Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Report: Census workers botch race/ethnicity queries

In the months leading up to the 2010 Census the Census Bureau carried out a p.r. campaign so that Latinos would participate in the national count. Despite calls by a few groups to boycott the Census most of the Latino community seemed to have done their duty and filled out the forms.

An interesting conundrum appeared for numerous Latinos who tried to fill the census papers: how to accurately answer the questions pertaining to race and ethnicity. If one is of a mixed racial background such as mestizo, for instance, then how should one classify his/her race for the Census? What about the person in this article who claimed that “"I would consider myself Hispanic or Mexican-American, but definitely not White”?

A report from the U.S. Commerce Department Office of the Inspector General found that some Census workers have ignored similar troubles during their door-to-door visits. Rather than clarify concerns some of the workers in the study made things worse:
Upon their visits, census workers are supposed to read aloud the 10 census questions, including those on race and ethnicity. Yet, according to the report, 71 workers incorrectly communicated the race and Hispanic-origin question to respondents. Some census workers made assumptions about individuals' race and filled in boxes without asking the respondent the ethnic background questions, while others failed to ask their respondents if they wanted the questions read aloud.
Only 15% of the 480 observed workers in the report made mistakes during their door-to-door visits and a Census spokesman told CNN that the bureau would "take corrective actions where appropriate." But these mistakes could be costly when so much is on the line like apportioning congressional districts and deciding where some federal funds go.

Image- nj.com
Online Sources- U.S. Commerce Department Office of the Inspector General, CNN, azcentral.com, Vivirlatino, USA TODAY, The Latin Americanist

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