, African American, Caribbean, Mexican and Puerto Rican households. The 1990 population was 308,453, living in 154,588 housing units. Mistrust of government, linguistic and cultural isolation, and socioeconomic conditions contribute to the area's hard-to-enumerate designation. The office also faces operational challenges: apparently poor coordination with partnership staff, slow delivery of supplies, and inadequate physical facilities.
Despite these challenges, the dedicated staff had surpassed recruiting goals. At the time of interview, recruiting a sizable pool of job applicants was the major operational focus of LCOs nationwide. Census Bureau records as of February 24, 2000, show New York Northwest at 105 percent of the recruiting goal, with 4,825 qualified applicants.
Opened in October 1999, this office arguably has one of the most difficult assignments among the Census Bureau's 520 LCOs. Harlem is actually split into two distinct communities: West and East Harlem, or Black Harlem and El Barrio, respectively. West Harlem's population includes African American, African and Caribbean households. There is a small but growing French African population. El Barrio, which used to be almost entirely Puerto Rican, is now also home to a rapidly-growing Mexican community, which LCO staff have identified as particularly hard-to-count. The large Spanish-speaking population creates a demand for in-language recruiting and promotional materials. It also requires a substantial number of Spanish-fluent enumerators.
Census and survey coverage is generally lower than average in Black and Latino neighborhoods in dense urban areas, which puts Harlem at risk for extreme undercounts in Census 2000. Most of the census tracts in the area have been identified as hard-to-enumerate (HTE) by the Bureau's demographers, using data from the 1990 Census.
In addition, the management team - consisting wholly of Harlem residents - demonstrated detailed knowledge of different aspects of the community. Staff combined local knowledge with the Bureau's Planning Database (PDB) to develop special enumeration plans for HTE tracts. These HTE action plans, referred to as "Hot Tracts," were provided to the Regional Census Center (RCC) two weeks prior to interview.
LCO staff cited blitz and pair enumeration among the strategies planned for Hot Tracts. Monitoring Board staff requested copies of the plan, which would provide greater detail of the Bureau's efforts to improve enumeration in areas at risk of extreme undercounts, and were refused by the Monitoring Board liaison.
The ability of New York Northwest's staff to meet enumeration challenges may be impaired by poor working conditions. On the day of interview, the office had no running water. This was the third such occasion since the October opening. Management reported one previous interruption of service had lasted nine days. During these occasions, the office staff (about 40 employees at the time of interview) was forced to solicit nearby businesses for use of the facilities.
Management's greatest physical concern is the building's elevator, which had not worked since the LCO opening. The office space is located on the third floor, and is not accessible to persons with disabilities. This also inhibits deliveries of supplies for the office or field staff. (For example, delivery of several hundred pounds of desks and chairs was delayed due to inaccessibility. LCOs also receive a large volume of various forms for administration and enumeration.)
Other space concerns include leaking plumbing, rodents, fire code violations, inadequate trash pickup and no window treatments (staff had taped paper over windows to reduce glare on computer monitors).
The ARCM ended further discussion of facilities, although LCO staff and the Regional Technician indicated there were additional problems in this area. Senior regional staff later assured the Monitoring Board they were aware of the facilities problems in New York Northwest, and were working closely with the General Services Administration (which procured space for all LCOs) to remedy all problems. Regional staff cited extreme difficulty obtaining a lease for suitable space in this LCO area. Reportedly, exhaustive efforts to obtain space, including soliciting aid from Congressional Representatives in the area, produced no suitable facilities.
This visit did not provide sufficient information for a full evaluation of the cause, effect and remedy of the facilities problems in New York Northwest, nor does the Monitoring Board have resources to perform such an evaluation. Nevertheless, these problems - and their impact on the staff - are clearly cause for concern.
Recruiting and Staffing
Despite the challenges described above, recruiting has been successful. According to Bureau records, New York Northwest had reached 105 percent of its goal for qualified job applicants as of February 24, 2000. Management reports word-of-mouth and community "blitzing" (handing out fliers at community events) have been effective recruiting tactics, and the local churches have been prominent recruiting partners. However, staff reports that the strongest incentive for many Harlem residents is the substantial pay: $19.50 an hour.
From January 1, 1998 through February 22, 2000, 2236 had 7,672 job applicants. A majority were Black and Latino women. As of February 22, 100 applicants were working and 29 had been offered a position (hiring enumerators for non-response follow-up, the most labor-intensive operation, was scheduled to begin three weeks after the interview, on March 13). The applicant file listed 4,451 total persons available, with the remainder ineligible or under review.
