Friday, August 06, 2010

Guesstimating the "actual enumeration" in the Census

The Constitution requires that there be an "actual enumeration" of the population every ten years. But in today's age, that is becoming even more problematic, especially when there are Acorn-like procedures for how to count people. Federal investigators are looking into several allegations of workers falsifying the data they're collecting in California.
The California investigations aren't yet complete, but the whistleblowers who filed the complaints charge that the problems boiled down to management's demands.

"The goals had everything to do with speed, and nothing to do with accuracy," said Craig Baltz, a former worker in one of the Census Bureau's two Fresno, Calif. offices. "Instead of slowing down to ensure accurate data, we sped up."

Baltz charged that in some difficult-to-reach areas, "enumerators had two choices: Turn in accurate work and get written up or terminated, or falsify data and keep working." Baltz worked for the census from last October till July.

In one case, a former census worker allegedly tallied residents of a migrant farm workers' camp in California's San Joaquin Valley, but the camp itself was empty, abandoned because of the region's shortage of irrigation water.
But don't worry. The national office is on the case.
"There was abuse of authority and mismanagement," charged Nell Taylan, a veteran human relations specialist who worked in the Salinas office. "I've never seen anything like it."

Census Bureau officials say they've done everything possible to ensure an accurate population tabulation. Asked specifically about alleged problems in California, a spokesman referred to comments July 27 by [National Director] Groves in which he stressed the agency's nationwide quality-control efforts, which include double-checking answers from a sampling of households.

Groves said that suspicious errors that could mean falsification of data were made by "less than a thousand" of the 565,000 field interviewers nationwide.
Does anyone buy that the National Director of the Census has any ability to estimate how many interviewers falsified data? Then there are the possible IT problems. If there were problems in California, do you think that the other states are immune?