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Census Bureau answers critics
Posted By Julie Foster On 03/22/2000 @ 1:00 am In Front Page | Comments Disabled
Americans critical of census questions unrelated to
obtaining a national head-count were given some answers by a
representative of Census 2000′s public information office, who
addressed everything from sampling arguments to enforcement actions.
Criticism of the census has revolved around many aspects of the
decennial operation, but one of the questions most objected to by
critics concerns inquiries into a person’s race.
The Census Bureau source explained the reason for
race-related questions rests chiefly on the need to reapportion
congressional representation — referring to the Constitution’s sole
stated purpose for the count. Such inquiries, said the source, are made
to ensure each congressional district is racially diverse.
Another scrutinized area of questioning relates to transportation.
One in six households is asked how residents get to work and how long it
takes. WND was told the questions are necessary to provide
“quantifiable” data on traffic issues.
Hard numbers, said the Census representative, are not
“anecdotal” and are the only reliable way to provide the information to
Congress who makes funding decisions.
“There’s no other way of getting that information [on a national
basis],” he said.
Reliability of statistics was foremost on lawmakers’ minds
last spring when debate erupted over the proposed use of “sampling” to
complete the 2000 census. A proponent of the procedure, which involves
not an actual enumeration of citizens but rather an estimate based on a
sample of surveyed residents, the source told WND both methods are being
used in the current census operation.
The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in January that sampling could not be
used for the purposes of reapportioning congressional representation,
but the process may be used by states when drawing district boundaries,
Sampling is also the method employed to calculate all other
information found on the “long form.” Only one in every six households
receives the 52-question survey asking about occupation, income,
transportation and other personal questions, as opposed to the “short
form” which requires only name, address, age, date of birth and race.
The estimated or “adjusted” demographics are key to
distribution of federal aid, said the representative.
According to Census Bureau Director Kenneth Prewitt, households that
provide government with the mandated information are the glue of
“Every household that returns the form does strengthen the ties that
do bind us together as a civilized society,” Prewitt said a press
But not everyone agrees. WND has been bombarded with letters from
Americans who object ideologically to the redistribution of wealth, and
so are returning their census forms having answered only the question
regarding the number of individuals in their household.
The penalty for not answering every question on the survey is $100.
False answers garner a fine of up to $500. However, the law is
unclear as to enforcement
of such fines.
Apparently, lack of legal clarity is irrelevant, as WND’s
source revealed the Census Bureau is not going to collect any such
“The Census Bureau is not an enforcement agency,” he said, adding
that any enforcement would have to come from the judicial system.
Although the source indicated lack of compliance will be
handled on a case-by-case basis, he plainly stated the Bureau will not
seek prosecution for incomplete forms.
“We don’t want to intimidate people [into participating],” he said.
In cases where forms are incomplete, enumerators will contact
households and “make every effort” to gather the requested information,
but no fines will be levied.
The reason for completing the questionnaire “boils down to
being a good citizen,” he said.
But citizens are not the only people being asked to participate in
Census 2000. Illegal immigrants also are being encouraged to fill out
census forms by constant reassurance that answers remain confidential,
particularly those regarding citizenship.
Critics argue that federal dollars should not be
distributed to illegal immigrants who will benefit from taxpayer-funded
programs. But the Census source insists the Bureau is making no special
effort to gain compliance from illegal immigrants.
“We’re going out of our way to encourage everyone,” he emphasized.
The Bureau favors counting illegal immigrants, he added, because
“nothing in the Constitution says they should not be counted.”
In an attempt to justify the Bureau’s position, the media relations
director said immigrant children put a “strain on the school system
whether the kids are legal or illegal.”
But citizenship may not be of consequence, according to critics who
suggest a particular version of the “long form” may not be valid.
Each census form is accompanied by a verification number from the
White House Office of Management and Budget. Census form D-2 (UL) has
OMB number 0607-0856. However, the form is not listed in that OMB
classification. As a
result, many survey recipients have concluded that the form is invalid.
The Census Bureau representative, who did not have an
explanation for the discrepancy, speculated it was a “gap” on the OMB
“They must have left it off [the list],” he said.
However, the form is listed with those pertaining to
residents of Puerto Rico. The source said he could not speculate about
the reasons for the “obvious” error.
Nevertheless, information about the error has quickly made its way
into e-mail boxes around the U.S., and many Americans are claiming it as
a legal loophole excusing their non-participation in the census.
The fact is, innumerable residents across the country are refusing to
participate in the census beyond a simple head-count.
Steve Dasbach, leader of the Libertarian Party, is actually encouraging that practice.
“The U.S. Constitution says the purpose of the census is to make an
enumeration; that is, to take an accurate count of Americans for the
purpose of apportioning congressional districts,” he said.
“But the federal government has gone far beyond that constitutional
mandate, and uses the census to ask dozens of probing questions –
including your official government racial classification, how much money
you earn, the number of toilets in your home, whether you have trouble
bathing, and how many cars you own.”
Dasbach said answering only the head-count portion of the census is a
way for Americans to “strike a blow for liberty, privacy, and limited
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