Transmittal LetterThe Honorable Albert Gore
United States Senate
Washington, DC 20510
The Honorable J. Dennis Hastert
United States House of Representatives
Washington, DC 20515
Dear Mr. President and Mr. Speaker:
Pursuant to P.L. 105-119, the Members of the U.S. Census Monitoring board hereby transmit the following joint report to the Congress. As you are aware, the Monitoring Board is a bi-partisan body established by the Congress in 1997 to monitor the Census Bureau's efforts to plan and carry out the 2000 decennial census.
This report details the findings from a series of joint field observations conducted in recent months. Specifically, the Board has undertaken case studies of Bureau operations in both the Dallas and New York census regions, conducted observations of critical training sessions at the Census Bureau's National Processing Center in Jeffersonville, Indiana, and sent staff to observe census operations in the state of Alaska.
With some exceptions detailed in the following report, and subject to their relatively limited scope, our observations indicate the planning for census operations and community relations is generally proceeding well in the regional offices and local census offices we visited.
Our report notes that the Local Census Offices (LCOs) we examined, with one exception, have been provided with good facilities and are well-equipped with furniture, forms, maps and other supplies. The exception is the New York Northwest LCO, located in the Harlem section in Manhattan. Significant problems were noted with the office space provided for the LCO.
CENSUS OPERATIONS UPDATE
At the time of the drafting of this report, several major census operations were already underway and others were scheduled to begin shortly. The report summarizes the most current operational data available to the Monitoring Board as of March 23, 2000.
Remote Alaska Enumeration
Enumeration efforts began on January 19, 2000 with the Remote Alaska Enumeration. This operation begins well in advance of Census Day in order to count residents of remote villages before the change of seasons prompts many to leave their communities to hunt, fish, or engage in other employment. For details on the Monitoring Board's observations of this operation, see Section IV of this report.
Advance Notice Letter
On March 6, 2000, the Bureau mailed advance notice letters announcing that Census 2000 questionnaires would be arriving soon and that non-English census forms are available. Although an addressing error caused concerns, the Postal Service provided the Bureau with assurances that the letters would be successfully delivered. There are indications that the advance letter has had a positive effect. As of March 20, 2000 roughly 1.5 million non-English forms had been requested via return of the advance letter.
Update/Leave operations (in which enumerators hand-deliver questionnaires in rural areas while simultaneously updating the address lists) began on March 3, 2000 and were scheduled to end on March 30, shortly after this report will go to press. List/Enumerate operations, used in remote and sparsely populated areas where enumerators will directly interview residents rather than dropping off questionnaires for Mailback, began on March 13, 2000 and are scheduled to continue until May 1, 2000. In addition, Urban Update/Enumerate operations, targeted at areas with historically high or potentially high undercounts, were scheduled to begin on March 20, 2000, as this report was being prepared, and are scheduled to be completed by May 30, 2000.
On March 13, 2000, the Bureau mailed out roughly 98 million forms to households as part of its Mailout/Mailback effort. As of March 21, 2000, just under 15 million households had returned their forms, and the Bureau's four Data Capture Centers (DCCs) had processed 7.3 million of them.
Recruiting efforts aimed at filling the more than 535,000 staff positions the Bureau will need at peak operations were on track at the national level, although some local offices lagged behind. On March 21, 2000 the Bureau Director announced that the Bureau had recruited an applicant pool of 2.2 million qualified individuals. This is roughly 91 percent of the national recruiting goal, and was reached just under one month prior to the April 19, 2000 recruiting deadline.
The Board agrees that a successful census depends on meeting recruiting and hiring needs of individual communities and neighborhoods across the country, as opposed to simply meeting national goals. The Board has different perspectives on the Bureau's current efforts in local areas. A discussion of those views begins on page four.
Partnerships and Outreach
Efforts to form partnerships with state and local governments and community organizations to promote the census continue. As of March 21, 2000, the Bureau reported more than 102,000 partnerships across the country. A total of 27,000 sites for Questionnaire Assistance Centers (QACs) and more than 21,000 sites at which to place forms and materials for the Be Counted effort, had been identified. QAC startups began on March 8, 2000 and these centers are scheduled to remain open until April 14, 2000.
Telephone Questionnaire Assistance
Problems were initially reported with the Telephone Questionnaire Assistance (TQA) system designed to provide assistance to individuals with questions about the census form, but according to the Bureau Director have now been resolved. The TQA system had logged a total of 1.8 million calls as of March 18, 2000. Roughly 15 percent of these calls were to the Spanish language line. Telephone assistance is available in English, Spanish, Chinese, Japanese, Vietnamese, Korean and Tagalog.
