TLP: The Extra-Efficient Census Says, "Thanks For Your Help!"

Wednesday, August 11, 2010 , , 0 Comments

census budget
The good news is that the Census came in $1.6 billion under budget. The meh news is that the count resulted in a response about equal to what came in 10 years ago. Does that count as improved efficiency?

Census enumerators knocked on the doors of 47 million households that did not return the mailed questionnaire, the bureau reported. Enumerators failed 22 percent of the time to interview the residents personally and had to rely on neighbors or building managers for information about those households. Ten years ago, those so-called proxy reports accounted for 17 percent of the enumerator follow-ups.

On the other hand, enumerators discovered occupants in 27 percent of the 5.6 million addresses that had been considered vacant or that could not initially be found, and at 3.1 million addresses that were provided at the last minute by the Postal Service.

Officials said that while there were cases of forgery and of census employees who complained that they were pressured to complete their work, a random check found that “only 0.2 percent,” or about 1,000 of the 565,000 enumerators, had violated the bureau’s guidelines.

“With proficient management, the cooperation of the American public and a little bit of luck, the census stayed on track with significant cost savings to taxpayers,” Commerce Secretary Gary Locke said.

Census officials credited the savings to the bureau’s advertising program, its bilingual forms, increased productivity, the cooperation of 255,000 partner organizations and real-time monitoring of the mail-response rate.

Census enumerators were also better educated and more experienced than had been expected, presumably because the recession expanded the hiring pool.

Enumerators’ interviews were completed in an average of a little more than two visits, short of the maximum six visits allowed.
In a truly odd turn, the fact that the Census had a pool of unemployed professionals to hire from made the process more effective, which ended up cutting the amount of time – and people – needed to finish the count. And we all know that Census hiring was a big boost to jobs numbers.

The savings amounted to 11 percent less than the $14.7 billion that was budgeted for the Census over a dozen years. The Times reported that the spending came in 22 percent less than expected for this year.
About $650 million was saved because the higher-than-projected rate of mail responses spared additional follow-ups in person. In addition, $800 million in contingency financing was saved because no natural disasters or epidemics impeded the count.

This was still the most expensive census ever. For the 2000 count, the bureau’s budget was $7 billion, but it underspent by $305 million, or less than one-twentieth of the 12-year budget.

The bureau’s field operations will wind down at the end of this month, and the number crunching will begin.
Let's see how efficient that turns out to be.

The Lazy Paperboy

Some say he’s half man half fish, others say he’s more of a seventy/thirty split. Either way he’s a fishy bastard.