Saturday, May 15, 2010

Census Update

A census worker stopped by a few weeks ago.  He started his spiel and I told him one person lives here.   We went back and forth for about a minute:

"I'm just doing as instructed" he'd say.

To which I'd reply, "Yes I know that, but all you need to know is one person lives here.  You have the census info you need, take it to your employers."

"Just a few questions that will take 10 to 15 minutes."

"I'm sorry but I don't have 10 minutes (which was true since I was rushing to get ready and leave the house for a meeting), one person lives here."

A week or two later there was a "sorry we missed you" census slip in my door with a phone number to call to answer the questions.  I threw it away.

I was reminded of this today while reading a tax preparer bulletin board I frequent.

To my surprise and amazement, many posters were stating they were basically telling the census employees to take a hike.  Tax preparers as a group tend to claim they hold small govt views but are really large govt hacks.  Seeing a large number of them rebel against the census was pleasantly shocking.

A couple of interesting comments made in the thread regarding safety.  I don't think I need to make further commentary on the quotes:

1.  How do we know who these people are - except they are to have "badges" I am not passing out "personal info"
2.  they are anyone who applies for the job. No background check or criminal history check to my knowledge.

Of course a few people posted the "OMG take off the tinfoil hats this is just the census" type comments but those seem to be in the minority.  Maybe we're not doomed.

But then again maybe we are.  The following excerpts are a bit troubling:

"I asked her what I was legally obligated to answer other than 'two people and we're both American'. No answer to that and her reply was that if I did not supply her with the answers, the Census Bureau would ask three of my neighbors and get the answers from them. This questioning session ended badly at this point!"

"I asked the gal that showed up a simple question, which was what I was legally obligated to answer and she got in my face with the crack about getting the info from the neighbors. The crack about the neighbors threw me over. One of my 'three neighbors' was visited by her later that night."

"This year for an educational experience, I took the Census test and was offered a temp job as an enumerator. I have been going around my little town trying to complete questionnaires. I have yet to meet anyone that flat out refused to answer the questions. It is true that if you refuse to answer any of the questions, we are obligated to get the answers from a proxy such as a neighbor."


  1. It is both strange and obnoxious that after you made it clear that you would answer the head count and nothing else, they came back again.

    Luckily neighbors don't usually know our jobs or incomes (and in many places don't even know their neighbors' full names) so there is no information the neighbors can provide that you did not already tell the guy.

    No-one has come to my house yet, but if anyone knocks on the door I plan to just hide in a closet for a few minutes.

  2. After stating I didn't have 10 minutes as I was getting ready to leave, he made some sort of comment about coming back to do it another time.

    At the time I had about 40 minutes before I needed to leave & I knew I had at least 40 minutes worth of stuff to do before leaving. I was concerned about my time limits and wasn't concentrating on how to properly handle a census worker, otherwise I may have told him not to bother.

    Folk singer Kate McDonnell has a song called Mercy. The lyrics to the second verse were the first thing I thought of when I read the posts that the census workers would get info from our neighbors:

    Jesus caught the souls of men and he loved them, every one
    He said to love our neighbor and mercy would be done
    How can I love the guy next door, I don't even know his name
    Jesus loved the whole wide world and said go do the same.

    (I know next to nothing about Kate McDonnell, though I doubt she holds a Xn world view. Many folk singers use a lot of biblical imagery and religious references even if they're agnostic. The song is included on a 2005 release and is actually a anti-war, anti-Bush song.)