Monday, March 8, 2010


In this issue
Census Confidentiality Trumps Patriot Act Provisions
Census Director: "We are ready to go."
The Rest of the News ...
Stakeholder Spotlight
New Resources for Census Advocates



* THE REST OF THE NEWS: Census Awareness Month; and more.

* STAKEHOLDER SPOTLIGHT: PSAs, door-to-door canvassing, lotteries, and more.

* NEW RESOURCES FOR CENSUS ADVOCATES: Reports on rural census challenges; census-driven federal funding; and more.


The U.S. Department of Justice has concluded that Congress did not intend to override the confidentiality protections in the Census Act when it passed the so-called "Patriot Act" (Public Law 107-56, 115 Stat. 272, as amended) in the wake of the September 11th terrorist attacks. Title 13, U.S.C., §§8, 9, 214, prohibit the Census Bureau and its employees from sharing any personally identifiable information with any other government agency, courts of law, or any outside entity, and set forth severe penalties for violating the confidentiality of census responses.

"[I]f Congress intended to override these protections," wrote Assistant Attorney General for Legislative Affairs Ronald Weich in a letter to members of Congress this week, "it would say so clearly and explicitly." The chairs of the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus (Rep. Michael Honda, D-CA), Congressional Black Caucus (Rep. Barbara Lee, D-CA), and Congressional Hispanic Caucus (Rep. Nydia Velazquez, D-NY), wrote to Attorney General Eric Holder in September 2009 at the urging of the Leadership Conference Education Fund and its four national census campaign partner organizations (NAACP, NALEO Educational Fund, Asian American Justice Center, and National Congress of American Indians). The Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund (AALDEF) also urged the Attorney General in a December letter to issue an opinion confirming the primacy of Census Act confidentiality provisions.

The lawmakers asked General Holder to determine whether the Patriot Act, which includes information-gathering and information-sharing provisions, "would supersede the confidentiality protections" in the Census Act. "Distrust and fear triggered by uncertainty surrounding the Patriot Act," the caucus chairmen wrote, "would further undermine efforts to achieve an accurate census in already hard-to-count communities."

Mr. Weich also noted the "long history of congressional enactments protecting [census responses] from disclosure, as well as the established precedents of the courts and this Department" in concluding that "no provisions of [the Patriot Act] override otherwise applicable Census Act provisions barring the Commerce Secretary and other covered individuals from disclosing protected census information."


Census takers are hand-delivering questionnaires in rural communities and other areas without city-style addressing or with intermittent mail delivery (including some Gulf Coast counties recovering from Hurricane Katrina), Census Director Robert Groves told reporters at a press conference on March 1. The "Update/Leave" operation covers 12 million homes and about nine percent of the population.

Most American households will receive an advance letter from the Census Bureau next week, letting them know to expect their census forms in the mail the week of March 15 and providing guidance in the five additional languages (Chinese, Korean, Spanish, Russian, and Vietnamese) in which the census forms are printed. A thank you/reminder card will follow at the end of the month. The director noted that testing showed the value of multiple contacts in persuading households to mail back their forms. He told reporters that forgetfulness or busy lifestyles, language and cultural barriers, and the independence of young adults on their own for the first time were primary reasons that people don't respond to the census. It costs 42 cents to count each household that mails back its questionnaire; the cost rises to $57 for each household that requires a personal visit to collect information.

Dr. Groves told a Senate oversight panel last week that his agency is "well on [its] way to executing the largest non-military mobilization in the United States." Dr. Groves testified on February 23 before the Subcommittee on Federal Financial Management, Government Information, Federal Services and International Security (Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs) on the status of key census operations.

At the hearing, the director highlighted successes in final preparations for the 2010 enumeration, while also acknowledging "challenges that remain." "[O]ur biggest risk is the uncertainty presented by the American public's response to the census," the director said. Recruitment is "well ahead of our goal" (117 percent as of January 24), he testified, with two million potential hires already in the pipeline for temporary census positions. Printing of questionnaires for various enumeration operations (e.g. Nonresponse Follow-up; Mail-out/Mail-back; Update/Leave; Group Quarters; replacement mailing) is "on track or ahead of schedule," the director reported. Advance visits to group facilities, to arrange enumeration times and procedures, took place in February.

