Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Census will offer Internet access for some surveys

On Tuesday, December 18, 2012, the Huffington Post reported that the US Census Bureau is moving toward offering an Internet option for future census surveys.

The specific survey in the story is the American Community Survey, which affects federal funding of some programs. This survey is done every year.  I was employed by the Current Population Survey (CPS) for about eight months in 2011.

I had gotten the job as a result of working the diennial survey in 2010.  Surveys like CPS and ACS are done on randomly selected addresses that are revisited or followed up for a period of time by survey employees. There are also health care surveys used by the CDC.
The CPS is used by the Bureau of Labor Statistics to generate unemployment statistics.  There is an elaborate software technology, based on statistics, to manage the sampling and classification of addresses. 

I started the job right after my mother died at the end of 2010, and immersion into the job was a bit of cold splash dive.  We did carry laptops and had elaborate software.  We had a week of paid training in Charlotte, NC  (I believe that the regional office has moved to Philadelphia); three weeks after Mother’s death, I was “on the road” in a new life. 

But some respondents (only a small percentage) resisted being contacted by personal visit and phone.  A few suggested that they would be much more cooperative with Internet options.  Of course, by oath,I cannot identify or disclose any information about any specific respondent or address. (Census cannot even share any personal information with other agencies, like law enforcement.)  I did stop after eight months (at the end of August 2011) partly because I was not as convinced about their “need”, partly because of discomfort in having to contact reluctant respondents, and partly t move on to other things.

It’s not clear how soon Internet could affect the CPS or diennial.  It would seem that use of Internet response would reduce the need for as many hourly part-time employees.  However, some employees worked several surveys (which take place during set weeks of the month) and effectively worked full time, and people could advance into supervisory positions.

As I've noted with telemarketing, the public is continuing to resist the idea that it is OK for others to contact people door-to-door or by phone, a major cultural shift that affects employment.  
 The link for the Huffington story by Hope Yen is here.

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