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Was 2010 Census a success?

By Ed O'Keefe

Eye Opener

Happy Monday! At least 72 percent of American households returned their forms to the U.S. Census Bureau this year, matching returns for the 2000 headcount. Final numbers will be announced on Wednesday and Obama administration officials cheered the early numbers late last week as evidence of successful outreach efforts.

But a leading Republican Census critic phoned The Eye within minutes of Friday's announcement and raised an interesting point:

“This census cost more than double what the census cost in 2000," said Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah). He finds it curious that officials would be happy to only match 2000 figures despite a 2010 budget that was more than three times what was spent ten years ago.

"They spent $300 million on advertising that a lot of us were critical of and they’re getting poor results in the places we know we have problems," he said, referring to a controversial Census Bureau Super Bowl ad panned by critics.

The agency's 2010 budget was the same as 2000 on an inflation-adjusted basis, said Census Bureau spokesman Steven Jost.

"We spent just 5 percent more in equivalent dollars this year on a population that was 10 percent bigger," he said in an e-mail. The 2000 Census was also the first conducted with a paid advertising campaign, so 2010's headcount needed an equally robust ad strategy to stay even with previous numbers, he said.

In his e-mail Jost listed other reasons for only breaking even with 2000: The country has grown in size and diversity since 2000 and the last headcount was conducted at a time of economic prosperity when Americans had a better opinion of government.

"Most observers of the census during the last several years predicted these factors would make the job tougher in 2010 but so far the public has got us off to a great start," Jost said, noting that the second part of Census operations kicks off soon when census takers start knocking on doors.

So who's right? Chaffetz or Jost?

Leave your thoughts in the comments section below

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By Ed O'Keefe  | April 26, 2010; 6:00 AM ET
Categories:  Census, Eye Opener  
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Here are some of the ways that the census is most certainly NOT a success:

1. It ignores American citizens who are abroad at the time that the census is taken.

2. It does not distinguish between citizenship status for those physically present in the United States. Country of citizenship, and whether the person is legally in the United States or not is important to know.

3. It uses non-citizens to calculate Congressional apportionment, even though these non-citizens cannot vote.

4. It uses outmoded and bizarre "racial" categories to try to classify everyone.

The census needs serious reform. Too bad that it is too late for 2010.

Posted by: AnonymousBE1 | April 26, 2010 6:28 AM | Report abuse

while it has it's problems, it's not over yet...

Posted by: DwightCollins | April 26, 2010 7:15 AM | Report abuse

Why does the census need to be turned into a partisan political event. It is required by the constitution. Everything costs more 10 years later. Can't politicians juts shut their mouths on this and do something important like legislate!

Posted by: happydad3 | April 26, 2010 7:33 AM | Report abuse

it's only a success if it keeps people employed up to the november election...

Posted by: DwightCollins | April 26, 2010 7:35 AM | Report abuse

The constitution is directed to the apportionment being based on the number of people present, not the number of citizens. If it was based on the number of citizens(i.e. those who can vote), then when it was drafted, there wouldn't have been language about slaves being worth 3/5 of a non-slave. I doubt very much that slaves were considered citizens. If it was based on those who can vote, then children and criminals who have lost the right to vote shouldn't be counted, but they are.

As to the racial category, that's just the times. We like looking at racial apportionment these days. A census a hundred years ago would have had a question about whether a person was blind,deaf, insane, or feeble-minded and today we would think it was a ridiculuos question, it clearly it was important to them then as they asked it.

What I'm wondering is the supposed difference in the amount spent. One side says they spent just 5% more than they did in 2000(corrected for inflation), the other that it was three times as much. I'm sorry, but inflation CANNOT account for a factor of three difference. Food was not a third of the price it is now(though gas almost was). The price of a car then is not a third of the price now. I'd love a real examination of which numbers are correct, but no newspaper is going to do that.

Posted by: barbaramusser | April 26, 2010 7:51 AM | Report abuse

Never received a Census form and neither did any of my neighbors. The Feds should have used statistical sampling. Better luck next time. Whatever.

Posted by: tuzoner | April 26, 2010 9:07 AM | Report abuse

I've tried and tried and tried to get a form. Have called their "help" desk numerous times and they just had canned answers. I'm living elsewhere while remodeling my house and the forms were not forwarded to my very temporary location -- living with a friend -- for my permanent address. Anyone got some ideas so I can file (I really want to!!!) please let me know.