Auditors concerned about IT systems readiness: The Commerce Department Inspector General and the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) told senators at the oversight hearing that key IT systems that will manage work flow and payroll for more than a million temporary census workers still face potential performance problems.

Robert Goldenkoff, Director of Strategic Issues, GAO, said the Census Bureau's "readiness for a successful count is mixed." He noted that major enumeration activities are "generally on track" and that the agency has addressed previously identified problems, but that "a successful outcome is far from guaranteed." Mr. Goldenkoff added that the Census Bureau "cannot conduct a successful enumeration on its own," calling the decennial census a "shared national undertaking."

In his quarterly report to Congress, Inspector General Todd Zinser highlighted potential performance problems with the paper-based operations control system (PBOCS) and said development and testing are still behind schedule, despite staff "working at capacity." He recommended that the Census Bureau focus its efforts on "minimizing the impact of PBOCS limitations during operations." Mr. Zinser also reported on budget overruns during the address canvassing operation, with "wide disparities" among Local Census Offices. While the IG outlined some "inefficiencies" in travel reimbursement and training costs during last spring's address list updating, he said similar problems "could be expected for any major field operation." However, the IG warned that differences between budgeted and actual costs "do not generate confidence" in the Census Bureau's budgeting process for large field operations.

The full set witness testimony from the hearing is available on the subcommittee's website.

Civil rights groups express optimism about census participation: The leaders of several national civil rights organizations held a telephone press briefing on March 1 "to emphasize the need for full participation" in the census and to highlight the activities their organizations are sponsoring at the national and local levels to encourage response in historically hard-to-count communities. The organizations are working together as part of the It's Time. Make Yourself Count. campaign, spearheaded by the Leadership Conference Education Fund.

Moderator Hilary Shelton, NAACP Washington Office Director, described the collaborative campaign's efforts as "focused on meeting people where they are." Outreach activities organized by the campaign include in-language assistance hotlines to help people fill out their census forms, canvassing in low-income neighborhoods, distributing census fliers in ethnic grocery stores, and sponsoring advertisements on buses, radio, and in ethnic media. In addition to Mr. Shelton, representatives of the NALEO Educational Fund, AAJC, and NCAI said they were optimistic that the efforts of national advocates and community-based groups would increase census participation in hard-to-count communities.

House recognizes importance of census: The House of Representatives passed a resolution (H.Res. 1096) on March 3 designating March 2010 as "Census Awareness Month." Sponsored by Rep. Silvestre Reyes (D-TX), the measure (which only requires passage by the House of Representatives) encourages everyone living in the United States to participate in the census "to ensure an accurate and complete count." The measure was approved by a vote of 409 - 1, with Rep. Ron Paul (R-TX) voting "no" and Rep. Rob Bishop (R-UT) voting "present." Utah, which failed to gain a fourth congressional district after the 2000 census, filed two unsuccessful lawsuits against the Census Bureau, challenging the exclusion of Mormon missionaries stationed overseas in the state population totals used for congressional apportionment, as well as the Census Bureau's use of statistical methods to impute missing people into the count.

H.Res. 1096 also urges state, local, and tribal governments and other organizations to promote participation in the decennial count. There were several Republicans among the 56 original cosponsors, including the Ranking Member of the Subcommittee on Information Policy, Census, and National Archives, Rep. Patrick McHenry (R-NC).

The House approved a second resolution (H.Res. 1086) by the same vote count on March 4, recognizing "the importance and significance of the 2010 census" and encouraging Indian Country communities to designate "an elder" to answer the census first. Sponsored by Rep. Joe Baca (D-CA), the measure notes the "trusted" position of elders within Indian communities and suggests that they can influence other members of their tribes to participate in the census. Post-census evaluations have shown a disproportionately high undercount of American Indians and Alaska Natives, especially on reservations, in recent censuses.

