In-Language Postcard Assistance

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Written by: Director Robert Groves

Last week, for the first time ever in census history, we sent a special postcard to a targeted set of areas. The areas consisted of those where our sample survey data and data from Census 2000 suggested that 10 percent or more of the households consisted of people who didn’t speak English at home. It’s part of a long-term effort to customize our procedures to different populations.

The postcard contained toll-free numbers that they could dial (for Chinese, Korean, Russian, Spanish, Vietnamese, as well as English) to get questionnaire assistance, to obtain a questionnaire in their language or any other in-language assistance. Operators speaking their language will answer their calls and help them participate in the Census.

We received one at our home, because it sits in a census tract (an area of about 4,000 people) that has a large Chinese population.

It’s great to see the individual design features of the Census actually happen!

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13 Responses to In-Language Postcard Assistance

  1. Claudia Hoxsie says:

    Dr. Groves,
    I understand the need for the census. However, with this country in such financial turmoil,I would like an explantion as to why it was neccessary to spend extra money that we do not have to send a mailing telling the American people…We will be sending the cecnsus, mailing the actual census and then today receving a post card telling me I should have received the census. On top of all the televison,newspaper,internet press telling everyone we are doing the 2010 census. I feel it is just another case of wasted money sending out to additional unneccessary mailings.

  2. Dlacey says:

    With a country that has been so keen to reduce pollution and cut back on spending I am surprised that there has not been a proposal to make the census electronic. It would be much more efficient and timely than having the census counted by hand. Think of the hundreds of thousands of dollars that would be saved by not having to pay people to count, the money it cost to send out all the paper, and the cost of the paper itself. Not to mention the environmental impact; we could reduce waste and save trees. I just find it a little hypocritical of our government when we are trying to pass a bill such as cap and trade and yet we are using thousands of tons of paper to count the number of people there are.
    The benefits of switching to an electronic device are numerous. One advantage is mentioned above, the saving of money and resources. Another benefit is that we could avoid what this article talks about. If the census is on a computer then the computer would have the capabilities of translating the text into different languages. This would again save resources by not sending these postcards, but it would also save money and time by not having to figure out which destinations are the best for sending these translation cards. A third advantage is that the results would be instantaneous.
    I have two proposals on how to do this efficiently. The first is to have the process set up like an election and have different precincts where people report and have them put their information into an electronic polling booth. To make sure there is participation the government should maintain the current fines in place, or maybe increase the amount of the fine. Also, make the day that the census takes place a national holiday, so that work is not an issue. The second proposal would be more difficult to monitor, but it would be to do the census online which would be quicker though it is very difficult to track and enforce participation.
    It is my feeling that there has got to be a better way to handle the census and how it is carried out. There must be a system that can be more effective in terms of cutting back resources used, money spent, and time spent counting the results.

  3. Claudia,
    We have extensive research that shows additional mailings alerting households to the arrival of the census form increase response rates by about 6 to 12 percentage points. The savings from that increase more than pay for these mailings. It costs about $85 million to print and mail the advance letter and reminder postcard. The potential increase in response rates demonstrated by our research could result in a savings of more than $500 million.

  4. Toby says:

    Director Groves,
    I understand The Bureau’s reasoning for targeted mailings in languages to address demographics, but I find bi-lingual publications offensive. My great-grandparents and grandparents came to this country as non-English speakers. However, they made an effort to learn the language and comply not only with submission of their Census forms, but other government publications that were in English only. I find the current policy of political correctness by pandering to various affinity groups outrageous, insulting, and a wasteful use of our tax dollars. My Census Form arrived in English and Spanish, but looking around my neighborhood, Hindi and/or Farsi would have made more sense. Please return to English only publications.

  5. Pam says:

    I’m supposed to accept your explanation based on “extensive research.” Please, I would say there is something wrong with your research, and by the way, how much did that cost? I received the post card today and let me say I have not run across many non English speaking individuals where I live. I agree with Claudia regarding this being an example of wasted money. What is the “targeted area” your “research” is referring to in my area. Your explanation doesn’t make any sense as at the top of this page it states this is the first time a follow up postcard has been sent to the “targeted areas.” Was this “extensive research” able determine what an individuals actions would be regarding returning the census prior to that even happening? Targeting is the key word here, as it feels like the government is using profiling. If that is the case, I don’t believe you received accurate information from this so called research. Are you going to give another vauge simplified answer and chalk it up to research to justify spending government money on these pre and post mailings?

  6. Toby,
    The Census Bureau has learned that it is more cost effective to provide materials in language as it helps us get a complete and accurate count of the nation’s diverse and growing population.
    Our research has shown that providing information in other languages, such as through bilingual forms, paid advertising or information on our Web site, increases understanding of the importance of the Census to specific populations. For example, our testing over the last decade showed that the bilingual form allows us to save taxpayer money and improve the response rate. In all instances, against all English-only forms, the bilingual questionnaire had superior mail-back response rates. This increase in mail response will allow the Census Bureau to avoid the much larger salary costs of staff to follow up with those who do not mail back the form.

  7. Be realistic says:

    Truthfully, you’re right. The Census Bureau probably didn’t do its own research on mail response rates. They didn’t need to. Research institutions across the country use mailed surveys. There is a ton of research out there to support that warning notices and reminders increase response rates tremendously. You should thank them for being vague and not doing a completely separate study, and quit splitting hairs. You want to talk dollars? How about 6-12 percentage point increases in returns, or $510 mil – $1.02 bil for spending possible $3-4 mil?

  8. Katherine Willett says:

    Can anyone tell me why Question #5 was even necessary?
    ___No, Is this person Hispanic, Latino, or Spanish origin
    ___Yes, Mexican, Mexican Am., Chicano
    ___Yes, Puerto Rican
    ___Yes, Cuban
    ___Yes, another Hispanic, Lation, or Spanish origin–Print origin, for
    example, Argentinean, Colombian, Dominican,Nicaraguan, Salvadoran,
    Spaniard, and so on

  9. cperdicaro says:

    I am so glad I am not alone in my feelings about the waste of money spent on this census. First a letter telling us its coming, then a post card, then the census itself, then another post card….STOP WASTING MY MONEY! I filled the form out the first day…why am I getting this post card reminding about the form!
    I too am offended by all the languages in the census…this is the USA and people need to learn to read and write in English. Also, this form was pretty simple…even with very limited English you could complete it. But apparently the comments/opinions here don’t matter as I’m sure nothing will come of these comments of disgust.

  10. Cperdicaro,
    We have extensive research that shows additional mailings alerting households to the arrival of the census form increase response rates by about 6 to 12 percentage points. The savings from that increase more than pay for these mailings. It costs about $85 million to print and mail the advance letter and reminder postcard. The potential increase in response rates demonstrated by our research could result in a savings of more than $500 million.

  11. l. Jansonius says:

    What a waste of taxpayer money. It cost $15.99 per person in 2000 to be counted and $48.57 in 2010. Over 3 time more than it did in 10 years ago. The problem is its a freebie for bureaucrats to speed someone else’s money without stopping to ask if its necessary. And it they do ask if its necessary they fall back on some research that is irrelevant. What does the research say about sending all the money on the TV ads, maybe another 6 to 12 percent.

  12. guz says:

    It took a lot of the tax payers money to waist on this, and information the government already knows about each and every one of us. i think it is a Obahmmanation that this is being done. This is another form of no privacy. What good will it do, and if the US population thinks this will help us the government must think we have no brains at all.

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