Monday, March 15, 2010

Census Tilt

We just got our Census form in the mail.  I was slightly tilted by the warning on the front of the envelope: "YOUR RESPONSE IS REQUIRE BY LAW,"  but Mrs. Dynamite was on bajungi tilt because she couldn't fill the form out online.  I tried explaining to her the argument that a part of the census was intentional stimulus - they (the government) pay to get it printed, they pay to get it mailed, tabulated, counted etc.  That money goes to people.   She understands that, but is furious at the blatant "waste" of money here - the money clearly doesn't need to be spent like this.  The government should be paying people to get the Census web-ready instead.   It always comes back to make-work projects... Dig holes and fill them in - print forms, mail them, and count them.  It's completely unnecessary.  Of course, they also spend tons of money advertising for the census - and sending out pre-notices like the one last week that said we'd be receiving the census the following week. 

Here's what's interesting about the actual census questions:  question 5 asks "Is this person of Hispanic, Latino, or Spanish origin?" choices are:
- NO - not of Hispanic, Latino or Spanish Origin
- Yes, Mexican, Mexican American, Chicano
- Yes, Puerto Rican
- Yes, Cuban
-Yes, another Hispanic, Latino or Spanish origin - print origin (Argentinian, Colombian, Dominican, etc)

Then, question 6 asks:  What is this person's race?  Options include:
White, Black, American Indian, Asian Indian, Chinese, Filipino, Japanese, Korean, Vietnamese, Native Hawaiian, Guamanian/Chamorro, Samoan, Other Pacific Islander or Other Asian.  Then there's a write-in option  "some other race."

Now, Hispanics may be surprised to find the preamble to these two questions, which states, "NOTE: Please answer BOTH question 5 about Hispanic origin and question 6 about race.  For this census, Hispanic origins are not races." !!!

I wonder how many Hispanic respondents will choose not to classify themselves in one of the racial buckets in question 6, and instead will write in "Hispanic" in the write-in box...  Thinking of my Hispanic friends, I have no idea what they'd respond - White?  Maybe... who knows... it's kinda a bizarre question in my opinion.  I always thought of Hispanic as a race - do Hispanics disagree?  Any Hispanic readers please let me know how you answer question 6 about your race, if "Hispanic" isn't a possible answer.

And guess what - that's pretty much all the census asks!  Name, age, sex, the two questions about race and Hispanic origin, and how the person is related to the primary respondent.  

I expected questions about education, income, work, hobbies and other useful stuff.    Pretty disappointing.  You can see the actual form here, but of course, you can't fill it out online...



wcw said...

The Census is enshrined in the constitution: we have to count everyone, once a decade. But due to the wonderful properties of random samples we don't need to gather detailed data on everyone, just survey a random subset. The ACS goes on every year and is up to a 1% sample these days. We no longer need to count you, personally. Any basic demographic questions you want to ask about the US can be answered yesterday using a relatively recent survey.

Anonymous said...

Hey Kid, I'm seeing that Greece is about to crush into itself with debt and protests from the people. I haven't seen one story yet that points out that next month Greece becomes one of our Visa Waiver Countries which means anyone from Greece can show up with a valid passport and we let them in for 3 months. I think there could be a mass greek exodus once they have free entry to our country. Any thoughts?

Kid Dynamite said...

wcw - yes - which is all the more reason why we shouldn't be incurring the biggest expense collecting the least amount of data. the only information on the census form that's not on my tax return is RACE. correct me if i'm wrong - but i don't think anyone in this 2010 census is getting a detailed questionnaire - that has been replaced by the ACS form you talk about in the interim years. in 2010, everyone gets this useless short form.

chaddad67 - i know nothing about that - but if what you say is true, it's certainly interesting. If you live in a major city you should get busy on opening up a greek restaurant now! I'm going to see if i can buy some Feta cheese futures in the after hours market ;-)

Christine and Ted said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Yangabanga said...

Actually I prefer the census bureau spend their money on meaningless and boring $2.5mm superbowl commercials instead.

oh and BTW the ACS is ABSURDLY DETAILED. We were singled out for the lucky privilege one year. I guess it's good that someone is keeping track of life's little details in case I ever get stranded on a desert island and need to reprove my identity after 10 years.

rjs said...

you're right about it being a stealth stimulus; theyre hiring about 1.4 million workers this time, almost 3 times as many as ten years ago...

Anonymous said...

why should folks have to give out names and other personal details?

this is a load of s... in my opinion.

govt can piss off

Anonymous said...

I got the detailed form in 2000. ~10 pages of crazy intrusion. When I go to work, how much money I make, # of pets, and other weird crap. The worst part is it was definitely personally identifiable (either my name, address or SSN, can't remember), with serious threats all over it for non-compliance.

Onlooker said...

The "pre-notice" letter this week makes my head explode. A letter telling me I'm going to get a letter next week is the most useless B.S. in the world.

It's a lot like the letters sent out in '08 from the IRS telling us that our tax rebate stimulus checks were in the mail. Arggggghhh! Of course that one had a political purpose making it even more infuriating.

Supposedly these census letters have value in that telling people to expect the census letter ahead of time will increase compliance in returning them by mail somehow, and therefore end up saving money by reducing manpower requirements. Of course they're all too happy to employ as many census workers as possible to temporarily decrease unemployment and "stimulate" the economy some more.

Bottom line is that right now any and all spending is defended as stimulus, no matter how ridiculous and inane it is. No such thing as malinvestment or wasted resources in the minds of the stimulus crowd.

Anonymous said...


I am in logistics and work for a company providing air freight service (that's right air freight) for the 2010 Census. Every piece of paper, form, pencil, eraser, and misc office supplies ships out of one location near Louisville, KY. The gov spends money shipping goods into this location from suppliers and then hires about a thousand people to put together kits that go out to the field. In the next 12 weeks, Census will spend close to 5 million dollars air freighting these goods to their local offices in the field. You wouldn't believe what Census has spent in air freight to Puerto Rico alone.