Posted by: seaduck2001 | April 26, 2010 9:28 AM | Report abuse

The 2010 Census would be even more successful and definitely less costly for the government if anti-government Republican reps hadn't told their constituents to throw their Census forms in the GARBAGE.
Now - it will cost the government more money to hire workers to knock on doors vs. the cost of mailing forms.

Posted by: angie12106 | April 26, 2010 9:53 AM | Report abuse

seaduck2001 - If you were staying with your friend on April 1, you should have been counted on your friend's census form. There was a place to indicate other people staying at the residence as of April 1.

Posted by: james_l_milne | April 26, 2010 9:55 AM | Report abuse

james_l_milne -- so not correct. he was lving temporarily with a friend while his primary residence was being remodeled. that's not a reason for him to be listed in the census as being a permanent resident at the friend's location.

using your logic, if my wife, 2 kids and I were on an extended visit to my parents on Arpil 1 because one of them was ill, we'd now all be counted as a resident of Texas for the next 10 years rather than as a resident of DC. wrong.

Posted by: klaw009x | April 26, 2010 10:44 AM | Report abuse

Let me see if I understand this. I routinely have communication with the IRS, with Social Security with the VA they all have my address and they all have my name, yet they still can't find me. That is what I love about this government -- its thoroughness!!

Posted by: papersails | April 26, 2010 10:53 AM | Report abuse

The only point Jason Chaffetz can effectively raise is the one on his head. I'm from Utah, and Chaffetz is an embarrassment to all thinking Utahns. He's been attacking this Census since last year, including his interview on Fox News where he accused Census workers of being child molesters and rapists. Way to get people to cooperate with the Census, Chaffetz!

Mr. O'Keefe, I was unimpressed with your coverage of the Federal closings during the blizzard, and this post has just added to my belief that you are just writing to fill space, not to inform people of important issues. I know that electrons aren't really wasted by blog posts, but yours are making me question that fact.

Posted by: ksinva | April 26, 2010 10:58 AM | Report abuse

I don't think Jason Chaffetz has gotten one thing right since he left Happy Valley, Utah.

He was a lousy place kicker at BYU, where he wrote editorials denouncing abortion and the death penalty. He then realized that he could not have a career as a Liberal Democrat in Provo, so he now he is playing at Luddite Republican.

The Census Director seems to be on the ball, and any member of Congress who doesn't use inflation-adjusted numbers should be assigned to remedial economics.

BYU has a great economics department, maybe Chaffetz should have signed up for the course.

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Posted by: itkonlyyou29 | April 26, 2010 11:19 AM | Report abuse

The Census Bureau could have added that the $300 million was not just for ads, but for a full communications campaign that includes work with local partners. One cannot compare the cost of the full 2010 program with the cost of just the ad campaign in 2000.

And with response rates to all surveys dropping sharply in recent years (not to mention distrust of government), there was reason to expect census response to drop sharply -- even with an ad campaign.

That 2010 mail response has equaled 2000 is a tremendous accomplishment achieved under difficult circumstances. The communications campagin (including paid advertising) deserves much of the credit, and most likely saved vastly more money than it cost.

Posted by: KenNat | April 26, 2010 12:51 PM | Report abuse

seaduck2001 try this hotline number again 1-866-872-6868
At this point, you should be able to fill out your form through the phone.
Since you are only remodeling your house and plan on moving back in soon, you should still use your home address and not the friend's.
B/c we are a Census partner, our organization happens to have some extra Be Counted Census forms on hands if you want us to send you a copy. However, with hard-copy paper forms, you have to get it in before May 1st. Therefore, i's probably better to just do it by phone.

Posted by: van5nvirginia | April 26, 2010 1:11 PM | Report abuse

"So who's right?" An expert in survey research or a politician who sees a benefit to criticizing the government? Are you kidding me? With this question, you imply that the statements from each person have equal merit, that the expert's statements and facts are just as credible and applicable as the politican's opinion. Anyone with experience in survey research can tell you that response rates have been declining precipitously, so you have to spend more money to get the same response you obtained in the past.

Posted by: Gmull | April 26, 2010 5:49 PM | Report abuse

Was the census a success in my eyes? No. I think they made such a fuss over it and over did it, with commercials, ads and even letters mail out before the census saying they were coming soon. I got a letter, but I did not get a census form. Many people I know got three and four forms sent to them while many people, such as people with PO Boxes got none. Just my two cents.

Posted by: everydaydave | April 26, 2010 9:31 PM | Report abuse

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