Although mail response will determine precise staffing levels and composition, New York Northwest anticipates hiring approximately 800 - 1,000 enumerators. The crew leader-to-enumerator ratio will be 1:20. Management estimated needing approximately 350 Spanish-fluent enumerators. Staff anticipated potential problems in hiring enough enumerators in linguistically and culturally isolated Mexican neighborhoods. In particular, recruiters cited difficulty in receiving necessary identification from recent immigrants.
The LCO established 24 testing centers. Five were identified with the help of the partnership specialist. One center, located on East 14th Street, was established exclusively for the Mexican community: testing of Mexican applicants, conducted by Mexican local partners (the Latino Advisory Committee).
English Proficiency Test
Although the enumerator test can be administered in Spanish, Spanish applicants must also pass an English proficiency test, since training is conducted in English. Staff reported the English-proficiency test did not appear prohibitive: out of 74 tests administered in the prior week, 70 were passed.
However, anticipating that they may need some flexibility in this area, there is a contingency plan to employ the Spanish-language training materials in use in Puerto Rico, conduct training in Spanish, and waive the English requirement, if necessary.
Monitoring Board staff requested a breakdown of the applicant file by language ability. Although the Bureau tracks this information, the RCC declined to provide it to the Board.
Pre-Appointment Management System and Automated Decennial Administrative Management System (PAMS/ADAMs)
Management reported considerable frustration with the PAMS/ADAMS system and the recently installed PAMS/ADAMS Data Entry (PADE) software. There was some concern that the new data-entry software required additional time and auditing by clerks, and that efficiency was actually reduced. However, New York Northwest management has prioritized timely payment, and had received no complaints for late payment.
There was also concern about the ability to hire experienced employees at the appropriate pay scale. Specifically, the Assistant Manager for Field Operations wished to hire a woman, who had performed exceptionally as a lister during address listing, as a crew leader. Accepting the position, the woman received her first paycheck at the enumerator wage. Upon investigation, it was confirmed that PAMS/ADAMS would not permit an experienced employee to be hired at a higher rate - they must be hired at their previous wage. Bringing this to the attention of Bureau headquarters, the RCC and the LCO were told to hire people at the lower pay rate, and increase it the following week. Both the LCO staff and the ARCM indicated this was an insufficient measure.
One partnership specialist has been assigned to coordinate with New York Northwest since the October 1999 opening. Another specialist was recently hired at the prompting of the Latino Advisory Committee, to work primarily with the Mexican community. Staff suggest the partnership specialist position would be more effective if it answered directly to the LCO, rather than the RCC.
LCO staff reported coordination with the partnership specialist had been poor. The specialist had little or no input in recruiting efforts, Hot Tract planning, QAC and Be Counted site placement, or community outreach in this particular LCO.
Office staff reported conducting their own outreach with local churches, and meeting frequently with the Latino Advisory Committee and the Harlem Complete Count Committee (CCC). Partnership activities include mini-awareness days and church events. The Latino Advisory Committee meets weekly at the LCO.
Questionnaire Assistance Centers (QACs) and Be Counted Sites
LCO staff have selected 45 QAC sites, expanded from an original 25. Partnership specialist and local partners did not have input in site selection. Additional Be Counted sites had not been determined at the time of interview, although Be Counted forms had been delivered to the LCO.
Materials and Training
Management reported frustration in obtaining materials of any kind: office supplies, promotional materials, enumeration and in-language forms. In addition to the physical space difficulties noted above, all staff reported consistent shortages and delays in receiving materials, with the exception of maps.
Enumeration and administration training manuals, although lengthy, were cited as effective reference materials. There was concern that the PAMS/ADAMS manuals contain some misleading or superfluous instruction in some areas.
In addition, the ARCM described "just in time" training sessions: detailed training or "refresher" courses, conducted by area managers, dealing with imminent operations. Management agreed these were valuable sessions.
QUEENS NORTHEAST, 2240
Congressional and Presidential Monitoring Board staff met with the management of the Queens Northeast local census office (LCO) for approximately one hour during the afternoon of February 23, 2000. The LCO manager, assistant managers of administration, field operations, and recruiting were present, as well as the office's special places enumeration coordinator. Also present were the Deputy Regional Director, an Assistant Regional Census Manager, an Area Manager, and the Census Monitoring Board liaison.
