April 1, 1999
The Hon. Albert Gore
United States Senate
Washington, DC 20510
The Hon. Dennis Hastert
United States House of Representative
Washington, DC 20515
Dear Mr. President and Mr. Speaker:
Pursuant to P.L.105-119, the U.S. Census Monitoring Board hereby transmits the second of its required reports to the Congress. As you know, the Monitoring Board is a bipartisan body established by the Congress in 1998 and charged with monitoring the Census Bureau’s preparations for the 2000 Decennial Census.
At the time of this report’s transmittal, Census Day 2000 is exactly one year away. The 2000 decennial census will likely be the largest peacetime mobilization in U.S. history. While its attendant operational challenges are significant, those challenges can be met.
In this report, we explore a range of critical operational issues the Census Bureau will face as it prepares for and carries out the 2000 decennial census. Our findings and recommendations in the areas covered by this report are summarized below:
Field Office Infrastructure
In March 2000, the Census Bureau will use the U.S. Postal Service to deliver census forms to the vast majority of households that have a mailing address. The Bureau anticipates that approximately 72 million households will respond by mail.
To find and count the anticipated 46 million households that fail to return a form by mail, the Bureau is in the process of establishing a nationwide network of temporary offices and staff. Field offices include 12 Regional Census Centers (RCCs), 402 Census Field Offices (CFOs), and 520 Local Census Offices (LCOs).
All RCCs, CFOs, and LCOs are now either opened or are on schedule to be opened. As of February 21, 1999, at least 700 spaces had been leased.
Field Office Staffing
During the next year, the Bureau will recruit, hire and train hundreds of thousands of temporary employees for Census 2000. Most of those employees will be enumerators –
employees that go door-to-door to addresses that fail to return a census form. The Board believes the following recommendations will increase their effectiveness in Census 2000,
particularly in traditionally undercounted communities.
The Board believes that the Bureau should formally document special enumeration procedures to be used in targeted hard-to-enumerate (HTE) areas. The Bureau should prepare such documentation – standardized texts, instructions or manuals – for national distribution and use during Census 2000. Such documentation will ensure that valuable knowledge acquired during one census is not lost to the next due to staff turnover or retirement.
We agree the Bureau should make focused efforts to identify the staffing and language needs in neighborhoods they have already identified as HTE in 2000. Without these efforts, the Bureau cannot recruit, hire and train a workforce best suited to reduce the differential undercount of minority communities during NRFU.
We believe additional efforts should be focused on HTE areas. HTE neighborhoods should be identified and highlighted in the assignment area for each local census office (LCO). Staffing goals (a minimum number of Spanish-fluent enumerators, for instance) should be set for each HTE neighborhood, and incorporated into recruiting efforts in that area.
Given that an effective strategy to fully count HTE areas will require the hiring of qualified non-citizens, the Board recommends that the Bureau be given an exemption from current barriers to the employment of non-citizens. The exemption should apply only to the hiring of a non-citizen where 1) the individual to be hired is lawfully present in the United States and authorized to work, and 2) the position to be filled is a temporary one necessary to carry out the 2000 Decennial Census.
Complete Count Committees
The Bureau can benefit from partnerships with local and tribal governments by increasing awareness and participation in the census. Governments and organizations participating in the partnership program stand to improve their representation and disbursement of money from the federal government. Furthermore, local governments can assist the Bureau with traditionally undercounted populations by forming Complete Count Committees (CCCs). For Census 2000, the Bureau has increased its emphasis from 1990 on encouraging local governments to form CCCs.
While CCCs are designed according to Bureau guidelines, they are established, staffed and managed by local and tribal governments. This was not always clear during the dress rehearsals.
Local and tribal governments should continue to take the lead in creating Complete Count Committees. However, clear expectations should be established between each CCC and the Bureau regarding funding and responsibilities.
We recommend that all local and tribal governments form or join Complete Count Committees. When possible, local governments should dedicate staff to their CCCs to ensure the CCCs complete the work they set out to do. If a town feels that it is too small to conduct its own CCC, it should find out if the county or state is forming a CCC, and join the effort.
We also recommend Members of Congress contact local governments in their districts to encourage them to form Complete Count Committees.
The Board agrees that federal funds should be made available for cities and towns to conduct CCCs. During the dress rehearsals, CCCs were hampered by a lack of resources and funding. Some cities can afford to create a line item expense in the city budget for CCCs but some cities cannot afford any funds or can only afford very limited funds to be dedicated to this endeavor.
The Bureau needs to define a mechanism whereby each CCC recommendation is heard, reviewed, and receives a timely response. Complete Count Committees should be encouraged to make recommendations to customize local advertising, identify and count HTE neighborhoods, hire enumerators, or make other localized efforts to improve the census. Given the number of CCCs nationally, not all of these recommendations can or will be implemented by the Bureau.
However, CCC members have a right to notification, and explanation, when the Bureau does or does not implement a recommendation. The Board found that insufficient communication and follow-up during the dress rehearsals resulted in a high degree of frustration on the part of local partners.
The Bureau can alleviate this public relations problem, and take greater advantage of local resources during Census 2000, by improving communication with local partners through clearly defined procedures.
The Partnership Program is a vital component of the Bureau’s Outreach activities for Census 2000. As a part of the overall Marketing Program, Partnerships will be combined with the paid advertising campaign, the census questionnaire direct mail program, conventional media relations, and other promotional programs such as "Census in the Schools" to increase awareness and to inspire participation in the census.
