Press Briefing -- July 26, 2000
|MR. STEVE JOST: This is another one of our
standard periodic operational press briefings where we report to you on
the status of census operations that are ongoing at this time. Before we
get to the event, I just have a couple of housekeeping matters for members
of the press to alert you to some census-related press releases that are
coming out in the next few days. And the principal reason we bring this
to your attention is, these are some of our standard data products that we
release and we just want to caution that they are not Census 2000 data
products. They are part of our standard operations and anything you can
do in any stories you might report from these three releases to help make
that clarification would be appreciated.
Today on our embargo site we are releasing
the first data from 21 of the 31 sites from the American Community Survey
tests. That data will describe what the American Community Survey, which
was in the field last year, collected from the sample in each of those 21
sites. On the embargo site you will find 21 sets of tables for each of
those 21 sites. Again, the ACS is something that, if it gains the support
of Congress and is fully funded, we hope would replace the long form in
2010. So it's an important story but it is not the Census 2000 results.
In addition, I believe on Monday we will be releasing the voting-age population projections that we do every two years in advance of a national election. Those tables will provide estimates of what we think the voting-age population is by each state and with breakdowns by race and age and other demographics. Again, that's not Census 2000 figures. That's part of our estimates program out of our Population Division. We hope it will be helpful to anyone covering the upcoming elections.
Third, later next week we will be releasing our 1999 population
estimates for each of the 50 states at the county level. Again, that's
part of our ongoing population estimates program that we do every year at
this time. Any help you can give us to reassure your readers and viewers
that that's not Census 2000 data would be appreciated.
Today we are going to update you on Census
2000 operations. It's our standard format. I think most of you here are
familiar with it. The director will have a few opening remarks. We'll
open it to questions. We'll alternate between the room and reporters who
are with us by phone. We do have mikes for those of you in the room.
When you have a question, if you would, please identify yourself and your
affiliation for the benefit of our viewers and our listeners. We'll have
our standard procedures. With that, I'll now introduce to you Dr. Kenneth
DR. PREWITT: Thank you, Steve. Thank you for coming. Before I turn to Census 2000 issues I'd like to just pause and say that certainly the Census Bureau is extremely pleased that Secretary Mineta has been confirmed, in record time, of course, as you all noticed. Secretary Mineta is quite familiar with the census. He was a strong advocate in the preparations for 2000. When he was still in the House, a very, very strong advocate for our procedures to turn attention, of course, to the Asian-Pacific Islander, to the Asian populations more generally. Secretary Mineta, for example, was engaged in that level of detail as a member of the House, even with how we formulated the question with respect to collecting data on Asians, and then, of course, very interested in and supportive of the large partnership program that reached into that population group.
I have met with Secretary Mineta, begun to brief him on Census 2000
and have been extremely pleased with the level of knowledge he's already
exhibited, not just about the census itself but really about the federal
statistical system. So we are very pleased the Senate acted so quickly on
his nomination, and that we now have a Secretary of Commerce who is now
engaged and will be engaged in Census 2000 issues.
As we finish Census 2000, I turn now to my
operational comments. Before doing so, just a word or two. Because many
of you have written about our enumerators, many of you have written some
very marvelous human interest stories about the obstacles, the tasks, the
challenges, the kind of people who are out there doing the job, and we
remind ourselves every day that these are the people who are making the
census a good census for the society.
One story that caught my attention, I think
it was an AP story, ran on July 4th about a 76-year-old Philadelphia woman
who said that she'd never been counted, but this time we had found her.
Another one who lived on a remote rural road and said in his 40 years that
he had lived there he had not been counted, but this time we did find him.
I cite those kinds of cases, obviously not
to go just the anecdote route, but there are always people who are missed.
It's extremely difficult to find everyone in this country. Even those who
want to be counted; it's extremely difficult to find everyone. But what
we have, and I'm going to talk about this in some detail, the number of
things that we are trying to do this time around to actually go out and
knock on at least 100 percent of the doors where we believe there are
residents in this country.
I also cite those anecdotes to remind us
that we are still doing the census out there. The census is not over.