Special Population, Transient and Group Quarters Enumeration
Shortly after this report went to press, the Bureau is scheduled to carry out operations to count special, transient and often hard-to-enumerate populations in certain locations:
March 27, 2000 Transitional and Emergency Shelters
March 28, 2000 Soup Kitchens and Mobile Food Vans
March 29, 2000 Targeted Non-Shelter Outdoor Locations
March 31, 2000 Transient Locations (campgrounds, parks, carnivals and marinas)
April 1, 2000 Group Quarters (dormitories, nursing homes, prisons)
Finally, on April 27, 2000, the Bureau will begin a massive Non-Response Follow-Up (NRFU) operation, deploying enumerators across the nation to count those individuals who did not return forms following the mailout/mailback or update/leave operations. The ultimate size of this operation remains unclear. Much will be determined by the mailback response rate - the greater the number of forms returned by mail, the fewer the households which must be contacted during NRFU.
NRFU efforts are scheduled to be carried out in the field from April 27 to July 7, 2000. The Monitoring Board will be closely following the progress of this critical operation in the coming months.
In order to assess the progress of the Census Bureau's planning in several key areas, the Presidential and Congressional Members of the Monitoring Board have undertaken a series of field observations in recent months. This report summarizes this joint field work.
These visits provide static observations of a large, dynamic process. They are intended to illustrate operations at the time of interview, in relatively few areas, and should not be used to infer general conclusions about regional or national census operations.
In reporting these results, the Board would like to acknowledge the efforts of the Census Bureau in accommodating these site visits. Each of these field observations required the expenditure of significant resources to arrange briefings and site visits for Board staff. In particular, we would like to thank the staffs of the Regional Census Centers and Local Census Offices with whom staff met. These site visits took place at a time of extraordinary activity for Census Bureau staff across the nation. The time and effort expended on arranging these informative field visits are greatly appreciated.
Dallas Regional Case Study
In late February 2000, staff from the Presidential and Congressional Members of the Monitoring Board visited the Dallas Regional Census Center and two Local Census Offices (LCOs) in the region to review the status of enumeration planning at the regional and local levels. The LCOs visited were located in El Paso and in Dallas County.
The Board was impressed by the efforts devoted to enumeration planning and outreach at the Dallas Regional Census Center, as well as the high degree of motivation and dedication evidenced by its management and staff. The El Paso and Dallas County South LCO visits showed local efforts well-positioned to carry out the field work necessary to generate the best possible count: hard to enumerate (HTE) areas had been identified and solid plans developed to carry out the enumeration in each. In particular, we note the extensive efforts to reach the populations living in the colonias in Texas. These communities pose tremendous enumeration challenges, and we were impressed by the Bureau's efforts to reach them.
At the time of interview, both the RCC and the LCOs we visited were meeting their goals for enumerator recruiting. The Region was at 84.5 percent of its 276,415 applicant recruiting goal, well in excess of the 70 percent goal established by the Bureau for the time period. This applicant pool will be used to fill a total of 55,105 positions. Efforts by the RCC and LCOs to secure a sufficient pool of bilingual enumerator applicants appeared to be succeeding.
The LCO staffs have been provided with good facilities, and reported no problems in securing needed supplies and materials to carry out their work.
In regard to delivery of questionnaires in linguistically isolated communities (such as the Spanish colonias located in the Dallas Region), the Board agrees that delivering non-English questionnaires where appropriate would be of great benefit to a full enumeration. However, members disagree on the feasibility of implementing this policy during the 2000 census. For full discussion of this issue, see page 25.
New York Regional Case Study
Staff from the Presidential and Congressional Members of the Monitoring Board traveled to the New York Region on February 22 and 23, 2000. Meetings were held with the Regional Census Center (RCC) and with the management of two LCOs, located in Harlem and Flushing, Queens.
The New York Region, although geographically the smallest of the Bureau's 12 regions, presents unique challenges for a successful enumeration effort. Most of the world's languages are spoken in the region, and the rich ethnic, religious and cultural diversity of the population requires an equally diverse outreach program. At the time of interview, the RCC reported roughly 3,000 partnerships with local governments and community organizations. Significant time and effort had been invested in fostering and coordinating partnership efforts, and the Board agrees that these efforts are invaluable to conducting a successful census.
