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.
Based on this report’s analysis of operations in three distinctly challenging areas, The Education Fund makes the following recommendations.
Policy Recommendations to Congress and the Census Bureau
Congressional oversight committees with jurisdiction over the census should carefully review the experiences of community organizations along the Gulf Coast, in Mississippi, and in the colonias during 2010 census preparations and implementation, while advocates’ memories are still relatively fresh, and catalogue obstacles and proposed solutions early in the planning process for the 2020 census. We believe a field hearing in one of these areas would offer a useful venue for such a review.
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 determining whether to fund a special Gulf Coast census in 2012 or 2013 under authority currently outlined in Title 13, United States Code. If federal funding decisions over the next decade are based on 2010 census data (or estimates derived from 2010 census data) while recovery and growth continue, public officials and agencies will not receive the resources they need and deserve to provide housing, education, health and transportation for hurricane-displaced people who continue their return home. Federal law allows communities experiencing unusually rapid growth to request special counts between censuses to make sure that funding flows more fairly. Under current law, municipal governments pay for those special censuses themselves. But given the unprecedented catastrophe caused, in large part, by extraordinary failures of federal preparedness and response to Hurricane Katrina, and ongoing difficulties with programs designed to help Gulf Coast communities rebuild, it would be fair and appropriate for Congress to consider a federally funded special census in the Gulf region.
Congress and the Census Bureau should consider revisions to the Local Update of Census Addresses (LUCA) program that would give selected community-based organizations an opportunity to review preliminary address lists, and determine if such a modification would require a change in the relevant authorizing statute. For example, the Census Bureau could authorize the designated local agencies or officials responsible for LUCA in each participating jurisdiction to form review teams that include representatives of knowledgeable grassroots organizations. Community leaders participating in the LUCA process should be subject to the same strict confidentiality provisions of law as all other LUCA participants.
The Education Fund strongly supports the Census Bureau's proposed new 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.
However, The Education Fund does not believe it is wise to remove 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. While addresses stripped of any data about the residents living therein might appear to be harmless and, indeed, already public information, the Census Bureau's Master Address File might contain addresses or housing units that are not known to local authorities or that violate local ordinances. 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; residents or owners of those housing units might be more reluctant to participate in the census for fear of detection.
Operational Recommendations to the Census Bureau
The Census Bureau should explain the cultural facilitator program more clearly and more widely to partner organizations in hard-to-count communities and should seek the assistance of partners in identifying individuals who could serve as facilitators if needed. As part of its 2010 census evaluation and 2020 census planning, the bureau should examine the effectiveness of this program, consult with stakeholders (especially at the local level) about the program's goals and parameters, and determine how best to improve the implementation of this strategy for 2020.
The Census Bureau should examine its 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 perhaps even native speakers. Advocates working with Mississippi's immigrant communities, for example, were frustrated that field staff assigned to work in Latino neighborhoods did not speak Spanish well, suggesting that the Census Bureau's assessment of bilingual skills and cultural sensitivity during the hiring process was not sufficiently rigorous.
In future decennial censuses, Partnership Specialists should begin their outreach to state and local organizations in the first quarter of the year preceding the census year, to ensure adequate time for building trusted relationships and educating a wide range of stakeholders. Furthermore, a sufficient number of Partnership Specialists should remain in their positions during the Nonresponse Follow-up period, continuing their outreach to community organizations and answering questions about this second major census operation. The "disappearance" of Partnership Specialists at the end of the mail phase left many community partner organizations puzzled about where to turn for important information about the next phase of the count.
The Census Bureau should explore the possibility of mailing replacement questionnaires to addresses in some or all Update/Leave areas. While the bureau has not completed evaluations of its inaugural replacement mailing in the 2010 census, evidence suggests that the second mailing to addresses in low-responding communities boosted mail-back rates considerably in many communities. The factors that contributed to a successful replacement program among households that initially received a form by mail but did not mail it back likely exist in many Update/Leave areas, as well. The significant cost savings associated with mail response might well tip the scale in favor of extending the replacement questionnaire operation to Update/Leave areas, even if the mail system is more problematic in some of these areas.
The Census Bureau should examine thoroughly the conditions that determine the enumeration methods used in the colonias, farm worker encampments, and other rural settlements, and determine early in the decade if the bureau should employ a method or methods other than Update/Enumerate in these areas in the future. To help accomplish this goal, the Census Director should establish a task force or working group to advise the Census Bureau on issues related to the enumeration in these communities. The committee, which should include community-based advocates for migrant workers, farm workers, and residents of colonias, should carefully document the 2010 enumeration of these special populations; advise the bureau on research and testing that would help inform decisions about the 2020 enumeration; and work closely with bureau staff as they develop appropriate counting methods and outreach activities for the next census.