We are still in the field. Roughly 200,000 people are still out there
doing various parts of our quality control work and our ongoing counting
work. The people who know the census much, much better than I do - that
is, who have watched four or five censuses - I met just yesterday, or the
day before yesterday, in Los Angeles with all of our regional directors,
the first time they had gotten together since we started Non-Response
Follow-Up. I think among them they have about 348 years of decennial
experience, census experience. They've really been around it. For some
of them this is their fourth census. They feel very good about it, and
these people know if it's good or not good. They've just had too many
So when they tell me that they really do
think it is a good census thus far and continues to be a strong work then
I must say I respect their testimony on this more than the testimony of
some people who are simply less experienced with what makes a census hard
to do and what makes it above quality thresholds.
As you know, and just very quickly, we have
completed the Non-Response Follow-Up part of our work, about 42 million
housing units that did not mail back the questionnaire. We completed the
list of enumerator field follow-up work in early July. Also in early July
we completed our update/enumerate field follow-up work that was in more of
the remote areas, the American Indian areas, the colonias down on the
border, resort areas with high concentrations of seasonal homes, those
with the update/leave areas and so forth. All of those major, big field
operations are now completed. But that does not mean that the census is
Of course, many people when they read about
this believe the census is complete because that work is done, but what
really happens then is that we moved into what we call our 'Quality
Counts' phase, which are anywhere from, depending on how you count, as
many as nine different major field operations still going on right now.
One of those, which I described in an earlier press briefing, was Coverage
Edit Follow-Up - we do that primarily on the phone from 13 call centers.
The workload for that alone is 2.3 million cases. That's where we do
count resolution. That is, if there is a discrepancy on the form between
the number of people who actually were listed on the form and the number
of persons they said lived in the household, we resolve that discrepancy.
I say that's about 2.3 million households, and we're about two-thirds
complete with that work.
Another very large field follow-up
operation is our Coverage Improvement Follow-Up. Here we're going out to
about 8.7 million housing units in a series of four - well, now three
waves. We initially thought it might be four but we were able to get it
under way quite quickly and so it's only three waves. Past experience
tells us that some enumerators do erroneously classify occupied housing
units as vacant and, therefore, delete them. What this operation does is
make doubly certain that no housing unit is taken off the address file
erroneously. That is, no occupied housing unit is taken off. So, as I
say, this is about 8.7 million housing units. We send someone back to
that door to knock on that door to make certain that it is true that it is
a vacant unit.
There are vacant units in, of course, the
housing stock of America. Probably, based on our most recent data, not
Census 2000 data but earlier data, somewhere between about 9.3 percent of
all the housing stock is vacant at any given time. These are housing
units that are for sale, or housing units that have been built but have
not yet been inhabited, or housing units that are in the process of being
demolished, and they are still residential units but they are vacant.
What we want to make absolutely certain is
that once we put something on our list as vacant -- therefore we delete it
from our address file -- that we make absolutely certain that it really is
vacant. That's what this process does. We go back to every one of those
housing units which we have reason to believe are vacant to double-check.
Of course, most of them will, in the final analysis, be vacant because at
any given time, as I say, there are a lot of housing units that are
vacant. Seasonal homes also fall into that category and so forth.
When we go into the field for these housing
units, our processes are very similar to those in Non-Response Follow-Up.
That is, we have multiple callbacks, if we really do believe that it's
occupied and we don't find anyone there, then we go to some sort of proxy
If you attended yesterday's press
conference on the Hill, it was incorrectly suggested that we had moved
some deadlines on this operation. There is no single deadline for this
operation. There is a series of four waves, and there are completion
dates for each of our scheduled waves. The first wave is now completed,
and that was - I have that number but not in front of me. I think that
was 242 of our LCOs were in wave - no, 342 of our LCOs were in the first
wave -- and that work is now completed. We are now starting Wave Two and
then we will start Wave Three later on.
There is also an operation called Residual
Non-Response Follow-Up. This is for addresses that show up in our address
file, but which the data-capture system seems not to have a record. We
have about 136,000 such addresses spread across the country. We are going
back to every one of those. That is also a process that is on schedule.
