The 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:
The Congressional Members of the U.S. Census Monitoring Board have, during the past year and a half, devoted hundreds of hours listening to, and talking with, a diverse group of true census stakeholders throughout the country. They include state and local governments and elected officials; community leaders; and the people who really live, work and serve in neighborhoods known to be hard-to-count and at risk for being missed in Census 2000.
While the unprecedented efforts of the Census Bureau will reach the majority of the households in America, there are still people who will not participate in the census. These disproportionately include members of poor, minority, urban, and immigrant communities, and children that are traditionally missed by the census. Many live in linguistically isolated communities and many are distrustful of the government. They live in America’s hard-to-count neighborhoods—in the barrios, inner cities, remote rural areas, and reservations. These are the people who most need an accurate census for their fair share of political representation and more than $180 billion in federal funds for health care, education, community development, transportation and many other programs that enhance their daily lives. It is these very people, however, who are most often missed or overlooked in the Census.
The following report provides a summary of the comments and recommendations made by a broad range of census stakeholders with whom the Board has met and who participated in an “Undercount Summit” organized by the Congressional Members of the Board and held at the National Press Club in Washington. The report also provides similar observations made by the participants at the Hispanic Federation Forum sponsored by the Presidential Members of the Board and held in New York City. The Congressional Members also participated in that Forum.
This report summarizes the concerns expressed by the participants in the Undercount Summit and the Hispanic Federation Forum that the Census Bureau’s efforts are not sufficient to encourage people living in hard-to-count neighborhoods to participate in the census. The two groups identified barriers to counting hard-to-count neighborhoods and populations, and offered several recommendations they believe would encourage participation in Census 2000 in hard-to-count neighborhoods. A videotape with highlights of the Congressional Members’ Undercount Summit is available by calling 301/457-5080.
Four of the recommendations mentioned the most include:
While the Census Bureau will say that many of the recommendations made in this report are being implemented, the comments by the participants in the Undercount Summit and the Hispanic Federation Forum, as well as the field observations of the Congressional Members of the Board, suggest otherwise.
- Obtain a waiver or income exemption for persons receiving government assistance, including TANF and Food Stamps, for persons temporarily employed for the decennial census. Hiring residents to be enumerators in many economically disadvantaged neighborhoods will depend on granting such a waiver and many persons and groups, including the American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO), share this concern.
- Utilize local residents as “facilitators” to assist enumerators in hard-to-count neighborhoods. Regional Directors and Local Census Office (LCO) Managers must have the operational freedom to hire trusted persons from the community (who may not be able to pass the Bureau’s hiring test) to assist the enumerators by knocking on the doors and ensuring that residents will have the confidence to answer the census.
- Ensure that bilingual, culturally sensitive persons—including non-citizens—are hired in linguistically isolated neighborhoods. Non-citizens may have to be hired, either as enumerators or “facilitators,” to ensure that certain communities are counted in Census 2000. Therefore, the Bureau should do everything possible to ensure that LCO Managers can recruit and hire culturally sensitive persons to take the census. The Bureau must clarify all hiring guidelines.
- Ensure that neighborhoods that are entirely Spanish speaking receive a notice written in Spanish letting the residents know that Spanish questionnaires are available and how to receive those questionnaires. Residents in neighborhoods that are entirely Spanish speaking, such as Cameron Park colonias, will receive a letter written in English alerting them of the census and the availability of Spanish-language questionnaires. The Regional Census Centers and the Local Census Offices have the authority to deliver notices written in Spanish, or the appropriate dominant language, in these neighborhoods. Clearly, there are a number of neighborhoods throughout the country where initial contact in their own language will be essential to ensuring that every resident is counted.
It is our hope that these solutions and suggestions made in this report by real people with real concerns will help the Census Bureau and result in a census that is fair and accurate to every demographic group and most importantly at every geographic level—including hard-to-count neighborhoods.
J. Kenneth Blackwell
Dr.David W. Murray
A. Mark Neuman