Conducting the 2020 Census During A Pandemic | New Hampshire Public Radio

Conducting the 2020 Census During A Pandemic

Jun 10, 2020

Credit Sara Plourde, NHPR

We discuss the 2020 census, with all its implications for political districts, federal funding, and community services. Even with the coronavirus pandemic, the census is still taking place, although some information will be gathered differently this year. We chat about how the census will be conducted and its impact on our nation. 

Air date: Thursday, June 11, 2020. 

GUESTS:

Resources

To fill out the census online, visit 2020census.gov and click on "Respond." You can also call 844-330-2020. 

Transcript

This is a computer generated transcript and may contain errors. 

Laura Knoy:
From New Hampshire Public Radio, I'm Laura Knoy, and this is The Exchange. The 2020 census never stopped during the pandemic related shutdowns this spring, but without workers on the ground and in local offices, the Census Bureau did have to find alternative ways to carry out its mission to count every person living within our borders. Now, though, the bureau's New Hampshire office has opened up again. Although due to health and safety concerns, it'll gather information differently than before. At the same time, Granite State civic groups have stepped up their efforts to convince the people they work with how crucial it is to respond to the census. And that's especially the case in low income, rural and minority communities, which are typically undercounted. Today, on The Exchange, the census continues. Our guests are Ken Johnson, professor of sociology and senior demographer at the Carsey School of Public Policy at UNH. Also, Ken Gallager, principal planner and coordinator for the State Data Center and chair of the state's Complete Count Committee, which gets information out about the census encouraging people to participate. Also with us, Jeff Behler, regional director of the U.S. Census Bureau. Welcome, all of you. And Ken Johnson, let's start with you. So here we are in a pandemic at a time of heightened attention on racial inequality in America, both in terms of criminal justice and in public health, with the coronavirus pandemic, how does the census fit into all of this, Ken?

Ken Johnson:
Well, the census is the backbone for all statistical and demographic analysis in the country. And I mean, it also measures representativeness of the population. With reference to the coronavirus in particular, I'm doing quite a bit of research, as are other demographers, and I need the detailed age data, which is part of the census, so that I can estimate mortality risks in different parts of the country. If you're talking about racial related issues, the first question is how big are the populations, different sub populations in the United States? How are they distributed? And if we're asking about inequality, we need to know how many people in different age, race, sex, educational groups they are and how they're distributed. So all of those things are dealt with by the census. It's also the backbone for all other statistical series that's done either by the Census Bureau or the government agencies or the political polls. All of them need the census data to be accurate so that they can make sure that their samples are representative of the population. So it has wide utility. It's also the basis for the distribution of almost 700 billion dollars a year in federal funds. So it has a lot of different importance aside from, of course, reapportioning the Congress and all the state legislatures.

Laura Knoy:
Well, that's an important point, Ken. And, you know, most people know that the census has to do with how many people are in the state legislature representing them and how many representatives they get in Congress. But you're right, at a time when people are focused on inequities in politics, in health, in public services. You're saying Ken Johnson, more important than ever to fill this thing out.

Ken Johnson:
Absolutely. I mean, if you want to know what the incarceration rate is for different groups within the population, you have to know how many people are in each of those groups so that you can determine incarceration rates, inequality, all of those things are driven by having high quality data, which is based in the census itself.

Laura Knoy:
Ken Gallager, what's the case that you typically make and that you are especially making right now as to why people should bother filling this thing out?

Ken Gallager:
Well, certainly what Ken Johnson said is very important. One of the main things that we, messages that we put forth is that we are counting everybody in the state. Sometimes people get a little bit hung up on, well, are you a resident here? What's a legal resident? That sort of thing. That's not what we need to know. We need to know actually who is physically here. So if you're here on a work visa, if you're here as a student, whatever the reason is, if you're living most of your time here in New Hampshire, then that's where the infrastructure decisions need to be made. Whether schools get built or where the roads get built, it depends on whether you physically live here in the state.

Well, this is really interesting to me as a longtime New Hampshire journalist, talk a little bit more Ken about the micro ways here in the Granite State that this data is used.