Evidently they spent 30 million dollars between 2000 - 2008 on electronic devices that were to replace the paper process for 2010 only to ditch that effort for fear of them not working properly. Therefore, it's a manual process again in 2010.

I've got tons of more info for anyone interested in the process.


medina said...

I was googling just now trying to figure out how to answer this and found your blog. I'm puerto rican and know that mine is a mix of Taino, African and European blood, but at the end of the day I don't consider myself of European descent or of African descent so I have no idea how to answer this question. It's actually very uncomfortable and weird. I guess I'll do other, but since when am I an other? Oh well.

Anonymous said...

KD – “Any Hispanic readers please let me know how you answer question 6 about your race, if "Hispanic" isn't a possible answer.”

I am married to a Mexican woman, have a (step) daughter who’s biological father is Mexican, have a son who is mixed and I grew up on an Indian Reservation that is 60+% Mexican. So although I am a “White” guy, I feel somewhat qualified to answer your question.

What does Hispanic mean? Where is Hispania? Even when it was in existence what was it?

It is kind of like choosing “White” as an answer. What is white? Who is white? Are you white? If not who is? What does it mean to be white? Last time I checked there was no land of the white. Doesn’t generalizing all people of a certain skin color diminish their race, who they are and their ancestry?

What is the ad/dis-vantage of being Hispanic over Black over White over Indian is it better to be one over the other?

My daughter, is going to UW where she had to take cultural diversity class, she choose “Chicano Studies” I can not speak directly for her, but she was not a happy camper having all dark skinned, Spanish speaking people lumped as “Chicano”

My wife, has never referred or thought of herself as Hispanic, she feels no ties to the term Hispanic. In fact it would probably be fair to say she feels as close to be Hispanic as you (or any of your readers) feel to being White, Black or Green.

My son, will be Hispanic – Why? Money. With everything being equal, he will qualify for more money for college, better jobs and more government handouts being Hispanic then being White…… Just kidding, he is American and will sink or swim on his own merits, not government aid.

I know a lot of Mexican (Actual Mexican – legal and illegal) who do not go by the term Hispanic, the ones who become Americans want to be known as Americans. Their children who are born here are Americans. They adhere to their culture, but that culture is Mexican – Not Hispanic.

Although I am NOT Mexican, Hispanic, Latino or Chicano, but only a mere White guy, I hope that helps to answer your question.


rjs said...


(definitions as used in 2000 census)

Kid Dynamite said...

james - thanks for the thoughtful comment, but no - you didn't answer my question: "American" isn't an option for race, neither is "Mexican"... that is pretty much precisely my point...

Anonymous said...

KD – Your point is well taken and in my opinion the wording and concept behind the government asking questions like that cause rather then prevents un-necessary segregation.

It would seem a better set of questions would read along the lines.

Are you an American? Yes__ No__
If yes, would you like to share your ancestry? Black__ Green__ Vulcan__
If no, do you plan on becoming an American citizen? Yes__ No__
If you do not plan on becoming an American citizen please rate our country on a scale of 1 to 10, with 10 being the highest.

I do not mind being called White as a place holder – “The white guy over there”, But as a race? There is no White race and unless I am wrong, I believe that is what your point is. The question is absurd to begin with then it is broken down to non-existent groups. A person’s skin color might be blackish, but there is no Black race or Hispanic race.

For what it is worth there have been times when filling out “Race” section of a job application that when asked “Other” I have put “American”.

But hey if our government wants to know how many Hispanics as opposed to Americans live within our boarders, it’s all good, cuz they care about us.


Kid Dynamite said...

i'm not sure james - i think there is a white race. i think i am indeed WHITE. I am also American. my ANCESTRY, if they asked me about it, would be Russian and Polish.

that's probably a more interesting question: what do you consider your ancestry. perhaps the reason they don't ask it is because too many people like to list too many answers. 1/8th this, 1/16th that, etc...

Jan said...

Kid, I found the instructions bewildering, as well.

I'm white (Dutch), my wife is of hispanic descent (Mexican-American with parents born in the US). I checked the Mexican- American box in question 5 and left question 6 blank. I suppose I could have entered "Other, hispanic" for her, but I thought that Mexican-American probably captures the essence.

My wife does consider herself hispanic - she was confused by the instructions as well. Hispanic not a race? Huh?

Anonymous said...

Jan – “Hispanic not a race?” The question it’s self is obscured by what is a “race”? Is it a persons nationality, their culture, their genetic make up?

And if every culture (race or what ever) has it’s own sub-culture, then as KD points out, things could quickly filter down into 1/16th and what not.

It would appear if you asked your wife and my wife, both would answer the question differently. But they both hail from Mexico.

But as for being Hispanic, it would denote the person is from Hispania. No?

The term Hispanic pre-dates the finding of Americas and as far as I know there was no country ever called Hispania, rather it was a region encompassing the areas around the Gulf of Mexico.

Take that a step further and during the time of open slave trading, African people were brought to places like Haiti, the new inhabitants quickly out placed the original, leaving few if any “native” Haitians. The same slave brought from Africa could have easily also ended up in Continental America. So a Haitian can be directly related to a descendent of an American slave, but if the Haitian emigrates to the U.S. what race is he?

To me the whole concept is absurd and helps to justify the existence of bureaucrats that need to hind behind things that have an obscure meaning.

But I ask you.

If you are in the kitchen, what are you? Of course an America.
If you are in the living room what are you? Again an American.
But what are you when you are in the bath room? European.


Kid Dynamite said...

European... hehehehe. well done James.