CENSUS NEWS BRIEF
July 26, 2009
IN THIS CENSUS NEWS BRIEF:
GULF COAST ADVOCATES SEEK CONGRESSIONAL HEARING ON CENSUS CHALLENGES
ADVISORY PANEL ENCOURAGED BY AD CAMPAIGN PROGRESS
PLUS: Administration appointments; New federal funding analysis; and more.
Nearly 50 community groups working to address the lingering consequences of Hurricane Katrina have asked Rep. William "Lacy" Clay (D-MO), chairman of the House census oversight subcommittee, to schedule a field hearing to examine the Census Bureau's "ability to achieve an accurate count of Gulf Coast residents in the 2010 census." The advocates, led by nonprofit Moving Forward Gulf Coast, Inc. and representing communities in Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama, expressed particular concern about the count of low-income and Black, Latino, and Asian American populations.
The July 22 letter noted the "destruction of entire communities and displacement of thousands of residents" during the 2005 hurricanes, as well as the "slower pace of rebuilding and return-migration in poorer neighborhoods." The advocacy groups cited research showing rapid population growth in Louisiana's St. Bernard and Orleans Parishes but also an increase in vacant and blighted homes in other parishes, as well as changed settlement patterns. Barriers to achieving an accurate census in "blighted communities," the letter said, include lack of universal mail delivery and unsafe and unmarked streets in some neighborhoods hit hardest by Katrina and subsequent storms, such as Hurricane Rita. The coalition, calling themselves "Gulf Coast Advocates for a Just 2010 Census," highlighted the importance of billions of dollars in federal program funds allocated to the three states hit most directly by the 2005 storms, noting that in Fiscal Year 2007, Louisiana received more than twice the national average per capita figure for federal assistance based in whole or in part on census data ($2,695 v. $1,200).
The organizations signing the letter said they "have had little contact with Census Bureau officials" and remain concerned about promotion and outreach in areas "where people remain unsettled, as well as among migrant workers and people with limited English proficiency." Moving Forward Gulf Coast executive director Trupania "Trap" Bonner said in a press statement that congressional action was needed to address the "exceptional circumstances" in the region.
Copies of the letter were sent to Information Policy, Census, and National Archives Subcommittee Ranking Member Patrick McHenry (R-NC) and all members of the Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama congressional delegations, as well as National Urban League President and former New Orleans Mayor Marc Morial, who was appointed to chair the 2010 Census Advisory Committee this past spring.
New Orleans Mayor's comments about Census Day residence create stir: New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin (D) is encouraging former residents displaced by Hurricane Katrina to identify themselves as residents of the city in the 2010 census, even if they have not yet returned to their pre-storm homes. The mayor's spokesman told the City's Times-Picayune newspaper that, "A low population count would mean the loss of millions of dollars needed to provide critical services" (July 14, 2009, Editorial). Communications Office representative James Ross clarified in a July 20 Wall Street Journal article, "What we're really talking about is people who are really close to coming back." Census Dallas Regional Director Gabriel Sanchez responded to Mayor Nagin's proposal by saying, "We need to count people where they live, not where they plan to live or where they want to live" (July 13, 2009 Times-Picayune).
Census residence rules provide that people are counted at their "usual residence," which the Census Bureau defines as "the place where the person lives and sleeps most of the time. This place is not necessarily the same as the person's voting residence or legal residence."
Census questionnaires mailed or delivered to most U.S. homes in March 2010 include a bar code tied to that specific address, removing the need for respondents to fill in their address on the form. Only so-called "Be Counted" forms, which will be available at roughly 40,000 sites during the first stage of the census for people who did not receive a form at their address or who believe they were not included on a form completed by someone else in the home, provide space for an address. Census workers must verify the existence of the housing unit during later operations, and confirm that respondents were not already listed on a completed census form, before adding people on Be Counted forms to the census.
The 2010 enumeration also will include a three-day Service Based Enumeration (SBE) at the end of March 2010, when census workers will visit homeless shelters, soup kitchens, mobile food vans, and targeted outdoor locations to collect information from people without a usual residence. The SBE operation uses a modified questionnaire, called an individual census report form. Next month, the Census Bureau will reach out to state, local, and Tribal governments, nonprofit organizations, and community-based service providers, asking for their assistance in identifying locations for this part of the count. Regional and local census offices will contact partner organizations closer to the start of the census, to help ensure a current and comprehensive universe for the SBE operation.
A panel of stakeholders advising the Census Bureau on the 2010 census paid media campaign announced last week that "significant improvements" in the contractor's plan to promote census awareness and participation have led its members to "no longer have a vote of no confidence in Draftfcb, C2PO [Census 2010 Publicity Office], and Census [Bureau]." Rev. Bernie Miller, chairman of the Census Bureau's Advisory Committee on the African American Population and liaison for the five Race and Ethnic Advisory Committees (REACs) to the 2010 Census Advisory Committee (CAC), read the Joint Advertising Advisory Review Panel's (JAARP) "Statement of Confidence" at the CAC's July 21 meeting.