Ken Gallager:
Well, certainly. Well, like I said, I mentioned before, certainly things having to do with development, growth in the state, where the roads go, where the schools go, businesses use the information from the census all the time in terms of where to locate their stores or their factories, that sort of thing. Certain health care decisions are going to be made using population data. So that's the sort of thing we're talking about at the state level.

Laura Knoy:
That's interesting. So if you feel like there are no good grocery stores in my town or, you know, we don't have access to a community health center, those decisions are partly made on this very granular census data, Ken Gallager. And it matters to the quality of life in your city or town.

Ken Gallager:
That's right. Yeah. And unfortunately, sometimes you might see some some negative effects where perhaps you have to look at the data to see that some of the areas that are very smaller are getting underserved with various types of businesses. And again, you use the census data to basically counteract that, I would say.

Laura Knoy:
Well, Jeff Behler, you've got the big picture, as I said, regional director for the U.S. Census Bureau. So here's a big picture question for you Jeff, just to start off, please. Given all the anxieties, all the stresses on people right now, do Americans even have the bandwidth to think about this? Because life feels pretty overwhelming for a lot of people lately.

Jeff Behler:
Yeah. Good morning and thank you for the question. Absolutely, we understand that the census isn't a top priority for everyone, but this is an activity we do once every 10 years. And you heard why it's so important for the state of New Hampshire from both Ken and Ken and I'm completely onboard with exactly, you know, such important reasons. One of the great things about the 2020 census is we don't necessarily have to come and knock on your door right now. There's different modes that community members have, households have throughout the state to respond to the 2020 census. Right now, you can go online at 2020census.gov. Click on the respond button and go ahead and complete your information. Formatted for tablets and smartphones. We try to make it as easy as possible. You can call one of our toll free telephone numbers. The English number is 844-330-2020 and give your information over the phone to a Census Bureau employee. And then right now, we're in the process. We started this process back in March and unfortunately, we had to suspend it, of hand delivering packages to areas that are more remote. Maybe they only received their mail via a P.O. box mail delivery. In those areas, we typically hand deliver invitation packages, which include a paper questionnaire, and we're in the process of finishing that up. And the rest of the remainder of the households in New Hampshire should have already received their paper questionnaire in the mail. So you can fill that out, put it in the postage paid envelope and send that back in.

Laura Knoy:
Well, and you mentioned a couple of Web sites and a phone number, and I will definitely post those our Website after this show. So any information that the three of you want to give, you know, in terms of places where folks can go to find out more. We'll put those on our Website after the show. And again, that's NHPR.org/exchange. Jeff, since you're talking about this, what are some of the challenges that you faced this year, given that you kind of had to I don't want to say shut down, but you definitely had to shift once the pandemic hit.

Jeff Behler:
Yeah, probably one of the biggest operations, as I mentioned, update leave is an operation where we, again, primarily in those areas that only receive their mail via P.O. box because the census, we don't mail directly to PO boxes because PO boxes aren't necessarily tied to a physical address. So in those areas, again, we hand deliver the the invitation packages. We started that operation on March 15th. We had a stop at two days later due to COVID- 19. We know our partners. We have amazing partners. And Ken and Ken are two of them. Libraries who had planned activities to bring community members together to talk about the importance of the census and then to give them the resources they need to fill out that census right then and there, whether it was a church pastor, you know, talking about the census during a sermon and then during coffee hour, inviting Census Bureau staff there with tablets to help people fill out the census. Those are some of the things that have been put on hold. And we're hopeful that as restrictions are starting to ease and are lifted, we may be able to do some of those in, you know, somewhat smaller fashion. Definitely a reduced footprint. But just give the opportunity, because typically in areas where we consider the most hard to enumerate. One of the best ways to motivate people is by bringing them together in a trusted place with trusted voices that can really motivate them to respond to the census. And those were some of the things that we had to kind of push off. And in our operational schedule, we've shifted it as a result of COVID-19. We should have started knocking on doors May 13th of every household that has yet to respond to the 2020 census. And it just wouldn't have been safe to do that. So now we pushed that start date to August 11th. So we're working with all of our partners right now to try to get people to either go online, to call it in over the phone or to fill it out on paper and send it back so that we don't have to knock on your door come August 11th.