House committee approves deceptive mailing bill: The House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform yesterday unanimously approved legislation (H.R. 4621) that would require organizations that use the word "census" on their mailings to indicate clearly that the item is not from or affiliated with the federal government and to include the sender's name and return address. Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-NY), the bill's sponsor, said that non-Census Bureau envelopes bearing phrases such as "Congressional District Census" and "Official Document" "risk confusing people into believing that they have completed their official census form, lowering the census response rate." The congresswoman, a long time member of the census oversight subcommittee, said private organizations were "piggy-backing" on the Census Bureau's multi-million dollar advertising and promotion campaign, "at great cost to all Americans."

Both Democrats and Republicans on the committee criticized recent mailings by the Republican National Committee, senior citizen advocacy groups, and others that have tried to capitalize on the upcoming census to draw attention to their fundraising appeals.

For more information on the "Prevent Deceptive Census Look Alike Mailings Act," see the February 10 Census News Brief #87 on the Census Project website.

Number of Census partners hits 200K: The number of official 2010 Census Partners reached 200,000, far exceeding the 140,000 partner organizations for Census 2000, when the program started. The Census Bureau announced that partners had donated more than 35,000 locations for training census workers, saving the agency $339 million in rental costs.

Dr. Groves praised the "important role" of partners in "motivat[ing] people to fill out and mail back their census questionnaires." The Bureau emphasized that partners "play no role in official census operations and do not conduct the census;" critics of former census partner ACORN had suggested that the nonprofit group would hire staff to go door-to-door to collect information from unresponsive households.

The Unity Diaspora Coalition, a group of leading Black organizations led by the National Coalition on Black Civic Participation and the National Urban League, and members of the Congressional Black Caucus, held a press conference on March 3 at the U.S. Capitol to mark the 30 day countdown to Census Day and to launch a series of events in nine states to encourage Black Americans to participate in the census. UDC activities in March will include town hall meetings and poster and social media competitions. The Coalition also is urging Black immigrants to check the "Black/African American" box in the census race question (question #9 for Person 1) and to write-in their national origin in the space provided next to "Some other race."

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce, a member of the Census Bureau's 2010 Census Advisory Committee, signed on an official 2010 Census Partner. Dr. Martin Regalia, the Chamber's chief economist, said that census data "makes for good government but it is also essential for businesses making investment and operational decisions ... to locate retail stores and facilities, to plan marketing campaigns, delineate markets and a host of other uses." The organization represents more than three million businesses, as well as industry associations, and has local chapters throughout the country.

Voto Latino unveiled its New York Census Campaign at a press conference in Albany last week. The campaign includes Public Service Announcements featuring Latino entertainers such as Rosario Dawson (the group's founder), Wilmer Valderrama, and Jorge Garcia. Time Warner Cable will broadcast the PSAs using its multimedia capabilities.

Volunteers organized by Moving Forward Gulf Coast Inc. canvassed neighborhoods in New Orleans' Lower Ninth Ward to draw attention to the upcoming census and explain the counting process. Orleans Parish is one of several along the Gulf Coast that are designated "Update/Leave" areas, where census takers will drop off questionnaires and update the address list, looking for housing units that might have been overlooked in previous census operations. "Update/Leave" is used primarily in areas without city-style addressing; the Dallas Regional Census Office decided to use the modified enumeration procedure in selected parishes and counties still recovering from Hurricanes Katrina and Rita.

Univision, the Spanish-language media company, will air a half-hour long program on March 27 to provide instructions on how to fill out the census questionnaire. The program will run at 11:00AM Eastern, 10:00AM Central, and 11:00AM Pacific time.

Fremont, CA, kicked off its 2010 census effort to promote participation in the Alameda County city yesterday. The public celebration at the Fremont Senior Center featured Census Bureau staff, printed materials, and promotional items.

The City of Lincoln, Alabama (population: around 5,000) is holding a Census Lottery to encourage residents to mail back their census forms. According to a February 24th article in The Daily Home newspaper, the mayor and members of the city council are personally contributing $1,500 for three prizes, including one for the resident who comes closet to guessing the city's official population count. People can drop off their completed census forms in a locked box at City Hall and put their Lincoln Census Lottery form in another container.