We have a field verification process that
we will initiate in about a week. That is where we go back to the housing
units as best we can on questionnaires that we receive from some source
other than from an enumerator or the Post Office; that is, the
"Be-Counted" forms, or telephone assistance forms and so forth. About a
million of those. These are the housing units we have to make certain
really are there because they weren't initially geocoded in our system
because of the way in which the responses came in. Somebody simply picked
up the phone and said, 'Look, you haven't counted me, my name is, so many
people here and so forth,' and they give us an address. We have to go out
and make certain that address is actually where they said it was so they
can be properly geocoded. So that is a million cases.
We also have an operation, which has not
yet been described to any of you because we are just now - we just made
the decision that we should do this operation this year. We did not
initially think that we would, based on our 1990 experience. This is what
we call our "population unknown". It's a supplemental operation that will
be going into the field right now and continuing through August.
As the forms came in, we had a somewhat
higher than expected number of housing units identified as occupied, but
for which there was no estimate of the number of people who lived in that
household. So it comes in as an occupied household, but we really did
instruct enumerators never to guess. If you don't know how many people
live there, don't make a guess. So if they come in that way, they are
instructed to write in the number of people living there, into that box,
they are instructed to write 99, so we call these cases the cases of the
99s, the 99 being unknown.
As I say, about 742,000, it was a higher number than we had had in 1990 of unknown cases, and so we decided to go back out into the field and check up on those and make certain to see if we can get better data on the population of those housing units because they are occupied, but we simply don't yet know for certain whether three, four, seven people are living in them. So that's another big field operation.
Yet another one: we found 80,000 addresses that were erroneously
excluded from our Master Address File that we constructed for our Coverage
Improvement Follow-Up operation that I just mentioned. These were
addresses that were geocoded somewhere after Non-Response Follow-Up
started, but before we started the Coverage Improvement Follow-Up. Both
of those are coverage strategies, of course, and we found 80,000 addresses
that had been - they had come into the file in such a way and in such a
period of time that they had not been captured in either one of those
large address file structures. So we are now going back out in the field
to get the responses from those 80,000 addresses.
We have a boundary validation process that
we're now doing with local governments, where we ask them to validate the
boundaries, the jurisdictional boundaries that we are using in the census.
Then, of course, we have the Accuracy and Coverage Evaluation, which is
obviously already in the field. That's, as you know, 314,000 housing
units across the country as our big systematic quality check on our own
work. And, in all, about 91 percent of that workload is now completed.
We also, in addition to all of that, do
ongoing evaluations of our own work. It will be toward the end of the
year before we can report on all of those, but we are doing evaluations of
the Internet capture system, block canvassing, Master Address File.
Almost every one of our major operations, and even minor operations, has
its own evaluation attached to that. During the course of the year we
will be reporting the results of all of those evaluations.
The point of all of this is that the census
is not finished. We have five months to go before we report our first
major set of numbers, the apportionment numbers. Between now and that end
date, that big deadline, we will continue to deploy every possible field
operation that we already have on the books that we think is appropriate
to make certain that we try to reach 100 percent of the housing units in
the United States and get the best information we can from each of those
housing units. This is the grounds on which I am prepared to say, and
continue to be prepared to say, that this is a good census.
As many of you know, yesterday the census
was described as a census that had gone awry. The facts simply do not
support this characterization of the census. I do believe they support
the characterization that the census is a good census, and a substantial
number of quality-control procedures in place and being implemented will
actually make it a better census.
Just a few of the facts. Concern was
expressed, for example, yesterday about offices which got on the job and
did it expeditiously. Well, there are two reasons that explain that.
First, these are offices that had a higher than expected mail-back
response rate, and thus a lower-than- planned-for workload. Indeed, if
you think about it, across the country, because of the high mail-back
response, higher-than-expected mail-back response, we had a 10 percent
reduction in our follow-up workload. That's a substantial reduction in
The other thing we had across the country
was a much better than predicted recruitment pool. So in those areas
where we had a good recruitment pool, we could put many people in the
field, we had a lower than expected workload - lo and behold, we were able
to get this work done expeditiously. Indeed, in one of the offices that
concern was expressed about yesterday, I went back and looked at it, we
had initially planned to have 222 enumerators in the field in that office.
