Costs of the Census; Some Good News

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Written by: Director Robert Groves

There have been many reasonable critiques of the costs of the decennial census. At many public events I have shared my own judgment that we must reduce the costs of the next census. While the spending that occurred before 2009 had a variety of complicated causes, I am rather proud of what the collective Census Bureau staff has accomplished on cost controls since I arrived in July 2009.

Today, we announced that we will return to the Treasury not less than $1.6 billion of our budgeted funds for 2010. That’s about 22% of the total amount Congress gave us to do the job this year. While we’re not finished with the operations of the 2010 Census, we’re confident we can finish up a professional job without calling on that $1.6 billion.

How did this happen?

A big part of the 2010 Census advertising campaign delivered the message that completing and mailing back the form saved us taxpayers large amounts of money. The American people really came through, exceeding our estimates on the mail return of questionnaires. This made the costs of the Nonresponse Followup phase much lower than we were prepared to spend.

In addition, the temporary census workers we hired, in this time of high unemployment rates, were just spectacular. They put in the hours; they worked more efficiently than we were expected; they made our field processes go smoothly.

To be fair, about $800 million of the savings was due to good fortune. That’s how much we set aside for contingencies such as hurricanes, floods, earthquakes, or a massive H1N1 flu pandemic. Each of these events might have made it more difficult to hire folks, or to gain cooperation of the public. Those things and other bad events did not happen, so we never had to tap our contingency funds.

We also saved hundreds of millions due to good management practices by the career-staff leaders of the 2010 Census. We had a net savings of $150 million from our other operations, such as the enumeration of Group Quarters and special count of American Indian Reservations, which all came in under budget.

One of the burdens I felt most deeply over the past year was trying to be a wise steward of the taxpayers’ money, in this time of fiscal suffering across the nation. My colleagues at the Census Bureau did a superb job at achieving these cost efficiencies. We should all salute the nearly 1 million people who served their country in such an efficient manner.

Please submit any questions pertaining to this post to ask.census.gov

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20 Responses to Costs of the Census; Some Good News

  1. New York State LCO Enumerator says:

    Since the bailed out former private corporations like AIG & BOA paid out millions of bonus funds how about some for the staff at the Census Bureau………and those bailed out could also include US goverment corporations… Freddie & Fannie that continue to pay millions in bonus monies.
    Listen, I am pleased that I got the job with the US Census Bureau and felt like I did in the military that I was serving my country. Thanks for the opportunity to serve and get a pay check! The work was very hard at times and a real grind in the summer heat. I always had a great feeling when I found people in previous marked status as Delete or Vacant……..or finding a property that had people with no EQ or Map Spot.
    I had over 6 CL’s over the past few months and they were all fine and dedicated people that served our country well. My fellow enumerators were also very professional and hard working. I look forward to working the 2020 Census if called!!

  2. Grass -root Ex- Census -Worker says:

    With due respect,I would like to congratulate CENSUS BUREAU to have carried out this Herculean task to have the operations in cost effective manner without compomising quality i.e. complete count.
    However I would like to thank our Honorable President who gave an opportunity to hire a few additional employees under stimulus package- Recovery act . I strongly feel that about 400 employees have been responsible to have direct or indirect contact with the community leaders to send the message accross.
    As we agree that the essence of CENSUS is distribution of members of House of Representatives based on population of states . However in view of message sent accross about the importance of CENSUS in terms of Roads, schools, Healthcare Centers to name a few,The communities as I understand have shown keen interest in the disbursement process and I am sure that leaders shall leave no stone unturned in the interest of their communities in due course of time.
    As you may agree that question ( 9) of questioneaire based on Race and ethancity has been as per my understanding has raised concerns among communities leaders as without getting myself into debate as I feel want themselves to be identified respective RACE ETC which I feel that shall be addressed in future.
    Communites Leaders have shown keen interest and involvement in the growth of our great Nation.
    Meanwhile I would like to thank all my dedicated and commited superiors for giving an oportunity to serve and contribute to my best capacity to the success of CENSUS 2010.
    Submitted respectfully,

  3. Field Representative says:

    It is good that the Bureau manages to save money, but what about the workers that are out in the field after the 2010 Census is over? What about the workers that work year round with quotas to meet on a monthly basis? They do not see a penny of that budget, as a matter of fact, the supervisors in the Regional Office deal in nepotism when it comes to paying the workers or assigning more work to their chosen individuals. These workers are considered part-time with no representation of any kind. No union because they are beneath the supervisors. They hire and then they immediately dismiss or cause a person to quit because of their tactics. And presently the New York Regional Office is the biggest culprit.

  4. Energy News says:

    Really a good news.

  5. Now or neighbor! says:

    The present operation that goes back with EQ in hand that is calling on those people who sent back the form but with little or minimum information. These are a challenge because 80% of them are people who hate, distrust or dispise the goverment!
    Glen Beck would be proud of these people but if your working for the US Census they are a real pain. It doesn’t matter how nice you are to them they will still not give you anything but a head count. They don’t seem to realize how easy it is for us to get name, rank & serial number when we want to. Yes, it requires a little work but then again thats what we are getting paid for. Yes, they will be counted!!!
    Bring it on!

