Census workers improperly asked about race, ethnicity
Federal watchdogs say dozens of Census workers last month incorrectly asked people about their race or ethnicity for the 2010 Census by asking leading questions or making assumptions about a person's background.
The more than 600,000 temporary Census Bureau workers hired to visit households that failed to return census forms are instructed to read aloud the ten questions on the form (about the number of people living in a household, their ages, race, ethnicity, etc.) when conducting interviews. But 71 workers incorrectly asked the race and ethnicity questions, according to a new report by the Commerce Department Office of Inspector General.
Some census workers would ask respondents questions such as, "You're Spanish, right?" according to auditors reached Monday. In one case a worker checked a person's race as American Indian without asking because they observed an American Indian-style motif hanging near the doorway, the auditors said. The mistakes were not limited to a particular region or urban or suburban neighborhoods and occurred as auditors shadowed workers to about 1 percent of the 48 million households that did not return a census mailer.
The mistakes violate Census policy and in limited circumstances could contribute to incorrect reporting on the racial or ethnic background of a certain area.
"The OIG observed 480 interviews out of the 48 million households we must visit," Census spokesman Steven Jost said in an e-mail. "The Census Bureau has taken corrective actions where appropriate."
But auditors said agency took action only after they reported the mistakes, meaning other workers also may have incorrectly quizzed respondents.
Despite the mistakes, the Census Bureau has completed about 93 percent of its in-person followup interviews.
"We are somewhat ahead of schedule and certainly under-budget," Census Director Robert Groves reported Monday on his blog, adding that "this is a testament to the fine skills of our field staff for the 2010 Census."
Leave your thoughts in the comments section below
• The Federal Eye on the Radio: Did you hear The Eye last Friday on Federal News Radio's "In Depth with Francis Rose" recapping the week's big stories? If not, listen here.
• Question of the Week: Obama administration officials continue to raise concerns about the government's “technology gap” with the private sector, suggesting federal workers have more advanced equipment at home than on the job. How does your office's technology compare with your personal technology? Does your agency need an upgrade? E-mail your answer to email@example.com and include your full name, home town and the agency for which you work. We might include your response in Friday's Washington Post.
• Cabinet and Staff News: President Obama fills out his oil spill commission. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton now more popular than Obama. White House Auto Recovery Czar Ed Montgomery joining Georgetown University. Was the director of national intelligence a mistake? NIH Chief Francis Collins faces stem cell donation dilemma.
• West Point faculty member worries it is failing to prepare tomorrow’s officers: The perspective of an Army Special Forces officer who is a West Point grad and is leaving the faculty for Afghanistan, and is pretty dismayed.
• Military fails on brain-test follow-ups: More than 562,000 tests of troops taken before they deployed have not been readministered on their return by military health officials, records show.
• Federal oversight proposals target growing industry of for-profit colleges: New federal rules, expected to be formally proposed in coming days, would tighten oversight of the industry.
• Feds under pressure to open US skies to drones: The Federal Aviation Administration has been asked to issue flying rights for a range of pilotless planes to carry out civilian and law-enforcement functions but has been hesitant to act.
• FBI files show Edward Kennedy's life was constantly threatened: The more than 2,200 pages cover the agency's relationship with the Massachusetts Democrat from 1961 to 1985. Kennedy died of cancer in August.
• Government takes on journalism’s next chapter: The Federal Trade Commission has set out on the somewhat quixotic journey of trying to identify ways to save journalism as we know it from possible extinction.
• NSA lie detectors no sweat, video says: The eavesdropping and code-breaking organization has produced a 10-minute video designed to soothe applicants’ anxiety over the notoriously grim experience.
| June 15, 2010; 6:00 AM ET
Categories: Census, Eye Opener
Save & Share: Previous: Gay, straight federal workers benefit from new leave policy
Next: Envelopes containing white powder found at 8 federal buildings
Posted by: DGSPAMMAIL | June 15, 2010 7:16 AM | Report abuse
Posted by: AnonymousBE1 | June 15, 2010 7:48 AM | Report abuse
Posted by: Utahreb | June 15, 2010 8:08 AM | Report abuse
Posted by: Royagui | June 15, 2010 8:53 AM | Report abuse
Posted by: drzimmern1 | June 15, 2010 9:29 AM | Report abuse
Posted by: seraphina21 | June 15, 2010 3:10 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: geedlea | June 16, 2010 7:21 AM | Report abuse
Posted by: amillionto1 | June 16, 2010 4:32 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: hosocat | June 20, 2010 12:12 AM | Report abuse
Posted by: wolfsheart | June 21, 2010 9:59 AM | Report abuse
The comments to this entry are closed.