Indeed, when we started Non-Response Follow-Up, we had 700 in the field.
So we had triple the number that we had thought we would have. So, big
surprise! If you've got three times the amount of workforce and you've
got 10 percent less workload, then you are able to do it expeditiously,
and I think that is in part what makes it a good census.
As we know, the closer to April 1 the data
are collected, the better the data. We have said that repeatedly, that we
want to get as much of these data collected as possible close to April 1st
because you begin to have memory problems, you have moving problems and
all the data are better if you get them closer to the reference date of
April 1. So the characterization of the census as a census that has gone
awry because some of the offices got their work done expeditiously strikes
me as unfounded.
Also, concern was expressed at the other
end of the scale. That is, about offices that started slow but finished
fast. Well, these were exactly the offices in which we had to make major
management changes and brought in the best enumerators that we could from
nearby offices. I visited one of these offices. It was understaffed.
It was understaffed to begin with. And they struggled for weeks to catch
up. Then what happened, of course, is that we brought in new major
management. In this particular instance, we replaced the office manager
with an area manager, a much more experienced person from our regional
staff, and we brought in literally hundreds of enumerators from nearby
offices so they could help in this particular office. So, certainly,
you're going to get a surge when you suddenly have that kind of
recruitment pool available to you.
Another one about which concern was
expressed was one of our urban centers, where we had a very hard time
getting into the apartment buildings with the guarded doors. We worked
something out with the city and the city put a lot of pressure on the real
estate industry in those units, and suddenly the doors all opened. So,
for three or four weeks you hadn't gotten into any of these buildings and
suddenly the doors all opened. We got into them in a hurry, with all of
our recruitment and all of our enumerator staff. So, clearly, there can
be a surge under those kinds of conditions.
Concern was also expressed about whether we
were checking up on our work. We're doing nothing but checking up on our
work. Indeed, in addition to all the things I've just mentioned, we have
a very special quality control process where we go out and look at 3
million cases across the country, and the entire purpose of that is to
simply call the respondent and say, were you enumerated? We were told you
were enumerated. Are there the number of people in your house that we've
been told are in your house? And so forth. These are just like any
production line, you know, there is a row of Coke bottles going down and
you pick up every 10th one and you make sure that the quality standards
are being measured. We have that big process going on out there right
So, there just was, I thought, a
characterization of the census which does not really comport with at least
the facts as I have tried to explain them and will continue to try to
Indeed, there was a concern about the
number of deletes, as if somehow that meant something special. What
'deletes' mean is that you go out and find out there are some housing
units that aren't there that you thought were there, and as a result of
the fact that we can reconstruct an address file that was as inclusive as
possible, and so that means we put in houses, addresses that we didn't
know when we knocked on the door or went to that housing unit if it was
Housing units get demolished all the time.
Housing units get converted from residential units to commercial units.
Housing units are built, there is an address, but they are not yet
inhabited because it's a new area. Lots of things lead us to put an
address on the address file, but then when we went out in the field they
weren't all there, so they become a delete. So a delete is not an
indicator of a census gone awry. What a delete is is an indicator of a
census that's checking and rechecking its work.
The broader suggestion was that this has
been a rushed census. I think the facts point in exactly the opposite
direction. We are still in the field. We will remain in the field until
we've exhausted every procedure that can make this good census a better
census. So I guess I just am here to tell you today that the operations
are still ongoing. We have five more months before we produce our first
big data product; that is, the apportionment numbers. We have something
like nine different major field operations that are continuing as we try
to find all of the residual cases. We are double-checking the quality of
our address file and double-checking the quality of the work, and with
that I am happy to take your questions.
Q: Chuck Holmes of Cox newspapers. Dr.
