The Leadership Conference is working diligently to see that Tom Perez is confirmed as U.S. Secretary of Labor. Perez is an eminently qualified public servant and consensus builder who has dedicated his career to ensuring that all individuals are treated fairly and have the opportunity to succeed. He has served with integrity and distinction at the local, state and national level, compiling an outstanding record of achievement.
Executive Summary - The Hard Count: A Community Perspective on 2010 Census Operations in the Gulf Coast and Texas Colonias
As the 2010 census approached, The Leadership Conference Education Fund saw the accuracy of the national headcount as one of the major civil rights issues of the decade. The likelihood that the census would undercount racial and ethnic minorities, people with low income, people with limited English proficiency, and others – and the political and financial consequences of that undercount – raised serious civil rights concerns about equality of political representation and economic opportunity. Accordingly, The Education Fund committed significant resources to a collaborative education and outreach campaign, involving both national and local partners, to improve census accuracy in historically hard-to-count communities.
The Education Fund’s national partners were the Asian American Justice Center, the NAACP, the National Congress of American Indians, and the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials Educational Fund. In collaboration with these partners and community-based organizations across the country, The Education Fund carried out training, promotional activities, and public education efforts in 15 areas where historical and demographic indicators suggested the potential for disproportionately high undercounts. Representatives of national and local partner organizations canvassed low-income neighborhoods and apartment buildings, distributed in-language fliers to ethnic grocery stores, incorporated census themes at local festivals, and identified and filled language gaps in immigrant communities through bus advertisements, radio PSAs, and ethnic media ad buys.
In addition, The Education Fund worked with national and regional census officials and community advocates to help identify operational problems as the census unfolded, propose solutions, and overcome communication and logistical challenges.
One area of particular focus for The Education Fund and its partners was the Gulf Coast region still recovering from Hurricane Katrina. In 2009, The Education Fund published a report warning of the unique challenges to an accurate census count for the Gulf Coast and recommending a set of policy and operational changes to increase the likelihood of a successful enumeration. Throughout 2010, The Education Fund and its partners worked to keep Census Bureau officials, lawmakers, and local advocates focused on resolving problems as they emerged. For example, in response to strained or failed communications between the Dallas Regional Census Office and local leaders along the Texas-Mexico border and in Mississippi, The Education Fund expanded the scope of its efforts to include the colonias of South Texas and hard-to-count areas in the Mississippi Delta.
This post-census report reviews operational challenges in the New Orleans area, hard-to-count areas in Mississippi, and the colonias in the Texas Rio Grande Valley and makes a set of recommendations to inform planning and preparations for the 2020 census.
Nationally, participation rates in the 2010 census equaled those of the 2000 Census, when the Census Bureau stemmed a three-decade decline in response rates. The combined efforts of the Census Bureau and its partners were not enough to overcome all the obstacles in the Gulf Coast region during the first phase of the 2010 census: initial participation rates in the areas we address in this report were all below the national average.1 During the field follow-up phase of the count, The Education Fund intensified its efforts to help community-based organizations work effectively with local and regional Census Bureau offices and achieve their goal of a complete enumeration in underserved communities. As we await the publication of detailed population counts in early 2011, which will allow for a more definitive evaluation of the 2010 census, The Education Fund and its partners are already looking toward the 2020 census and offering recommendations based on their experiences over the past year.
Highlights of our policy recommendations for Congress and the Census Bureau, described in fuller detail in the recommendations section of the report:
- Congressional oversight committees should examine the conduct of the 2010 census in the Gulf Coast region, as well as in hard-to-count areas in Mississippi and the colonias—we believe a field hearing would be a useful venue—to better understand the experiences of community-based organizations while advocates’ memories are still relatively fresh, and to catalogue obstacles and proposed solutions early in the planning process for the 2020 Census.
- Congress should carefully evaluate the final results of the 2010 census in the Gulf Coast region, in light of continued population growth and other indicators of ongoing economic recovery, as well as the consequences of new and persistent barriers to recovery, in considering whether to fund a special Gulf Coast census in 2012 or 2013 as we recommended in our 2009 report.
- Congress and the Census Bureau should consider revisions to the Local Update of Census Addresses (LUCA) program that would give designated community-based organizations an opportunity to assist state and local LUCA officials in their reviews of preliminary address lists.
- The Education Fund strongly supports the Census Bureau’s proposed initiative — reflected in the administration’s Fiscal Year 2011 budget request — to update the Master Address File continuously throughout the decade, allowing the bureau to capture change in the nation’s housing stock more effectively; to work closely with the U.S. Postal Service and leverage other administrative sources to document housing changes in real time; and to contain the cost of future censuses by mitigating the need for a massive canvassing operation a year before each enumeration.
The Education Fund opposes removing the Master Address File from the protection of 13 U.S.C., §9 (which assures the confidentiality of all individually identifiable information the Census Bureau obtains in the course of taking a census), an idea that has surfaced in some advisory committee meetings. Without the strict protection Title 13 offers against using personal and address information against any individual for any purpose, community advocates and local census coordinators might be reluctant to ensure that unauthorized or illegal living quarters are included in the census universe and residents or owners of those housing units might be more reluctant to participate in the census for fear of detection. Operational recommendations for the Census Bureau (for more details, see the recommendations section of the report):
- Examine the effectiveness of the cultural facilitator program in consultation with other stakeholders and determine how to engage partner organizations more effectively in this program in 2020.
- Examine procedures for hiring bilingual field staff to ensure that employees assigned to work with or collect data from people whose primary language is not English are truly conversant in that language and fully understand the culture of the immigrant communities and families with whom they must communicate.
- Establish a task force or working group to document issues that arose in the 2010 census in the Texas colonias and to make recommendations about the process for determining the most effective enumeration method and outreach strategies for these and similar types of communities in 2020. Such a task force should include representatives of local organizations that serve the residents of colonias and other migrant worker communities on a regular basis.
- Partnership specialists should begin outreach to state and local organizations earlier, and more partnership specialists should remain in their positions during the Nonresponse Follow-up operation.
The Leadership Conference Education Fund will continue to monitor the release of data and measurements of coverage from the 2010 Census and might, with its partners, make additional recommendations to the Census Bureau and Congress regarding preparations for the 2020 census.
1. The Census Bureau calculated and published participation rates for all areas that received census forms either by mail (Mail-out/Mail-back) or hand delivery (Update/Leave); there are no participation rates for most of the colonias, which largely were covered by a third method, Update/Enumerate. All three methods are described more fully in the body of this report.