  6. Ready for a real job says:

    I just quit because of excessive spending by my FOS: he took a courier’s place for NRFU-RES and made two trips that were very unnecessary. Check the D-308′s more carefully, folks, and you’ll find a lot of pork belly in some corners.
    However, I worked in another district and cannot find warm enough words to describe my CLO and assistant crew leader: we worked together to avoid unneeded milage.

  7. Field Enumerator... says:

    Well we just found out the NRFU RES operation was going to wrap-up tomooorw for our LCO. I had 24 EQ’s assigned last Thursday and as of today 23 are completed, the last one might take a late night visit, unable to get any neighbor’s to be a proxy, they don’t know much about the HU, just to say “yes someone lives there, but they don’t know anything else!!!”. It’s been great working for the 2010 Census….

  8. Dex Panthenol says:

    I’m happy that we saved Uncle some big bucks by doing such an efficient job.
    Here’s a wacky thought: Take 5 or 6 percent of those savings and give each of us 1 million Census employees a hundred bucks as a goodbye thank-you bonus.
    Along with a hearty handshake, of course.

  9. Field Enumerator... says:

    Well as of today the NRFU RES operation has closed down, not sure if the LCO will be having anymore operations… will wait and see if I get any calls. It’s been good working for the Census last year and this year for six operation’s. Thanks…

  10. Donald says:

    Mr. Groves, the cost of the 2010 Census has been more than just the money; it’s also been the cost it’s taken on your dwindling army of temporary part-time enumerators. It’s a tough job working out in the field as we go door to door with pencil and paper in hand, without a clue of what awaits us behind the next door. This hot stifling summer hasn’t made our job any easier. And now during the latest task; NRFU-RES, this latest task has truly been a challenge…because it involved revisiting housing units that too often have previously been enumerated more than once before. Re-interviewing a household member who had already responded to the original census, then who’d already been visited during the original NRFU, followed by another visit during NRFU-VDC, and now during NRFU-RES…and at least one phone call from the LCO to verify that one of your enumerators got the information right? Least we not forget all the re-visits to the proxy’s all around. Yet it was the negative reaction I was receiving during those revisits from too many household members and proxy respondents that made the job even more challenging than I ever imagined it would be. “Public Census Fatigue,” I named it. What made the work so challenging and more than a little frustrating; no one prepared us for what we were about to do nor why we were doing it. We had little if any clue we were revisiting housing units that had already been enumerated more than once before. Call it what you want; quality assurance, getting it right, or merely trying to assure yourself that the enumerator before me didn’t miss something….or do it wrong? This latest task truly took my job to the next level, and I’m just relieved and happy this task is finally over, because we came too close to what I could best describe as “pestering” the public during this latest task. Constantly apologizing for the work I was require to do didn’t always make a lot of sense, all the while apologizing in hope I could conduct a successful interview. Unfortunately it didn’t work every time. Nonetheless, I’m still standing tall, so thank you for my latest work opportunity, and when I’m offered work in the next task, I’ll continue to try convince myself there’s some sense in what I’m still doing. Thank you!

  11. Pilose says:

    Donald hit it on the head with one exception: He notes that we came “close to pestering”. Judging by the respondents’ reactions I’d say we were edging into harassment territory.
    Enumerators weren’t prepared by management with any new approach to our presentations to satisfactorily (and quickly) explain WHY we were there. Nor was the public softened up by the Bureau to receive us with open arms. (Or, at least, unarmed.)
    Maybe next time.

  12. Concerned Citizen says:

    Wow, I just read post on the http://www.mytwocensus.com blog
    “office clerk Says:
    August 20th, 2010 at 11:24 am
    LCO 2622 TOPEKA, KS: Missing, misplaced, shredded completed EQs. Completed binders missing.”
    Sounds like this LCO has some problems!!!!

  13. Field Enumerator... says:

    Now that NRFU RES operation is over, has anyone heard if another operation might be coming up?

  14. Arjun says:

    Its a great news that so much funds have been saved thanks to you all who worked brilliantly. Thanks for sharing this news and best of luck to all of you.

  15. Luu McFarland says:

    Hey, with all that money left over …. how about a bonus for all us hard workers?

  16. Luu McFarland says:

    Hey, with all that money left over …. how about a bonus for all us hard workers?

  17. Luu McFarland says:

    Hey, with all that money left over …. how about a bonus for all us hard workers?

  18. Field Enumerator.... says:

    I think a small bonus check to all the enumerator’s would be nice, and base it on the numbers of operations the enumerator was involved in. Thanks in advance Mr Groves…

  19. S Beveridge says:

    I can tell you where some of this savings came from…
    In the Chicago Region, our Regional Director and his staff have neglected to pay the field staff for travel, mileage, overtime, and unused leave. I assure you that my case is one of many.
    I have personally submitted requests for over a YEAR and still haven’t gotten paid for mandatory training in 2009, mileage in April, 4 hours of work, and my unused leave. They know the claims are legitimate and have never denied them, they just won’t respond.
    I am all for saving money, but refusing to pay people who have worked diligently and are submitting legitimate claims, is inexcusable. This is my final stop before I turn to my congressman or EEO. Can you help make this right?

  20. Just Curious says:

    The total operational cost of Census 2000 was about $4.5 billion. GAO estimated Census 2010 would come in around $14.5 billion (or, about $11.4 billion after adjusting for inflation).
    How did this census cost the taxpayers 2.5 times more?
    This is particularly baffling when you consider the American Community Survey replaced the need to process and release sample data.

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