My first job with the census was in the Spring and Summer of 2009.
I saw an ad in the paper stating that the US Census was in need of more than 700 people in our area. Well, that was a no-brainer for me.
I called, got the info, and appeared for the test.
The test, which was fairly standard for all of the operations of the cnesus, was basically to see if I could read, follow directions, compute simple math, and make distinctions. I passed and was called for an interview a few weeks later.
The phone interview was simple and to the point: do you want to work? are you available? will you work weekends? are you available for training at the (specified) time?
I showed up for training with at least 20 other people. I was selected as a Crew Leader Assistant for the operation known as Address Update.
Due to the many changes as a result of the 911-emergency phone system, it was necessary that the Census Bureau have current addresses for the population.
I won’t go into the details of how it all worked, but the design of the operation was apparently efficient. We were given specified areas to work, and we were to secure the correct address for each and every house in that area.
Our areas were assigned to us via a hand-held computer (HHC). That assignment included a map of the area and all of the addresses that were available from the previous census. It also included addresses that were sent to the Bureau from County and Post Office files. Those little computers were reputed to cost more than $3,000 (yes–three thousand dollars) each. They made our work and our communications with our supervisors easy to handle in a timely manner. (I’m not sure how many thousands of employees were using these across the country.)
It was our job to identify Housing Units (HU) and to map them on our HHC. (more on that later) We were to locate HU’s, enter the correct address for the HU, and delete any duplicate information that may have shown up in the system.
For instance, on my list of addresses in an area I might have something like this: (2) Green house w/black shutters and detached garage; (14) 1547 Toggle Lane. When I found my way to 1547 Toggle Lane, and saw a green house w/black shutters and a detached garage, then I knew I had a duplicate. I would go back into my list, find the description that matched, and mark (2) as a duplicate to be deleted.
All well and good. A marvelous system–or so I thought. The information that I collected and entered into the computer was “dumped” into the main computers that were setting up for the actual census. During the census, which began April of 2010, I had forms in which the address label was–you guessed it–Green house w/black shutters and detached garage!!
Why did I do what I did? Why did the government spend all that money? I was paid $11.50/hour plus $.55/mile for that Spring/Summer job. And this was the result of my labors? I’m a producer. I want to see results of my labor. I’ve never been one who needed to back up to the pay window for shame of what I had accomplished.
Somebody dropped the ball somewhere.