Prewitt, do you think yesterday's press conference was a deliberate
partisan attempt to question the validity of this census and its
DR. PREWITT: No. I think that there was
some staff work done on some data that we have presented to the staff,
explained to the staff that these data are not easily interpretable unless
you really do understand them, and we did try to suggest to them that
please - look, we knew that they would want to use the data. But we said,
please, let us know. We might be able to help make sure you understand
So I think what happened is, somebody, you
know - I now - let me, since you asked the question, let me give you a
slightly different answer. The particular data that were used to bring
these charges forth is now data that I wish I'd given to the press three
weeks ago, four weeks ago, and tried to explain it. It's quite
complicated and it comes from administrative records and a lot of things
in it that you need to understand.
For example, one of the items on that data
file says, how many of the housing units are what we call Pop 1 units.
There is only one person living there. We use that as a signal to us.
If we get a higher than expected number of Pop 1 housing units, we go back
out in the field and double-check to make sure that that's just not
enumerators trying to get the work done too quickly. It does turn out,
however, there are very large sections of this country where there are
blocks and blocks and blocks full of housing units, which are Pop 1
housing units. Nursing structures, where you have one person per housing
unit. They all have their address but they live alone. We have a lot of
single apartments, buildings, apartments with a single person living in
So we went back out and checked on those
Pop 1 housing counts. And, if we found an area we thought where there
were more than what the demography would suggest there were, then we
double-checked the work. So it was that kind of - you have to do that
kind of analysis to make sure you've got it right.
I don't want to characterize this as
anything other than an attempt to make a big picture out of what are a lot
of very, very small little pieces of this census. Indeed, of the 15
offices that were mentioned, 12 of those offices had a higher than
expected mail-back response rate, which means it changed the whole
character of what we had to do. But that wasn't taken into account in
analyzing these data.
MR. JOST: Okay, we'll go to the
telephones. Russell Banale of the Star-Ledger in Newark, New Jersey.
Q: Yes, Dr. Prewitt. I wanted to know.
Some of the areas that were mentioned during yesterday's conference, there
have been news reports that some discrepancies took place, particularly
Chicago. I wanted to ask you locally about Newark and what your research
has shown about Newark.
DR. PREWITT: I obviously don't have in
front of me all the data for all 520 local offices. I'm more than happy
to follow up on the specific question.
Newark did have an office which was one of
those characterized as a late-surge office. It was an office which had
the characteristic that it had a hard time staffing up, and it was one of
those offices where, toward the end of the Non-Response Follow-Up period,
we did bring in new management and we did bring in a lot of additional
enumerators from around the areas. So in about a two-to three-week
period, we did about seven or eight weeks of work. So that's why you get
those kinds of patterns.
We do not have, in our judgment in the
Newark area, anything that's systematic at all of a problematic sort.
But if you have a particular question on a particular, you know, like a
delete rate or a pop count rate, or something like that, I can certainly
get that to you. But I don't have all of that in front of me.
Q: Okay. Thank you. So in the Newark
area, there's not - whereas some people believe that area's questionable,
the Census Bureau has not found that so and does not plan a total recount
in that area?
DR. PREWITT: Of course, we don't plan a total recount -
Q: Or a recount of the Non-Response Follow-Up.
DR. PREWITT: No, not at all.
DR. PREWITT: That's just so far off the
mark that there will be no need to recount Newark. We actually, with the
help of the mayor, with a Complete Count Committee up there - I visited
Newark twice during the Non-Response Follow-Up period. As I say, there
were parts of it that were slow getting started, but when the tempo picked
up, we had very high quality work. We had extremely good management that
we brought in from our regional office in the New York area. So we have
absolutely no reason to believe that we have any data quality problems in
Q: Thank you.
MR. JOST: And I can just say, if you have
specific LCO questions, you can call our Decennial Media Relations at
301-457-3691, and we'll try to track down any specific data that we might
on any individual LCO.
Back to the room. Herb Sample.
Q: Hi. Herbert Sample, Sacramento Bee.
You mentioned the status of a number of
quality checks and field operations. When does that all end and you have
all the data you need to start coming up with results?
