Don’t count on competence of census takers

In a little over a year, the Census Bureau will be conducting the decennial survey of all Americans that’s mandated by the Constitution.

And already there are personnel problems with the once-a-decade survey.

The Commerce Department’s Office of the Inspector General (OIG) — which has oversight — criticized the census in a recent report for allowing people to conduct surveys who might not have been qualified.

It’s the same old thing at Census.

Readers might remember that the Census Bureau is one of my favorite topics. Years ago, a whistleblower told me that census field operators were cheating on surveys, particularly the ones for the unemployment rate that are done by the US Labor Department.

Instead of actually going up to peoples’ homes, knocking on doors and questioning occupants, the surveyors were filling in the answers themselves. This cheating even had a name inside the Census Bureau — “curbstoning.”What that means is that they sat on a curb and filled out the surveys themselves.

That compromised the validity of the nation’s unemployment rate that’s published monthly.There were congressional investigations and hearings, and things were supposed to change — although I doubt they did since my whistleblower was punished for her conscientious efforts. (She’s now suing the government and hopefully she’ll collect big.)

The data collection for the Labor Department and other government agencies is small stuff compared to the decennial census, which is estimated to cost $15.6 billion to complete and will take a year.

[Read more]