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David Kraiker

Know Your role in the Count
The Census Bureau
Gears Up for 2010


By David Kraiker
& Noemi Mendez

People with hands in the air
By making sure the census takers have a correct address list for your municipality,
you’ll ensure a proper count of your citizens

Believe it or not, the Census Bureau has already begun to gear up for its 2010 Census. Many municipal officials are unaware of the complexities of maintaining and preparing a database for the mail-out of Census questionnaires and the follow-up operations that ensue. In the spring of 2007, the Census Bureau began a series of promotional lectures for municipal governments in which it outlined its Local Update of Census Addresses (LUCA) program. If municipalities choose to participate in the program, they may review and make corrections to the addresses in the Bureau’s address database.

Why review addresses for the census? In essence, the Census Bureau conducts two different censuses:
(1) Firstly, it counts housing units (houses, apartments, trailers, etc.) and assigns them to a physical location in its database. The housing-unit count is based on a municipality’s LUCA participation effort and the verification of those addresses by the Census Bureau’s address-listers/canvassers.

(2) Secondly, those addresses are then used in the more publicized operation—the mail out or hand delivery of Census questionnaires (known as enumeration). A “no response” from a dwelling means that a census-taker (enumerator) will visit that address.

A municipality might sometimes believe it can challenge a population count after a Census is conducted. But, what it doesn’t realize is that after a decennial enumeration is completed there are very few employees remaining in the Bureau’s field offices. Re-taking a comprehensive census is not feasible. The best way municipal policy-makers can affect the head-count for their jurisdiction is to do it up front by participating in LUCA, analyzing the count and placement of housing units and using the appeal mechanism that exists for that program.

In late summer of 2007, municipalities received invitation letters from the Census Bureau to participate in LUCA. When a municipality signs up, it will have 120 calendar days to review the Census Bureau’s address list information, and return the corrections and updates. The Census Bureau will begin conducting canvass operations in fall 2008, and then give feedback to municipalities as to their findings. Municipalities will then be able to appeal any discrepancies (depending on the option that they choose).

There are 3 different LUCA options available to municipalities, and two of the options require governments to sign a Title 13 confidentiality agreement in order to participate. That agreement is one of the Census Bureau’s guiding caveats: it shares no information with other federal, state or local governments in which respondent data can be identified. This includes specific housing unit information. The Census Bureau expects municipalities who sign up for the LUCA program to abide by its security and confidentiality guidelines.

LUCA Options Option 1 is known as the Full Address List Review (Title 13), and allows governments to receive the Census Bureau’s address list for their community. In LUCA Option 1, a municipality may actually make changes, deletions and additions to the Census Address List. Corrections may also be made to Bureau maps or geographic files.

Under Option 2, known as Address List Submission (Title 13), governments may receive and look over the address list, but may not make any direct corrections to it. Instead, a government may submit its own address list—no matter how comprehensive or minimal—with proper Census geocodes (i.e. tract & block numbers) to the Census Bureau.

Under Option 3, Local Address List Submission (non-Title 13), participants do not have to sign a confidentiality agreement, but they will not receive an address list to look through. Instead, they receive a map of their community, and an address count list (by census block), and they may make a submission of their own address list (with geocodes) to be used by the Census Bureau. This option has less flexibility than either option 1 or 2. It is however, a way of allowing municipal governments who cannot sign the confidentiality agreement to still participate.

Participants can choose the format in which they may receive their LUCA information. LUCA Option 1 is available as a paper address list (for municipalities with less than 6000 housing addresses), a computer-readable (i.e. ASCII files which can be converted into Excel or Access), or the MAF-TIGER Partnership Software—a nifty mapping software package that the Census Bureau will lend to governments for the duration of LUCA. Options 2 and 3 are only available in the computer-readable format or the MAF TIGER Partnership Software.

The Census Bureau will be making a circuit throughout New Jersey during the fall of 2007 and to offer half- or full-day workshops to promote and offer guidance with LUCA submissions. Involvement in the program is contingent on several key dates. November 19, 2007 is the last date a municipal government will have to sign up and be guaranteed 120 calendar review days. December 31, 2007 will be the last date a government may sign up at all for LUCA (although they will not have the full 120 day review period). April 4, 2008 will be the due date for any submitted LUCA materials with a guarantee of processing by the Census Bureau.

Making LUCA Easier While it might seem like an unwieldy undertaking to put together an address list for LUCA, Census geographers like to remind people that they do not necessarily have to submit a full address list. They may submit an address list of newly constructed homes, areas of reconstruction, or other combinations. For New Jerseyans this is an important and salient point—because while many new homes are indeed being constructed, many properties are also being demolished and then reconstructed. Often the reconstruction uses the old address, but the dwellings might be subdivided differently than they previously had been.

Signage Additionally, we like to remind New Jerseyans to pay attention to addresses near municipal boundaries when working on the LUCA program. New Jersey is carpeted wall to wall with municipalities—and often there is little signage displayed for Census canvassers or enumerators to indicate in which jurisdiction they are located—sometimes the householders and apartment dwellers do not even know themselves! Municipal governments often display no official sign at the point where someone is crossing from one town to another—instead other clues have to be sought out. By making this clear up front in the address list that is corrected during LUCA, canvassers and enumerators can spend less time trying to determine correct house numbers, street names and boundaries and get down to the real business of counting housing units and people.

If you have any questions, please contact the Census Bureau Regional Office at 1-866-511-LUCA(5822)or new.york.geography@census.gov or Philadelphia.geography@census.gov.

David Kraiker is Geographic Coordinator at the New York Regional Office.

Noemi Mendez is Geographer at the Philadelphia Regional Office.

 

 

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