DR. PREWITT: Sure. All of the work pours
into something we call the Census Unedited File, CUF. And the Census
Unedited File is the file that gives us our number. We call it unedited
because we're still improving the data that's on that file. But we no
longer are now changing the count, the basic count that's going to go into
the apportionment number. We have just recently - and I want to be very
careful about the date I use here, because I won't use a date, and I'll
explain why in a second. We have extended the period. We have changed
the deadline for the CUF, the Census Unedited File, by about three weeks
to make certain that all of these new procedures have time to work their
way out. And, so, the answer is in September. And I can give you the
exact date. I just don't have it in my head. It's toward the end of
September that we will have that.
Now, that doesn't mean we can suddenly just
pop all the numbers out. We still have to do a lot of quality work, but
we don't expect to be adding new census records after that time. We still
do a lot of work with the address file, and so forth. So we don't
actually produce, as you know, the state-by-state counts until December.
It takes several months of really quite intensive work to make us as
comfortable as possible. But after that date, the Census Unedited File
date, we're no longer adding new cases.
Q: Before the December 31st release of the
apportionment data, do you release any other kind of data, maybe not
numbers per se, but - I don't know - increases in, or comparisons to 1990
of how much data came in a particular state or a particular area in a
state? Anything like that?
DR. PREWITT: No. Here's what we'll be
releasing prior to that date. There're two other big numbers that we're
going to share with you. One will probably be in late August, and the
other will be about late September, about the time that we'll be doing our
Census Unedited File cut. One number that we'll be sharing with you in
late August is our final response rate. As you know, we had to calculate
our response rate based upon the information that had come into us, the
mail-back response rate. We calculated it when we had actually started our
field work. And after that a lot of forms continue to come in. Maybe as
many as 3 million forms came in after we cut for Non-Response Follow-Up.
Now, the problem - you can't just add that
3 million to the initial base because we're making - we're now doing all
the hard work to make sure there's no duplicates. We get duplicate forms,
of course. Also, we get blank forms. We have to go back and find out why
we got a blank form. And, indeed, some of this follow-up work is going
back to a household where we got the form - this is in this residual
non-response - we got the form from the address, mailed back in in the
envelope, nothing on it. We go back to that household and say, "You know,
we'd like to have you in the census," and we try to treat them just like a
brand new respondent.
So that work will be going on and then we
report to you the response rate. Now, that response rate is still based
upon the initial denominator, which was, as you know, an address file that
included all of the vacant units. Because we couldn't get them all out
until you do the field work. And then about three or four weeks later, we
report to you what we call our return rate, our participation rate. And
that will have, then, cleaned up the denominator. We'll back out all of
the vacant units, all of the duplicates, and that's a much, much more
important indicator of the level of civic engagement across this country.
I am very optimistic about that number. I can't announce it today because
we haven't done the work, but all the bits and pieces that I'm seeing
suggest that we're going to have an overall participation rate that's
easily going to beat the 1990 comparable rate, and I think strongly so.
And that, I think, is a very, again, a very
important statement about - see, what made this a good census was not
something the Census Bureau did. It's something the American people did.
They simply cooperated at higher levels than we expected or anybody
expected. The GAO didn't expect it. The Congress didn't expect it. The
Census Bureau didn't expect it. The cynics didn't expect it. They simply
cooperated at a higher level than we expected.
And we got a lot of very dedicated people
out there. Not only did they respond to the census in terms of the forms,
but they responded in terms of coming out and helping us do this job. I
can tell you - this is why some of these characterizations of census
offices are painful to the ear, because we have 520 offices that were
staffed by part-time, new people, just came out of whatever they were
doing, out of retirement or whatever, to do these jobs. Is it true across
520 that you had some weak ones that you had to replace? Absolutely. What
we'd expect across 520. The big news is that was very, very small. Some of
these people are enormously competent. I met 20 or 30 of them going around
the country. Ex-IBM executives, ex-military, retired school
superintendents, people who simply cared about doing this and wanted to be
part of the census.
So, I think, when the big number, that is,
the response rate comes out - or the return rate, our participation rate
comes out, it's going to be a very strong statement about the way in which
the people did connect to the census. And that's a very positive story, I
think, for the country, not for the Census Bureau, but for the country.