The Census Project sent a letter to House and Senate appropriators, urging their support for President Obama's Fiscal Year 2011 budget request for the Census Bureau. Associations participating in the project noted the importance of final 2010 census activities, including data tabulation and publication, as well as early research and development for the 2020 count. Census stakeholders also expressed their support for the Administration's proposed initiative to increase the size of the American Community Survey sample, "to preserve the scientific integrity of the survey and improve the collection of reliable data on smaller population groups (such as ethnic and language minorities)." See the February 1 Census News Brief for more information on the FY2011 budget request.

✍ The The Metropolitan Policy Program at the Brookings Institution, which provides research and policy ideas to help decision makers address the needs of metropolitan areas, will release a report, Counting for Dollars: The Role of the Decennial Census in the Geographic Distribution of Federal Funds, on Tuesday, March 9. The report analyzes census-driven federal program funding for Fiscal Year 2008, the latest data available, and includes program-by-program allocation tables for states, the 200 largest counties, and the 100 largest metropolitan areas.

✍ The Carsey Institute at the University of New Hampshire issued a new report, Rural Areas Risk Being Overlooked in the 2010 Census, by Dr. William O'Hare, Senior Fellow, The Annie E. Casey Foundation. The report concludes that while rural areas are easier to count than urban communities, there are pockets of hard-to-count populations in rural America, including Blacks in the South, Hispanics in the Southwest border region, and American Indians living on reservations in the Southwest and Northern Plains. The author notes several characteristics, including poverty and low educational attainment, that put some segments of the rural population at greater risk of an undercount.

✍ LatinoJustice PRLDEF, a national advocacy and educational organization that uses legal resources to advance civil rights and civic participation for Latinos, established a 2010 Census Latino Outreach and Civic Participation Project. Go to for materials and information that highlight the linkage between census data and political empowerment.

✍ The Leadership Conference Education Fund has prepared several new fact sheets focused on counting children in the census. The materials highlight how families and communities benefit from an accurate count of children and offer guidance on how to account properly for children on census forms. The fact sheets are available at

✍ The Iranians Count 2010 Census Coalition, a collaborative effort of 30 organizations dedicated to ensuring the collection of accurate data on the Iranian American population, launched its official website, The site features information on the importance of census participation and PSAs in English and Persian.

2010 Census Website: The Census Bureau's new 2010 census website offers useful basic information on the census process, as well as sample questionnaires, information on job opportunities, and in-language materials. Add it to your "Bookmarks" bar to track mail response rates daily for your state and locality starting in late March.

2010 Census en Espanol Website: New official 2010 census Spanish language website.

2010 Census Jobs: Visit this web page to download a Census Practice Test and find information about the application process and a Local Census Office near you.

The Census Project: Visit the Census Project website for previous Census News Briefs, fact sheets, and a weekly blog in support of an accurate 2010 census. Become a fan of the Census Project on Facebook at

Census 2010 Interactive Hard To Count Mapping Site: This new mapping site, developed by the City University of New York Mapping Services at the Graduate Center, allows users to pinpoint hard-to-count census tracts and identify the socio-economic characteristics that contribute to difficult enumeration conditions, allowing advocates to target outreach and tailor messages.

Leadership Conference Education Fund: The LCEF 2010 Census campaign, "It's time. Make yourself count." offers fact sheets, a toolkit, data on the census undercount, and promotional materials to reach historically hard-to-count communities.

Nonprofits Count: The Nonprofit Voter Engagement Network's 2010 census campaign features fact sheets, a toolkit, posters and swag, and state-specific resources to help nonprofits promote census participation. Check the website for information on webinars on important census topics.

ya es hora !HAGASE CONTAR¡: Resources and promotional materials, in Spanish and English, targeting the Latino population.

National Urban League: This Census Information Center web page includes links to demographic information on the Black population, job opportunities, and other 2010 census materials.

Fill in Our Future: Multi-lingual clearinghouse for information and educational and promotional materials targeting the Asian American and Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander populations, sponsored by the Asian American Justice Center and its partner organizations.

Indian Country Counts: Region-specific information, events, job listings, and tools for the American Indian and Alaska Native populations.

Voto Latino: The organization's census campaign, Be Counted! Represent!, includes an offer of 25 free iTunes songs for those who pledge to fill out and mail back their census form.

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 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

Join Our Mailing List
Contact information:
(tel.) 203-353-4364


No comments:

Post a Comment