Headaches At The Census Bureau: Wireless Devices Scrapped For Old Fashioned Pen and Paper

A scrapped plan to incorporate the use of wireless handheld devices in recording the 2010 U.S. Census has many politicians and independent demographers worried about the accuracy of the upcoming census, according to a recent Washington Post article. The handheld devices, which in the original Census Bureau budget had been projected to be used in recording data for follow-up visits to households that had failed to return mail-in questionnaires, suffered from technical problems that forced the Bureau to revert back to the old-fashioned method of collecting the data: pen and paper.

The decision to conduct the surveys without the use of the new electronic devices may have far-reaching implications. The change, which was made official in April, will not only put pressure on the agency to have the census completed by the December 31, 2010 deadline, but will also put the U.S. Census $2 to 3 billion over budget, as using the electronic devices would have been considerably less expensive and much more efficient than using pen and paper to record the data.

Even more troubling than the budgetary problems associated with the recent changes is the potential for under-representing low-income and minority groups in the census. “Minorities, immigrants and poor people are more likely to lack fixed addresses and to find census forms confusing or suspicious and therefore are less likely to return them by mail….Following up with home visits is crucial to ensuring that they are tallied,” according to the Washington Post.

Fairly representing these groups is one of the most important tasks of the U.S. Census Bureau. The official census data are used to determine the number of congressional representatives each state is allotted, to establish the boundaries of congressional districts and to help form policy at both the federal and state levels. Undercounting these segments of the population in the U.S. Census could potentially disenfranchise those who are often most in need of fair representation.


Subscribe to NuWire's free weekly investment newsletter:
Your information will not be shared


Post a Comment


© 2012 NuWire Investor and NuWire, Inc. All Rights Reserved.