Thursday, April 01, 2010
Are You Been Counted?
It's Census Day, and just when we thought it was safe to trust our fellow Americans again,
this came in:
Based on early return of 2010 census information, the US Census Bureau has identified a troubling trend in the country's population. According to data tabulated as of 11:59 pm March 31, fully 52% of our people have below optimal critical thinking and reading skills, the bureau has been forced to conclude. Furthermore, the data these people have provided to the Census is confirmed to be inaccurate and the bureau must now formulate a plan to deal with the potentially useless information. In spite of the aggressive advertising campaign launched to promote higher participation and response to the 10 year count of the US population, or possibly because of it, the 2010 census is at risk of becoming a failure on the order of the Hurricane Katrina response due to demonstrably erroneous information that has been reported to date which already makes up a majority of the data that can be collected in the census. Since data accuracy is a chief goal of the census, this is a serious failing. "It's really a certain segment of the American people who have failed this time, not their government," said a high ranking census official on condition of anonymity.
The controversy came to light when Josephine Tuchman, a trainee enumerator, wondered out loud during a training session why the census form asks the respondent to report "today" the number of people living in the home on April 1, which would likely be in the future. Tuchman, a 79 year old retired elementary school math and science teacher now living in a trailer park in Corona del Mar, CA, pointed out to her supervisor that most if not all people receive the census form well before April 1 since the forms were mailed March 15. "How could anyone say with certainty on March 17 or even March 25 how many people are living in their home on April 1, nevermind the bad syntax?" she said. In her own situation, Tuchman said her brother always plans an extended stay at her seaside mobile home starting in late March after the equinox, but "he is flaky and might change his plans." Should she count him on her census form on March 17 or 25? Tuchman, and her supervisor who later agreed with her position, has advised people to wait until April 1 actually happens, then report the exact number of people living in the home on that date. "Don't estimate or guess or even assume, as that will result in poor data overall," she said, "as you never know who might die, be institutionalized, move out in a huff, of drop in for a prolonged visit due to unfortunate circumstances."
An anonymous official in Washington DC confirms the bureau is grappling with the problem of a majority of respondents guessing, estimating or assuming. Possible solutions include offering the early respondents census amnesty and another form to fill out with the actual April 1 data in exchange for their successful completion of a critical thinking and reading skills course at the community college of their choice. Other options are to use the data, marked with an asterisk footnoting its inaccuracy like steroid-enhanced records in the sports world; or to disregard the bad data effectively leaving millions of people, albeit arguably less bright people, unrepresented in the census. The idea has also been floated to round up the early responders, charge them with defrauding the census and either give them jail time or deport them whichever is applicable. "Not too practical," in the opinion of Margarita Esposito, a data analyst at the Census, who went on to say the highest incidence of early response was "interestingly" centered in the northern midwest: North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska and Iowa, with the lowest early response rate occuring in a belt from Georgia west to California, and including Alaska and Hawaii. Esposito, who hails from New Mexico, pointed out her home state had a 44% rate of early inaccurate response, "one of the lowest."
Census Bureau Director Robert Groves had no comment, except to say "the president completed his census form on March 29 so I am confident in the integrity of the 2010 census."
A map of census response rates can be viewed at http://2010census.gov/2010census/take10map