Census 2000 will get under way April 1;
workers are being recruited

This article submitted by Linda Stelling on 1/12/00.

Every 10 years, the population of the United States is counted to ensure state and federal funding reaches the right people.

The 2000 Census will get under way on April 1. It is important that everyone is accurately counted because in the 1990 census 8.4 million people were missed and 4.4 million others were double-counted.

The census provides information that is the cornerstone of knowledge about the United States. It is the basis for virtually all demographic data used by educators, policy makers, and community leaders.

When Hurricane Andrew hit south Florida in 1992, for example, census information aided the rescue effort by providing relief workers with estimates of the number of people missing in each block, as well as detailed maps of whole neighborhoods that had been obliterated.

Federal, state, and county governments use census information to guide the annual distribution of billions of dollars in services. Congressional seats are reapportioned and legislative districts are drawn based on the census data. Public health care, rural development, the environment, and transportation dollars are determined by the census count.

The first census was conducted in 1790 by Secretary of State Thomas Jefferson, who reported two sets of numbers to President George Washington. One set, written in black ink, was the official set of population numbers, which came to about 3.9 million.

Jefferson also included a second set of numbers in red ink, which he charac-terized as representing a closer approximation of the actual number of people, even though they had not all been counted. Jefferson and Washington believed the true population was closer to four million.

President Washington used the first presidential veto on the apportionment bill because he did not agree with the formula used to distribute seats in the House of Representatives among the states.

In 1869, Rep. James Garfield was accused of trying to politicize the census when he proposed the census be organized by congressional districts rather than the territories of the U.S. Marshals. At that time, the Marshals were appointed by the Senate which objected to the proposal.

Historians have said that a mistake in distributing electoral college seats based on the 1870 census gave the presidency to Rutherford B. Hayes rather than Samuel Tilden.

After spending eight years tallying by hand the results of the 1880 census, Census Bureau employees invented the punch card machine for the 1890 census. The introduction of the punch card made the census more efficient and allowed earlier release of the data. However, it also introduced a new source of error in the census as the data was transcribed from the form to the punch card.

By the end of the 19th century, a permanent census office was created in the Department of Commerce. Professional enumerators had completely replaced U.S. Marshals as the primary census agents.

In 1910, President Theodore Roosevelt vetoed the census bill because it did not make census enumerators part of the civil service, but rather kept them as political appointees.

In 1940, when more young men showed up for military service than predicted by the census, the Census Bureau began to study the undercount in the census. The Census Bureau introduced its short form" questionnaire for the majority of the population, using the "long form" set for more detailed questions for only a sample of the population. Prior censuses had required all residents to answer all questions.

Following the 1950 census, noted statistician, W. Edwards Demming and his colleagues concluded that the use of enumerators going door to door introduced error into the census, and that a system where people filled out the form themselves would be more accurate. As a result, in 1960, the Census Bureau began to collect the census forms by mail, and by 1970 most people were counted by mail, not by going door to door. Of course, counting people by mail was criticized when it was introduced.

Both sampling and statistical products were used to add persons to the 1970 census. The 1970 census included about 4.9 million people who were added on the basis of various statistical procedures, including sampling. For example, a recheck of a sample of housing units labeled vacant revealed that about 11.4 percent originally classified as vacant were occupied.

The goal of the 2000 Census is to make sure every person in the community is counted.

(Editor's note: This is the first in a series of articles about the 2000 Census.)

John Atwood is recruiting help for the census
Looking for a temporary Job? John Atwood, Paynesville, can help you. Atwood is a recruiter for the Census 2000.

As a recruiter, it is Atwood's job to go out into the community to attract people to become temporary employees to work for the census, according to Jim Cobb, Census 2000 office operations supervisor for recruits.

"There are several temporary jobs available for people interested. Census takers will work four to six weeks, starting in March. The office crew will work through August, " Cobb said.

Those applying for work will need to complete a standardized basic skills test. The test indicates whether a person can follow directions and knows basic map reading.

Besides recruiting workers, another part of Atwood's job is to raise awareness of the upcoming census.

There are 14 different recruiting stations in the state. The one Atwood works out of is based in Maple Grove. It serves an eight-county area between Chisago County and Stearns County.

To apply to be a census worker, contact John Atwood at 320-243-3917 or call Jim Cobb at 1-888-325-7733.

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