By ensuring access for the enumerators to the hard-to-enumerate communities, by assuaging doubts regarding confidentiality, and by ensuring awareness of the census and the importance of the census to HTE communities, the Partnership program can directly confront the differential undercount and the barriers to counting every person living in America.
Recruitment priorities should continue to revolve around selecting qualified indigenous applicants including those applicants with specific language skills for linguistically isolated communities.
In those areas with many Complete Count Committees, the Bureau should dedicate enough staff to maintain a manageable workload.
The effectiveness of the relationship of the Partnership Specialist to local governments depends upon an evenly-spread workload. During the dress rehearsals, Menominee and
Sacramento had only one CPS and one governmental unit each, while Columbia had one CPS for more than 50 jurisdictions. In 2000, some specialists will be responsible for only one jurisdiction while others will be responsible for many. Because the specialist acts as the primary liaison between the CCC and the Bureau, suggestions from several CCCs to the Bureau should not be bottlenecked through a single specialist.
Questionnaire Assistance Centers
Questionnaire Assistance Centers (QACs) will be established in public places to help people complete a census form. They are intended to be a key part of the Bureau’s plans to improve response in hard-to-enumerate (HTE) areas, and particularly to help people with limited English proficiency.
The Board urges the Bureau to finalize QAC site selection procedures as soon as possible, so staff at the local and regional level can begin reviewing possible QAC sites in consultation with local partners.
The Board believes QACs can serve a valuable function, if they are placed in useful areas and publicized. The Board recommends the Bureau focus efforts on working closely with local partners, and using the Planning Database to identify areas where QACs can best reach traditionally undercounted populations. Follow-through with local partners should be a priority.
The Board recommends that promotion be improved for QACs in 2000, including advertising locations and hours of operation. Although there were differences in site selection and staffing during the dress rehearsal, the Board agrees that the level of activity will increase with better publicity of QACs, an improved site selection process and paid staff.
The Board recommends that the difference between QACs and Be Counted sites be clarified for 2000 among decennial Bureau personnel and the public. Be Counted sites are designated high-traffic areas which the Bureau will stock with Be Counted forms, but which will not be staffed. This explanation should be incorporated into the training process.
The Board supports the Bureau’s decision to implement both the Questionnaire Assistance Center (QAC) and the Telephone Questionnaire Assistance (TQA) programs.
We believe QACs will be a critical component in providing assistance to Limited English Proficient populations and others that will be hard to enumerate. The QACs are one of the mechanisms for distributing Language Assistance Guides to help respondents fill out their forms. Also, the QACs will be important for some members of populations that were undercounted in 1990 who may not have telephones in their homes and would therefore have difficulty accessing Telephone Questionnaire Assistance.
Be Counted Program
The Be Counted Program will make simplified census forms available in public, high-traffic areas. The program is intended as a convenient way for people who have not received a form, or who have not been included on a form, to be counted.
As in the case of enumerator recruiting and assignment, the Board recommends a dedicated focus on early identification of HTE areas, using the Planning Database and local partner input. In particular, the Bureau should work with Complete Count Committees to identify areas that need forms in languages other than English, and to ensure appropriate targeting for specific languages.
Questionnaires & Language Assistance
The census questionnaire is the primary means of collecting data in the decennial census. The questionnaire’s content – mandated by the Constitution and by statutes – has evolved over two hundred years of census taking to comprise a range of demographic and household questions.
The testing process to revise the 2000 questionnaire has been extensive. The Bureau and the Office of Management and Budget reviewed in great detail the subjects to include in the 2000 census form. In an effort to shorten the form, only questions that were Congressionally mandated or required for federal agency funding were included.
The proposed 2000 Short Form includes seven subjects, whereas the 1990 short form included 12 subjects. The proposed 2000 long form includes 34 subjects, whereas the 1990 long form included 38 subjects.
The 2000 census forms will be available in six languages: English, Chinese, Korean, Spanish, Tagalog and Vietnamese. The Bureau will mail translated forms to households by request. The Bureau does not plan to have Census 2000 questionnaire forms available in Braille.
Because questionnaire forms will not be available in Braille, the Board recommends that outreach efforts include the disability community, the Bureau develop outreach and
instructional material in Braille and large print, and an effort be made to ensure that service agencies serving populations in need of Braille or large print receive the material.
The Bureau plans to make 15 million assistance guides in about 30 languages available. The Board agrees with the Bureau that … "language guides are a useful, but relatively low cost and low risk addition. They can be reproduced, if needed, without concern for the affect on data capture (as would be the case for Be Counted Forms) and can be distributed to partners in advance of Census Day…"
Although there are areas in this report where the views of the Presidential and Congressional Members of the Monitoring Board diverge, there are areas of significant agreement on many of the operational challenges the Census Bureau is facing as it prepares for the 2000 decennial. We hope to work with you to ensure that the career professionals at the Census Bureau are given the tools they need to carry out this important mission.
While there remain significant disagreements on many aspects of census policy, the goal on which we all can agree is that of producing the most accurate possible census in the year 2000.
Co-Chair, Presidential Members
J. Kenneth Blackwell
Co-Chair, Congressional Members
Gilbert F. Casellas
Dr. David W. Murray
Dr. Everett Ehrlich
A. Mark Neuman
Lorraine A. Green
Joe D. Whitley