After reviewing draft ads for the 2010 census in April, the JAARP -- comprised of representatives of the Census Bureau's advisory committees, including one representing professional associations -- said it had "no confidence" in Draftfcb, the prime contractor responsible for the massive outreach and promotion campaign. The paid media campaign includes general, national advertising and targeted advertising aimed at historically and disproportionately undercounted racial and ethnic populations.
At the CAC meeting last week, Census Associate Director for Communications Steve Jost, who assumed his post in May, said he realized the advertising campaign "needed a course correction." JAARP members reviewed revised advertising materials at a meeting in late June and said in their statement that the media companies and the Census Bureau "are moving in the right direction." They expressed confidence in new Census Director Robert Groves, saying that they believed the panel's advice would "receive a higher level of consideration." Panel members also said they had "lingering concerns" about the sufficiency of advertising dollars to reach all hard-to-count ethnic populations and efforts to address fears about the privacy and confidentiality of census responses.
Communications campaign moves forward on several fronts: Mr. Jost said the three-pronged 2010 Census Communications Campaign is now "on track" and would include advertising in 28 languages. Draftfcb and its subcontractors have launched a second round of copy-testing for paid ads and will conduct additional focus groups in 37 cities in August. The Census Bureau sought advice from its twelve regional census offices on effective channels of communication at the state and local levels; regional directors will review the final "media buy" plans.
The Census in the Schools program is "more robust" than its Census 2000 counterpart, Mr. Jost said, noting that additional funds in the 2009 stimulus bill had helped overcome earlier "underfunding" of the program. Scholastic Inc., which received the contract to implement this portion of the communications effort, is targeting superintendents and principals at public, private, and parochial schools, as well as home school organizations, using direct mail and the Internet. The 2010 schools program includes grades K - 12 and will offer curricula materials aimed at math and geography classes, as well as an interactive student web site, to increase student awareness of the census. In many households where parents have not earned a high-school diploma or have limited English-proficiency -- two characteristics associated with "harder to count" populations in the census, according to Census Bureau research -- school-age children may be the best source of information about the census and its importance.
CAC Chairman Marc Morial urged the Census Bureau to set a goal for the number of partner organizations supporting the census and suggested approaching large employers, nonprofits, and trade associations that have broad reach in communities. The Partnership Program is the third component of the Communications Campaign; there were 140,000 partner organizations during Census 2000. Census partners pledge their commitment "to share the 2010 Census message and mobilize their constituents in support of the Census Bureau's goal of achieving a complete count," according to the agency's web site. Partner organizations receive materials and information to support outreach and promotion activities; for example, the Census Bureau will soon notify partners of the toll-free telephone assistance numbers that will be used during the census, so that partners can begin to prepare their promotional campaigns.
A new Census Bureau report analyzing the use of census statistics in federal grant and direct assistance programs concludes that $435.7 billion in total grant funding was allocated in Fiscal Year 2007 (FY2007) based in whole or in part on data from the agency's decennial census (which includes the on-going American Community Survey), annual population estimates, and other Census Bureau statistical programs.
Authors Lisa Blumerman and Phillip Vidal said they examined 140 federal funding programs "to better understand funding formulae and eligibility criteria that rely upon population and income data." The study found that the federal government distributes a total of $446.4 billion annually using these statistics, most of which were produced through Census Bureau surveys and other data programs. The largest single program allocation ($203.5 billion in FY2007) was for Medicaid, administered by the Department of Health and Human Services. Other large programs that rely on population or income statistics from the Census Bureau include Unemployment Insurance, Highway Planning and Construction grants, Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (formerly known as Food Stamps), Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF, established under the 1996 welfare reform legislation), and Pell education grants.
The Census Bureau last estimated allocation of funds based on its data in 1999; since then, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) and some outside organizations, such as the Brookings Institution, a Washington, DC-based think tank, have issued updated analyses of federal programs that rely on census data. The Government Division report, issued last month, notes some limitations on its research, including the difficulty of searching multiple federal agency web sites to identify programs that use census data. The report also points out that estimates produced between censuses are revised over time; for example, starting next year, the Census Bureau will issue three sets of estimates annually (single-year, three-year averages, and five-year averages) from the American Community Survey (ACS) for places with 65,000 or greater population. The authors recommend research to determine if federal funding formulas that use ACS data are sensitive to any variations in these data sets.
The research report, "Uses of Population and Income Statistics in Federal Funds Distribution -- With a Focus on Census Bureau Data," summarizes the distribution of funds by program. It is available on the agency's web site at http://www.census.gov/prod/www/abs/govern.html.