The New York Region was exceeding its overall employee recruiting goal at the time of our visit. The RCC had reached 90 percent of its total recruiting goal by February 25. The March 1 goal established by the Bureau required reaching 70 percent of the total. The RCC had tested a total of 219,526 job applicants to fill 41,345 positions.
Site visits to the New York Northwest (in Harlem) and Queens Northeast LCOs showed the offices to be staffed by knowledgeable, dedicated management and staff. In both cases, staff demonstrated a detailed knowledge of the areas and communities which they will be required to enumerate. Extensive enumeration planning had been conducted, drawing heavily on the expertise of LCO staff and the Planning Database provided by the Bureau.
In both cases, recruiting was meeting or exceeding the goals established for the time frame. The New York Northwest LCO had already reached 105 percent of its total recruiting goal. The Queens Northeast LCO had met the 70 percent interim recruiting goal for late February.
LCO staff in Queens Northeast reported successful recruiting drives for bilingual enumerators, aided by pre-testing exercises conducted in Korean, Chinese and Greek. The Harlem LCO staff was conducting aggressive recruiting efforts, but remained concerned about meeting the enumeration needs of the large Mexican American community in its jurisdiction.
Although the Queens Northeast LCO staff reported no complaints about the office space they have been provided, New York Northwest LCO staff reported significant problems. Access for persons with disabilities, and the delivery of needed furniture and supplies, were hampered by a non-functioning elevator. (The office is located on the third floor.) The building had no running water on the day of the interview, the third interruption in the water supply since the LCO opened in October 1999. One such outage lasted nine days. Trash pickup was reportedly inadequate. The lack of curtains or blinds required staff to tape paper over windows to reduce glare on computer screens.
In fairness, it should be noted that the General Services Administration (GSA) experienced significant difficulties in obtaining a site for the New York Northwest LCO, despite exhaustive efforts to obtain adequate space. However, the Board remains concerned about the conditions faced by the New York Northwest LCO staff as they prepare to enumerate one of the most challenging areas in the nation. Senior regional staff assured the Monitoring Board that steps were being taken to remedy the problems with the New York Northwest LCO facilities.
In January 2000, staff from the Presidential and Congressional members of the Monitoring Board traveled to Alaska to observe the Remote Alaska Enumeration operation and to meet with the staff of the Anchorage LCO. Board staff accompanied Bureau personnel for meetings with community leaders, enumeration interviews, and for an aerial map-spotting operation.
The Board is impressed with the dedicated efforts of the Bureau's Alaska staff, and the degree of cultural sensitivity they have shown to the Native population in the state. Native leaders expressed their congratulations on the Bureau's efforts. Board staff noted that the LCO's successful partnership work has shown similar successes outside the state's Native community, as well.
The Board believes that the strategies employed by the Bureau in Alaska benefit the count in remote villages and address concerns regarding the undercount of native communities throughout the state. The positive results seen so far highlight the Alaska effort as an instructive example for Bureau operations in other areas of the country.
Household Matching Training
In January 2000, staff from the Presidential and Congressional members of the Monitoring Board traveled to the Census Bureau's National Processing Center in Jeffersonville, Indiana to monitor training for clerical staff who will conduct the Before Follow-Up (BFU) matching operation. The BFU procedures will be used to match the address list developed for the traditional enumeration with the list developed as part of the Accuracy and Coverage Evaluation (ACE) survey.
The training provided for clerical level staff was well-executed to familiarize clerical staff with the Bureau guidelines to housing unit matching.
Given the importance of the various matching operations to be used by the Bureau in its effort to measure the expected undercount and possibly adjust the 2000 census, the Board plans to observe the Person Matching training scheduled for the fall of 2000. We will transmit the results of those observations in a subsequent report.
Participation in the census is one of the most basic civic responsibilities. The results of the 2000 census will, for the next ten years, affect every aspect of American life. The results will guide the allocation of political representation at the federal, state and local levels, determine funding for schools, hospitals, roads, bridges, and utilities, and guide vital decisions to address some of our most pressing social problems. In the private sector, businesses will rely on these numbers to decide where to invest, and where to build stores, factories and bank branches and housing.
This census has seen its share of political controversy. But for all the debate, we join unanimously to urge every resident of the United States to complete and return their census forms, and to cooperate with the Census Bureau's enumerators when they begin their efforts to find those who have been missed.
J. Kenneth Blackwell
Dr.David W. Murray
A. Mark Neuman
cc: Members of the 106th Congress
The Honorable William Daley, U.S. Secretary of Commerce
The Honorable Kenneth Prewitt, Director, U.S. Bureau of the Census