Queens Northeast is responsible for enumerating a largely white population, with a substantial Asian community. The 1990 population was 308,453, living in 154,588 housing units.
The LCO staff reported no problems, and had surpassed recruiting goals at the time of interview. The only major concern discussed was the area's tightly-knit Korean and Chinese communities, which would be at risk for major undercounts without sufficient in-language materials, local enumerators, and partnership with community leaders. The office reported actively pursuing all these goals with considerable success. However, the Deputy Regional Director indicated that the enumeration of these hard-to-count communities represents a significant challenge.
Queens Northeast officially opened its doors on October 29, 1999. The office facilities were a sharp contrast from New York Northwest. The office was clean, well-lit and spacious. There were no complaints from the staff regarding the facilities. Each department had plenty of space to operate.
Recruiting and Staffing
Recruitment seems to have been successful up to the time of interview. Staff reported high recruitment numbers, reaching close to 70 percent of the needed 9,000-person applicant pool. At peak operations, Queens Northeast expects to have 85 staff members in its office.
Fourteen recruiting assistants are responsible for hiring 800 to 1000 enumerators. This staffing level is based on an assumed mail response of 52 percent (anticipated from the 1990 rate). The LCO estimated reaching 80 percent of the recruitment goal by March 1. Staff attributed recruiting successes to pre-testing exercises conducted in Korean, Chinese and Greek, although the actual tests were only conducted in Spanish and English. The LCO found that a sufficient number of applicants were Asian-language fluent and English proficient. The bulk of the first round of non-response follow-up (NRFU) hiring will be done by mid-April, and NRFU will begin April 27.
Management reported the main problem encountered in recruitment has been the lack of proper identification credentials from applicants. Most of the time applicants simply forgot to bring them and had to return another day. In some cases, applicants did not have the proper identification.
The pay scale for this LCO is at the high end; clerks will be paid from $14.00 to $21.50, enumerators will be paid $18.80/hour, and crew leaders will be paid $20.00/hour.
The Planning Database (PDB), using 1990 Census data and response rates to identify hard-to-enumerate (HTE) areas, was supplemented with local knowledge to develop an HTE Action Plan.
The largest minority populations in the area are Chinese, Korean and Hindu Indians. The LCO goal is to recruit 30 people per census tract. According to the PDB (and confirmed by office staff), Queens Northeast has HTE neighborhoods in only two zip codes, each with concentrations of Korean and Chinese residents.
Office staff reported preparing an action plan to enumerate HTE areas, and submitting it to the Regional Census Center. Monitoring Board staff requested copies of the plan, which would provide greater detail of the Bureau's efforts to improve enumeration in areas at risk of extreme undercounts, and were refused by the Monitoring Board liaison.
Pre-Appointment Management System and Automated Decennial Administrative Management System (PAMS/ADAMS)
Queens Northeast reported no problems with PAMS/ADAMS, or the recently-installed user interface, PAMS/ADAMS Data Entry (PADE).
Two partnership specialists have been actively coordinating with the office since the October 1999 opening. Staff reported a partnership specialist would generally be in the office for at least a short time on any given day.
Given the demographics of Queens Northeast, the LCO has formed an invaluable partnership with the 80-member Queens Area Asian American Coalition. The Coalition has developed an outreach plan for the Korean, Chinese and Hindu communities. Management reported the Coalition scheduling an all-day Census Awareness Conference at the Flushing Library, which will target these communities.
The Korean Task Force, a member of the Queens CCC, has also been very helpful, working closely with the Korean Partnership Specialist. Both organizations worked together to place a full-page ad in the Mandarin Chinese newspaper alerting its readership of the Advance Letter and the opportunity to request an in-language census form should it be needed.
Questionnaire Assistance Centers (QACs) and Be Counted Sites
Bureau records indicate 25 Questionnaire Assistance Centers (QACs) located in the Queens Northeast LCO area. The QAC sites were placed in neighborhoods meeting the following criteria: identification as HTE; identification of language barriers among residents; and a high proportion of low-income families. The QACs were intended to be staffed by paid employees and volunteers, although the volunteer pool had not been determined at the time of interview. In addition, staff reported 25 partnership organizations submitted input on site selections.
Promotional and outreach materials were translated and distributed by the Queens Area Asian American Coalition and the Korean Task Force.
Staff expected delivery of Be Counted forms on February 25, and had received the displays already. Management indicated that the employee manuals were very helpful and that the field manuals were easy to sift through. Staff also indicated no problems securing the necessary resource materials.