2010 Census: Now the enumerators are coming


By now, you all have filled out your census forms and turned them in, right? Right? (If you haven’t – shame on you – turn it in right this minute!) For those of you who said no, you are not the only ones, which is why, on May 1, census workers (enumerators) hit the streets, knocking on doors making sure that each and every person fills out their form. The non-response follow-up team undergoes training to be “positively persuasive,” according to Bill Davnie, Minneapolis local Census Office manager.

How will you know if the person knocking on your door is a census worker and not a burglar or salesperson? For one thing, they’ll present an ID badge that contains a Department of Commerce watermark. They may also be carrying a bag with a Census Bureau logo. If you are still not sure, you can ask the person to provide you with their supervisor contact information, according to Census Bureau press materials. Note: if the census worker asks you questions that are not on the census form, such as your social security number, bank account number, or credit card number, then you should probably call the police.

If a person doesn’t answer the door, the census worker will leave a double-sided Notice of Visit card in English and Spanish on the door with the census worker’s telephone number. The census worker will visit a given non-response residence three times and phone three times.

Some challenges the follow-up workers face are finding the home, and getting there when the occupants are home. “Many of these people are busy working multiple jobs,” Bill Davnie said. Also, usually there is a reason the person didn’t fill out their census form in the first place. They are worried about tax liabilities, or immigration issues, or the landlord finding out about how many people live in the building. Plus, noted Davnie, “Very many people don’t like someone knocking on their door.” The census workers, as a precaution, are instructed never to enter a person’s home, and are told to leave if they suspect they are not safe. They will then return with a partner or supervisor, Davnie said.

Of course, hiring a follow-up team is a lot more expensive than getting people to mail their forms in. The cost of the envelope that respondents use to mail back to the census is 42 cents. By contrast, it costs $57 per person to send a census taker door-to-door to collect the same information, according to the Census Bureau

Pay for Minneapolis enumerators starts at $16.50 an hour, and pay for St. Paul workers starts at $17 an hour.  Around 5,000 enumerators were sent out statewide, according to State Demographer Barbara Ronningen, with about 1150 in Minneapolis, according to Bill Davnie.

The percentage of Minneapolitans who turned in their survey is much higher this year than it was 10 years ago: 76% as opposed to 68% as of April 27. According to a Census Bureau press release, Minneapolis ranks highly, along with Omaha in response rates in cities with over 300,000 people. (If you want to track Minneapolis’s participation by neighborhood: check out this map.)

St. Paul’s percentage of survey returns is slightly higher than it was 10 years ago, at 77% (it was 75% for the last census). Minnesota fared better than the national average: statewide, 80% of people turned in their mail-in survey, in contrast to 72% for the whole country, which is about where the state and nation were at for the last census.