And there simply are not - we have one
census office where we felt like we had to go back and do a lot of
recounting. And that was in the Hialeah case and it's a very complicated
case, I can discuss it - that's the only single case across 520 where we
actually have to go out and do any kind of major recounting.
Sorry, that's a long answer. So long, I
almost forgot your question. But those are the two big - so you will get
that number. You will not get a population number. The next big population
estimate you'll get will be the actual results of the Census 2000 which,
as I say, will be in December.
MODERATOR: We remind our reporters on the
telephone, if you want to get in the queue, you have to press 1 on your
telephone. We'll go back to the room. Genaro?
Q: Genero Armas, AP. In light of the
chairman's comments about those fifteen offices yesterday, did you plan to
do anything more or differently in terms of quality control procedures
there in those places?
DR. PREWITT: Well, I did take the
chairman's comments seriously, in that sense. We have already gone to work
on all 15 of those offices. We have relooked at the numbers ourselves.
We've re-interviewed - we're in the process of re-interviewing the
management in all of those offices. We will be reporting fairly quickly,
that is, as early as the middle of next week, back to the chairman on what
we have found. And based on what I found already, I don't want to
overcharacterize it. We still want to do the work, we want to, you know,
cross every "t", dot every "i", but based on what we've found thus far,
these are very, very explainable kinds of phenomena or patterns. As I say,
you get a surge where you changed management and beefed up your enumerator
staff. You got an early completion where you had a lower-than-expected
workload and a higher-than-predicted workforce. So there's nothing in
these patterns that strike us as particularly mysterious or anomalous.
But we're still doing the work. We are
certainly - where we have any reason to believe whatsoever from any
source, from any source, you know - not to forget, as I said quickly
yesterday on the phone to some of you, this census is being done in a
fishbowl. We have plenty of people paying attention to it. We have mayors,
we have the press, we have the GAO, we have the Inspector General, we have
the subcommittee, we have plenty of people who are paying attention to the
census. And if there are systematic problems out there and we don't find
them, which is extremely unlikely because all of our processes are
designed to find them, they're not going to go hidden. They're going to
get revealed. And so at this stage of the census, to suddenly find 15
offices that have systematic problems, it's just not plausible. Just not
plausible. That doesn't mean we won't go back out and relook at them. And
we will do that and then we'll report our findings.
MR. JOST: Okay, anyone else in the room? Ellyn?
Q: Ellyn Ferguson, Gannett News Service.
When you make your report to the committee next week, is that something
you're going to share with the press or -
DR. PREWITT: I would love to share it with
the press. [Laughter] Look, whatever we find, and let me just back up and
then I'll let you finish your question in a second. But just to remind the
press, because they've been a - they've paid a lot of close attention to
this census and it's been a very - I really do welcome that. And you know
- look, the Census Bureau's a grown-up agency, you know? We're not afraid
to talk about our mistakes. We're not afraid to talk about our flaws. We
are the ones who keep telling the country about the undercount. And how
we've got to work hard to make this a better census. We're not
embarrassed. As I've said many times, we take as much professional pride
in telling you if we make a mistake than we did in trying to not make the
mistake in the first place. It's just the nature of the agency. And so,
we're completely - and if we find problems, we're the ones who decided
that we had to recount Hialeah and told the chairman that we were going to
do that. And told the Inspector General that we were going to do that
because our own investigation told us, well, we just had enough concerns
that we'd better do it. So, we did it.
And if one of these 15 turn out to have a
problem, we'll go out and fix it. We don't have all these quality control
processes to hide something. We have them in place to reveal things. We
have hotlines. We invite our enumerators to call if they have any sense
whatsoever that there's a problem. If they don't want to call us, call the
Inspector General. Call their congressmen.
So, absolutely, we will - there's been
nothing about this census which we have not tried to do in the open light
of the day, if that metaphor works. Not very well.
