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The US Census Program from the Inside

Updated on June 2, 2010

 There are over 500,000 working in America right now counting every person, in every house, in every town, city and hamlet. Wages range anywhere from $15 to $22 an hour, depending on the cost of living for that area. Many of the people work in the field as enumerators who come to the door of a residence who DID NOT return their questionnaire by mail. This program is called NRFU (non-response follow up). Others work as Crew leaders, who are in charge of a small platoon 10-25 of enumerators, Field Supervisors, who possess many districts within an area. Others work in the district field office handling the massive amount of paperwork, which for many areas, is a big mess.

By federal law, which always supersedes any State law, when the enumie comes to your door because you failed to return the easy census by mail form, Title 13, Chap 7, sec 223, empowers the enumie to collect census data from each and every household including names and other statistics. If the household refuses, as many do and will, federal agents can appear and impose a fine of up to $500. Much of the info asked is common info: names, ages, DOB, relationship status, race, gender. Any info given is so protected, no governmental agency has access to it for 72 years. I know, in this day of age, not many believe it, but it is, and it is info anyone can get on the Net, would you rather pay $500 and still have to provide it???

The questions asked never ask for SSNs, bank accounts, credit cards or other financial information, and if it is asked, do not give it. 

Should you refuse or avoid the enumerator, just know, they will not go away until it is provided. It may take weeks, but they will be back. So, it is really just best to get over the fear element and provide it.

Working for the Census is a taxi job for all. A job to provide money while in between career type jobs. Like many temp jobs, not everything is in place in the form of policy and procedures for those in the field. It is the kind of job where things change weekly. One week workers are told to do things a certain way, then, it changes the next week. Flexibility is its strong point. Workers can work their 30-40 hrs in any manner during the week and day to accommodate personal preferences. That is, one could work  three hours, stop for 2 hrs, and resume again. One also receives .50 cents a mile driven, this can add up quickly over a week. All pay is electronically done into a bank account, you also receive a paper copy receipt. The Achilles heel is that pay is not always paid the week worked due to incorrectly doing it and it being returned, input error, computer crashes, software malfunctions. The time is submitted on paper and then each one in entered into a the payroll system, which uses a horrifying unstable, user unfriendly, software. Because the payroll is handled by an entirely different admin branch than the enumeration, resolving pay issues is futile and one simply resorts to prayer as their salvation. Your pay may be off a little or by $300, sometimes, the system will seem to overpay you but in reality, they are playing catch up. Pay issues are NOT infrequent!

Ahh, at least it is work! Census data really wants info about the occupants of a given location. Vacancies, unable to locate, demolished, not a housing unit or obtaining occupant info via a third party proxy (neighbor etc), is frowned upon and distrusted by the QA people who review each questionnaire from the field. They want an unrealistic 4% or less from a district, when in reality many are at 10% or higher because of the economy. Thus, there tends to be a lot of rework, revisits to an address to verify the enumerator did not provide false or incorrect info. QA also has a problem with refusals, which are frequent. These occupants simply do not cooperate no matter what law is cited etc.

Napa state hospital went to court with the Feds over providing information. They simply refused to provide any. When the case was heard, the judge threw it out and told the State they must comply. There was no trial, just a quick hearing.


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    • Deerwhisperer profile image

      Brenda Krupnow 7 years ago from Bradenton, Florida

      You stated so many things that I didn't know about the census, such as being fined up to $500 for not filling out a form, which I think is criminal in itself. Good job!