Robert Groves, director of the U.S. Census Bureau, addressed community members Friday morning at the University Museum of Modern Art concerning strategies the bureau is taking to increase the accuracy of the 2010 Census.

Groves, a former survey researcher for the University, explained the process of collecting data for the census and the goals for this year’s final result, including the Dec. 31 deadline.

Groves said the process of information collection for the Census begins with a “gigantic list of addresses,” which was compiled during the spring and summer of last year.

Equipped with handheld GPS devices, 150,000 bureau employees walked every street in the country to determine which addresses to either add to or eliminate from the list, according to Groves.

Once the list of addresses was revised, Groves said the next step was to send out questionnaires in the mail.

Groves emphasized the nature of the information collected through the questionnaires.

“We are attempting to count the population as it existed on Apr. 1, 2010,” Groves said. “With each passing day, that becomes more difficult, because you have to reconstruct who was alive and who was not alive on Apr. 1.”

Advertising was a major part of raising awareness of the Census, according to Groves. He explained that advertising had to target everyone in the country and not just any one group. He estimated $150 million was spent on advertising for the 2010 Census alone.

“It was a consortium of many advertising firms,” he said. “Many of them targeted certain ethnic, subcultural or language groups led by people from that community. The advertising was disproportionately local this time, as opposed to national.”

For example, Groves said that to reinforce the importance of counting each and every person in the household, the Los Angeles Regional Office distributed onesies for babies that said, “I’m here. I should be counted.”

Advertisements for the 2010 Census appeared in a wide variety of languages in an attempt to make more people aware of the process and the deadlines to decrease the number of non-responses.

Another way that the Census Bureau attempted to reduce the number of non-responses was by mailing out replacement forms.

“Survey researchers have known for maybe 40 years that if you send a replacement form, that raises the response rate. The 2010 Census for the first time has that feature,” Groves said.

Based on preliminary results, Groves said he has noticed the positive effect of the replacement forms in the response rates. He also noted something interesting about the response rates.

“A surprise to me as a social scientist, was that if you build a predictive model, you can drive the race and ethnicity coefficient almost to zero if you put in socioeconomic indicators,” Groves said. “This is a much bigger correlate than race and ethnicity. I’m not sure we have addressed that as a country as much as we’ve addressed the variation in race and ethnicity.”

But there is always some data that will simply not be returned to the bureau. Groves said one of his favorite stories from the 2010 Census collection came from the Detroit Regional Office.

Groves said an employee working for census collection ventured to the Upper Peninsula to deliver a questionnaire to an isolated cabin. After hiking for more than a mile, the employee came upon the cabin to find the 2000 Census, still attached to the doorknob.

“You cannot be cost efficient in a census,” Groves laughed about the story.

Despite the efforts of the Census Bureau so far, Groves said the numbers collected at this point are still only preliminary.

“The revisions of these numbers will continue throughout the fall. I believe strongly that one building block of the credibility of census is for us to be transparent. You are going to see all these numbers,” he said.

The deadline for the 2010 Census is December 31. By this date the Census Bureau must submit the population counts on a state level to the President so that the number of seats in the House of Representatives to be reapportioned accordingly.

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