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Census Bureau asks thy neighbor
Posted By Julie Foster On 06/16/2000 @ 1:00 am In Front Page | Comments Disabled
“Love thy neighbor” has a new meaning, thanks to the
Bureau, now that enumerators have taken to approaching neighbors for information that citizens earlier refused to provide on their 2000 census forms.
Eileen, a Pennsylvania resident who wishes to withhold her last name, refused to answer questions she considered “intrusive,” posed by a census worker making “non-response follow-up” rounds. Unable to complete the form, the enumerator approached two of Eileen’s neighbors for any information they could provide — one of whom said he did not have such information.
The Census Bureau says it has the legal authority to obtain census information about citizens from their neighbors — known as “information by proxy” — and indicated it is not a new practice.
Indeed, in his
ruling preventing the use of sampling for the 2000 census, Federal District Judge Royce Lamberth noted the Bureau’s non-response follow-up practices from the 1990 census.
“During the 1990 census, Bureau enumerators personally visited all non-responding housing units, with some homes receiving as many as six repeat visits before the Bureau ultimately relied upon proxy data (from neighbors) or imputation data (computer-inferred) to determine the number of persons residing in each non-responding household,” Lamberth wrote.
According to the Bureau, data is collected by proxy only as a last resort and may include more than a simple head-count. Neighbors, residence managers or any knowledgeable source over the age of 15 may be called upon to answer any question on a household’s census form.
Enumerators are to make six contact attempts, at least three of which must be in person, to a non-responding household. Often, a seventh visit by a supervisor is made before proxy information is sought.
But Eileen told WorldNetDaily she was contacted only three times before the census employee approached her neighbor. The employee identified herself as a census worker and said that Eileen had not answered all of the required questions.
WorldNetDaily contacted the Langhorne Census Bureau office and was told by Paul Connolly the enumerators are instructed to make a total of six attempts, including those to obtain information by proxy.
The number of visits made directly to the household in question prior to resorting to other sources is “a judgment call for the individual enumerator,” he said.
Eileen questions the validity of data collected by proxy.
“[The Census Bureau is] willing to hold us liable for our accuracy, yet they get information from a stranger or acquaintance. Will they hold them liable if the information is wrong?”
The Bureau did not have an immediate answer to her question.
The statutory fine for unanswered census questions is $100, and increases to $500 for purposefully incorrect responses, though the Bureau has said it will not enforce the fines.
“We were perfectly happy to give them the count for our household,” Eileen told WND. “We found the remaining questions to be intrusive and not the intent as defined in the Constitution. We’re trying to figure out how knowing the names and birthdays of our children helps determine how many congressmen we have and how our taxes should be appropriated.”
A temporary restraining order was issued in March that prevented the government from imposing fines on people who chose only to answer questions relevant to a population enumeration. The order was removed, however, after
Federal District Judge Melinda Harmon upheld the
constitutionality of Census
2000, rejecting the plaintiff’s argument that the questions are an unreasonable intrusion into their privacy.
Government agencies require the statistical information in order to more effectively serve the public, the ruling said.
Critics of Census 2000 find interrogations of neighbors unacceptable and believe statutes entitling government agencies to receive data through use of the census should be repealed.
“What is the price we’ll pay when allowing the government to question our neighbors for personal information becomes acceptable?” Eileen asks.
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