Iowa State University researchers are working with the U.S. Census Bureau to help do a better job of counting Americans. I-S-U statistics professor Sarah Nusser says the Census begins with surveys that’re sent out to households across the country.
She says only about 60-percent of the surveys get returned, and with 125-million households, that leaves 50-million that don’t get returned. Nusser says the Census Bureau starts by updating its address listings.
She says at I-S-U they’re helping the bureau use technology in updating those address lists. She says with the advent of handheld computers and digital map information, the Census Bureau wants to use handheld mobile computers for the address listings and the follow up activities. Nusser says part of the work involves accurately creating a database for those mobile computers.
Nusser says when they update the address list in new neighborhoods they try to collect G-P-S listings for those homes and they also try to collect the G-P-S coordinates during the follow up to unreturned surveys. Nusser says new subdivisions create a lot of work, as do older homes that’re split into several apartments, creating new addresses. She says the rural listings are also not as good as the city listings as it’s taking time for rural areas to move into standardized address systems.
Nusser says one of the biggest problems is the Census Bureau hires 500-thousand temporary workers every ten years to do the counting. She says those worker’s abilities to read computers and read maps varies widely. Nusser says they’re trying to develop a way to read the maps and information that takes into account the different levels of ability of the census workers. I-S-U researchers are using a 280-thousand dollar grant over the next three years to help the Census Bureau prepare for the next count in 2010.