Q: And you made reference to the data that
was shared with the committee at the beginning of the month that you wish
that you had shared it with the press. Are there going to be similar sort
of data reports to the committee and are you going to be sharing that with
DR. PREWITT: Yeah, I think if anything
else - there's nothing else of that nature, Ellyn, that I know of right
now, though I'm always surprised when I suddenly, even in the agency, a
big complicated agency, when things turn up, but - but yes. I think we
will - anything that we are going to share with the subcommittee or the -
any other agency, we will try to get it and try to explain it in a medium
like this to make sure that we can interpret it correctly.
As I said at an earlier hearing, you may
recall, when it was said that the Census Bureau did not share information
very well, that was the hearing that I did remind the subcommittee that we
were making available in real time a terabyte of information. A terabyte
of information for those of you who don't think that way is not - you take
the yellow pages, the Washington, D.C. yellow pages, it's not five of
them. It's not 50 of them. It's not 5,000 of them. It's equivalent to
50,000 yellow pages. That's a terabyte of information. And we have made
that available to the GAO and the subcommittee on a real-time basis every
week. It's our cost and progress data. I don't think the press wants a
terabyte of information, but if you ask for it, we'll figure out some way
to get it to you.
Q: If you can give us an executive summary
of that, that would be appreciated.
DR. PREWITT: Sure.
Q: And just one last question.
DR. PREWITT: Oh, I've got to correct
myself. It's been so long. It's not 50,000, it's 50 million. Really?
No. Is it 50 million? Sorry, 50 million.
Q: Then it definitely needs a summary.
DR. PREWITT: So you really want it shorter, yeah, exactly.
Q: And just one last question. On Hialeah,
you said that the Census Bureau has been working with the Inspector
General. Has the Inspector General given you any sense of when there might
be some report on Hialeah?
DR. PREWITT: No, they haven't. The
Inspector General is quite comfortable with the action that the Census
Bureau has taken. They have an independent investigation for other
purposes, of course, to see if there is fraud. We're not recounting
because we found fraud. We're recounting because we found misuse of some
of our procedures. As we've described - a premature going to close-out
procedures for reasons that were explained. And that's why we're redoing
it, because we don't think the data - the data are not as good as we want
them to be. But we, ourselves, do not have any indication whatsoever that
there's any serious fraud. And that's what he's, of course, investigating.
But no, he has not told me when he expects to give a report.
MR. JOST: Okay, Chuck Holmes?
Q: DR. PREWITT: Several months ago, back
during the hubbub about privacy concerns and before the Non-Response
Follow-Up, there were - you made a statement that there were concerns that
if people didn't return their long form or didn't answer all the questions
on the long form, the Bureau might not receive enough data on particular
questions to cross the threshold of being valid data for the purposes of
the census. Is that still a concern and at what point in the timetable of
the process will you know whether a specific question can or can't be
DR. PREWITT: Yeah. Chuck reminds us of
something very important that did emerge right as we were going into
Non-Response Follow-Up and we were concerned about the differential
response rate between the long and the short form. But then, in addition
to that, because there was so much public talk about the fact that you
don't really need to fill this thing out completely, we were worried about
item non-response. That is, you get a form in but too many items are left
blank and if you - particularly some of those items that were attacked,
such as, you know, the handicapped item and so forth - you can get a
pattern that really make the data not very useful.
We have not done - I want to state this
very carefully and cautiously. We are not yet prepared to say that ... we
are not yet prepared to give you a full report on the quality of the long-
form data because it's not just been captured and processed yet. However,
I am prepared to say that based on all the early indications, because we
went back out in the field and began to try to get the long-form data, we
did not encounter such resistance that make us - I'll put it this way. My
level of concern about that has lowered considerably. Because of our
Non-Response Follow-Up experience getting long-form data. A lot of people
say, "No, I won't do it." But compared to the number of people who said,
"Yes, I will do it" and did do it - we are less concerned about that right
MR. JOST: Okay. Anybody else on the phone?
Or in the room? Well, unless Ben has a question, I guess we can wrap it
up. Thank you much.
DR. PREWITT: Thank you all very much.
MR. JOST: And a reminder also about the
ACS data. It's on the embargo site today and the pop estimates and voting
age estimates come out next week.
[END OF EVENT.]