Dr. Robert M. Groves publicly took the helm of the U.S. Census Bureau on July 22 at a swearing-in ceremony at the agency's headquarters in Suitland, Maryland. President Obama nominated Dr. Groves to be the 23rd Census Bureau director in April; the U.S. Senate confirmed the nominee on July 13. Seven former Census Bureau directors attended the ceremony.
Commerce Secretary Gary Locke, who administered the oath of office to Dr. Groves, said, "We're depending on Bob bringing his expertise and commitment to sound science to the biggest civilian project this nation undertakes."
Also at the Census Bureau, Angela M. Manso is the new Chief of the Office of Congressional Affairs, part of the agency's Communications directorate. Ms. Manso most recently served as a senior policy advisor to Rep. Charles Gonzalez (D-TX), who oversees census issues for the Congressional Hispanic Caucus (CHC), and previously worked for the CHC and then-Rep. Charles Schumer (D-NY), as well as for several non-profit and advocacy organizations.
Dallas Deputy Mayor Pro Tem Pauline Medrano has been named Vice Chairman of the 2010 Census Advisory Committee. Commerce Secretary Locke, in announcing the appointment, said in a statement that Ms. Medrano's "background, education and work experiences will be invaluable" to the panel's work. Ms. Medrano has served on the Dallas City Council since 2005 and is a National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials (NALEO) board member (NALEO is a member of the CAC). She was a crew leader during the 1980 census, overseeing a team of enumerators who visited households that failed to return a census form by mail.
The Administration has appointed Nancy Potok to be Deputy Under Secretary for Economic Affairs in the Commerce Department's Economics and Statistics Administration (ESA). ESA houses the Census Bureau and Bureau of Economic Analysis. Earlier this month, Secretary Locke tapped Ms. Potok to advise him on census field operations and contracts, as Republican objections continued to delay confirmation of a new Census director. (See July 5th Census News Brief #68 for background on the Secretary's appointment of expert advisers on the 2010 census.)
Ms. Potok, Chief Operations Officer at McManis & Monsalve Associates, a management and IT consulting firm, was a Principal Associate Director and the Chief Financial Officer at the Census Bureau during the 2000 decennial census. She has held positions at several other federal agencies and the University of Chicago's National Opinion Research Center, and is a Fellow of the National Academy of Public Administration and a recipient of the Secretary of Commerce silver medal. Ms. Potok will begin her new job on August 17.
MN senator promotes full census participation: Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) is encouraging her state's residents to participate fully in the 2010 census, saying she wanted her constituents to hear "countervailing views about the census and privacy issues," according to a July 22 Minneapolis Star Tribune article. Sen. Klobuchar's comments are notable because a fellow Minnesota lawmaker, Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN), has publicly said she and her family would not answer any census questions beyond the number of people living in their household.
Sen. Klobuchar participated in a hearing last week of the Joint Economic Committee, which examined the role of census statistics in economic policy. She noted in her opening statement at the hearing that apportionment projections show Minnesota at risk of losing one of its eight congressional seats following the 2010 census.
Census advisory panel to expand: The Census Bureau will expand membership on the 2010 Census Advisory Committee by ten, the agency announced at last week's gathering of the panel. The 2010 CAC is made up of stakeholder organizations representing a wide range of communities and interests. At their May meeting, current members suggested broader representation on the advisory panel, noting the absence of an advocate for the gay and lesbian community, among others. The Commerce Department will invite organizations to apply for membership through a Federal Register notice (expected in August). A list of the 20 current CAC members is available at http://www.census.gov/cac/2010_census_advisory_committee/2010_census_advisory_committee_membership.html.
Census Director Groves, in opening remarks at the July 21 CAC meeting, called advisory committee members "windows" into society's different segments and said the Census Bureau must keep stakeholder organizations apprised as methods and operations are in the development stages. We "welcome constructive criticism," the new director said.
Census questionnaire printing begins: The Census Bureau has started printing the 120 million census forms that it will deliver to most American homes next March. The 2010 census will feature 13.5 million English-Spanish bilingual questionnaires for the first time. In addition to English, census forms will also be available in Spanish, simplified Chinese, Korean, Vietnamese, and Russian; households can obtain in-language forms once the census starts by calling a toll-free number or visiting a Questionnaire Assistance Center. The census starts with door-to-door information gathering in remote Alaskan villages in late January 2010.
Census News Briefs are prepared by Terri Ann Lowenthal, an independent legislative and policy consultant specializing in the census and federal statistics. All views expressed in the News Briefs are solely those of the author. Please direct questions about the information in this News Brief to Ms. Lowenthal at TerriAnn2K@aol.com. Please feel free to circulate this document to other interested individuals and organizations. Ms. Lowenthal is a consultant to the nonpartisan Census Project, organized by the Communications Consortium Media Center in Washington, DC. Previous Census News Briefs are posted at www.thecensusproject.org.