The mayor of his village introduced him the night before at a big event. The mayor told him, "You're being counted. You are the first person. You honor us; you honor the village. You're being counted before the President, before the Vice President, and before Michael Jordan." What higher honor could there be!

Why does the census start early in Alaska?

About 1.5% of the American population lives in conditions that are so remote that it makes more sense to enumerate them directly. It's so costly to go and find them that once we find them, we go ahead and count them. This 1.5% of the population lives on about 33% of the American land mass, and that's not just remote Alaska. It's also people living in the upper Adirondacks to Native Americans living in the bottom of the Grand Canyon.

Now, the oddity is that in remote Alaska, it's easier to count people in the dead of winter than in the spring. In the dead of winter in remote Alaskan areas, the villagers are all in their village. The kids are in school, and all the parents are there. Once the spring thaw hits, they distribute to their hunting and fishing grounds, and they are even more remote.

The other thing is that with the spring thaw, which lasts about six weeks, the travel is almost impossible. Right now you can travel on snow machines, dogsleds, and so forth.





In the late spring/summer, you can travel on the water. But, during the spring thaw, you can't travel on the river because there are ice floes, and you can't travel over land because it's mud.

A lot of people are probably wary about giving personal information to the government. What assurances do we give people about their privacy?

Privacy is a very big issue for us, and privacy concerns are probably greater now than they have ever been. We spend a lot of time and effort to ensure that the data are completely confidential and private. There are heavy fines and jail terms, 5-year jail terms, if any Census Bureau employee were to release any individual-level data.

There is also a "firewall" between the statistical agencies like the Census Bureau and the enforcement agencies. Enforcement agencies need to know things about an individual. Obviously, you can't deport or arrest or dock someone's pay unless you know details about that person. But, the Census doesn't really concern itself with facts about individuals. We concern ourselves with counting individuals, so there is a big difference between what a Census agency does and what an enforcement agency does.

We spent enormous effort to try to get the privacy message out in our paid advertising and our promotional materials. Mostly, we have partners. For example, I will be going to San Antonio. There, I'll be doing a mass with Archbishop Flores that will be broadcast to several million Hispanics, and we'll be talking specifically on the confidentiality question. The Catholic Church is being very forceful on this. The Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) itself is about to release an announcement about why it does not want census data, never has, and never would.


next column >>

next page >>

Home | Privacy | Comments | Email Me | Search
 E-mail us.