Census 2010

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The U.S. Census Bureau has started a massive operation to verify and update more than 145 million addresses nationwide as it prepares to conduct the 2010 census. Linda Bowen, Phoenix Manager for Census 2010, talks about the process and what people need to know about the upcoming census.

Jose Cardenas:
The census is an official count of everyone living in the United States every 10 years. It is also used to redraw congressional districts. Recently I talked to Linda Bowen, the Phoenix manager for census 2010, about the upcoming census and how it will be conducted. Linda thanks for joining us on "Horizonte." Keep us -- give us a little bit of the history of the Census.

Linda Bowen:
The Census is a count of every person in the United States. It occurs every 10 years. It's mandated by the constitution. It's mandated to determine the representation in the House of Representatives. And that is determined by population, the count is mandated every 10 years.

Jose Cardenas:
And it has a lot of other very, very important consequences. Tell us about those.

Linda Bowen:
The census is responsible for the allocation of over $300 billion of federal dollars a year, and it provides data on the population of the United States, it determines congressional representation, it determines state representation, the funds are used to fund schools, determine boundaries of school districts, roads, streets, senior centers T day care centers. It's really for the local population.

Jose Cardenas:
And it's changed over time. I think everybody senses that you have a bunch of people asking you a lot of questions, some of them might be considered -- that's really not the way it is, at least not the kind of Census people will be undergoing next year.

Linda Bowen:
Right. Census day is April 1st, 2010. And a questionnaire will be mailed to every housing unit, every address, and people will be asked to complete a questionnaire, it takes less than 10 minutes. It has 10 questions, we're asking that they fill out the questionnaire and mail it in. That's the Census.

Jose Cardenas:
And that happens next year, but work is already underway. Right now what are you doing?

Linda Bowen:
Right now we're involved in address canvassing. We're gearing up for address canvassing which starts march 30th, and will go through June. What we're doing is we're sending listeners out into the local neighborhoods to check the addresses that we have on record with the housing units and the addresses they actually see in the neighborhood. Is the.

Jose Cardenas:
People these people aren't actually having physical contact with the people in the houses, they're just verifying addresses?

Linda Bowen:
They're going to be using a handheld computer to verify the addresses that we have on record with the addresses they see on the street. And then as they view the residents, the housing unit as we call it, they'll also be looking to see if there are additional housing units on the property or they might -- they were also verifying whether the housing units still exist, in which case they'll delete record, or if there's a new unit there that we don't know about. And -- in which case they'll update the record.

Jose Cardenas:
You brought one of those handheld computers with you today. Can we show the people watching the show what that looks like?

Linda Bowen:
All our listeners will be holding a handheld computer that looks like this. It's extremely secure. It's a fancy cell phone, but it has a biometric identification, meaning that they must input their fingerprints that's been recorded ahead of time in order to access the computer. And then a map -- we have the G.P.S. system, maps will appear on the computer, addresses will appear, and they'll compare the addresses that they physically see on the ground with the addresses that they see in the computer, and if there's a discrepancy they'll update our records.

Jose Cardenas:
You mentioned security. As I understand it, there are a whole bunch of security measures. One of them being the tag that you have that you're wearing right now. It will be worn by people conducting --

Linda Bowen:
All of our listeners will be wearing a census I.D. tag. The ones on the ground, the -- they'll not have their actual picture, but they'll have their name, and their job title. And the census seal.

Jose Cardenas:
As I understand it, another security measure, and this is important, because people are reluctant to give personal information, is that this information cannot be disclosed, the person's identification information, to anybody else for what, 72 years?

Linda Bowen:
72 years. We're not collecting that personal information at this time, we're just checking addresses.

Jose Cardenas:
But when the actual Census comes --

Linda Bowen:
When the Census comes next April, P.I.I., personally identifiable information cannot be revealed by any person working for the Census, and none of the records will be revealed for 72 years.

Jose Cardenas:
Now, some people, particularly in the Latino community, are concerned whether recent immigration sweeps and other kinds of stepped-up enforcement and immigration is going to dampen the count or the willingness of people to be counted. But even there, there's some security measures, as I understand it. The information can't be used for immigration purposes. Is that right?

Linda Bowen:
Not at all. We don't care whether a person is here legally or not. We don't even ask in the questionnaire. We don't ask about whether they're here legally or illegally. We don't care, and we don't record that information.

Jose Cardenas:
And we've got the website on the screen. People can go there to get additional information?

Linda Bowen:
Yes. We are part of the Denver region. There are 12 regions in the United States. We report to Denver. Our website is Census.GOV and they should look for regional employment, if they're interested in employment.

Jose Cardenas:
I was going to say, this does represent some significant employment opportunities, at least in terms of numbers, as I understand it. What, about 1,400,000 people nationwide?

Linda Bowen:
A huge number of people will be employed by the Census. Many people locally. We've been testing since October 1st. We've tested over 12,000 people. We've hired by a large -- March 30th we'll have hired around 1600 people to work on our first operation on the ground. And that lasts about eight to 10 weeks. We have other operations throughout the year, and clear until December of 2010. So we'll be employing people periodically throughout that period.

Jose Cardenas:
And overall, about how many jobs do you think the Census locally will create?

Linda Bowen:
I don't know. I haven't been given those figures. We just get updates as an operation begins, and we get target numbers to hire. And I haven't received those.

Jose Cardenas:
One among the questions that are asked are how people self-identify into different ethnic groups and so forth. As I understand it, that can be critically important, particularly for American Indians. Can you explain that?

Linda Bowen:
We do ask a person's name, we ask -- we have -- the questionnaire goes to their address. We know the address. We ask a person's name, because we don't want to count a person more than one time. So the records indicate the name. We ask them to identify their race. And identify if they do identify themselves as Hispanic, they can identify their country of origin if they wish. If they identify themselves as Asian, they can also identify their origin in that respect.

Jose Cardenas:
And American Indian, you'd want tribal --

Linda Bowen:
They have the opportunity to identify their tribe or tribes, and in the case of tribes and the in the case of race, they can identify more than one.

Jose Cardenas:
And that's important to the tribes?

Linda Bowen:
It's very important. They need data on their tribal members. They also -- many sources of funds are determined by tribal affiliation. So it's very important that American Indians, tribal members, identify their tribes.

Jose Cardenas:
And we know how important the Census is, and we thank you so much for joining us on "Horizonte" to talk about it.

Linda Bowen:
Thank you.

Linda Bowen:Phoenix Manager,Census 2010;

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