Laura Knoy:
Well, Ken Gallager, since Jeff is mentioning, you know, the important role of community groups, civic groups, churches, so forth. What role have these groups typically played and what role can they possibly play right now when most people still aren't gathering?

Ken Gallager:
Yeah, it's been definitely a setback that we haven't been able to have a lot of these group events. We had a system set up where we were going to fund some groups who were going to do outreach. And it could have been like events at community centers or a rally even or assistance centers, things like that. And we've had to basically put those all on hold. One way of course, then that we need to reach out is. Luckily, we have electronic ways, social media. Certainly, we've had to also be creative with that, though, because, again, some of the populations that we want to reach may not be as Internet connected as others. Maybe they instead simply use cell phones and texting. So we've had to be a little bit creative with that. We've had a project where one group has set up groups of people who are sending out texts, about 12000 texts a week at this point now to people on particular lists that they know in areas that we think are going to be undercounted or least low on self response.

Laura Knoy:
Ken Johnson, who typically is undercounted here in New Hampshire? This is a big issue.

Ken Johnson:
Now, that's a good question. And so typically groups that are more difficult to reach are members of minority populations, particularly in urban cores like Manchester. People in remote rural areas that don't have Internet access. And as Jeff was suggesting, may not have mail delivered to their address. College students are another challenging group to reach. Not so much because they may not be reached as they may be counted more than once. And we want to make sure they're only counted in one place one time. So there are a variety of different groups who face challenges. And one point I wanted to make about both what Jeff and Ken was saying about local trusted groups. I have a son who's a high school teacher in rural Illinois and his high school seniors were going to have a day where they were going to invite local people in with Census Bureau representatives being there to emphasize the importance of the census and also to give them opportunities because they live in areas where Internet service is not good, to use the school's Internet system to fill out their questionnaires. And of course, when the pandemic hit, all of that went away. But I mean, that's the kind of local enthusiasm and energy that can really help in enumerating populations in areas that are hard to reach.

Laura Knoy:
So, Ken Gallager, how do you get around that reality? I just it's so sad to hear about all these efforts that all these groups had planned. And, of course, those have all been canceled or put on hold. So. But at some point. OK, so we can't gather. What's the solution? Ken Gallager, what are you doing to sort of make up for that, recognizing that it's an enormous challenge.

Ken Gallager:
Yeah. Well, like I mentioned, the texting, I think has been a kind of important thing. We are still talking with leaders of groups remotely, of course, on physical ways that people can get messages out. So guess what? We have printing presses. They exist.

Laura Knoy:
Wow.

Ken Gallager:
We can put flyers in. People are putting flyers in food distribution packages. There's actually we have located a stash like 500 some yard signs that the 2020 census had put up in turn when they were recruiting people to be working. We're getting those repurposed and we're gonna be setting those up specifically in the communities that we're most concerned about. And, you know, basically things like that that involve physical media are going to be important and also simply continuing to reach out remotely again. But to the leaders who we've identified us as people who can then share remotely the same information with their communities.

Laura Knoy:
Jeff Behler, I'd like your thoughts, too, on this. Sort of. All right. We can't do it the way we were hoping to do it. So how do we switch gears and try and reach as many people as possible, especially people that are sometimes suspicious of the census? I'm thinking of immigrant groups, for example, you know, who don't have that trusted person that they can go to and say, is this okay? So how do you get around that? Jeff?

Jeff Behler:
Yes. And that's really been a lot of the work we've been doing over the past couple years with our partnership program. We have just a wonderful team of partnership specialists that have been working with both Ken and Ken and with all of our partners throughout the state of New Hampshire and kind of educating those local partners. They really are the the go tos right now. It's not necessarily they need to hear directly from someone from the census. They need to hear from that trusted voice, from their pastor, from that business owner. So we've been working, you know, sending materials, working to develop the messaging to really target that particular neighborhood or community. So, for example, here's a message that we have. How do we need to change it to really hit home with that particular community? Ken mentioned, you know, food distribution, we've created special fliers that we've been giving to partners who've been handing out food. We've provided bags to partners, census 2020 bags that they can use to package food and hand those out. You know, there's been competitions that one really cool thing that I just love, the town managers in Dover and Durham and Newmarket started a challenge and anyone can start a challenge at any time. But they started this prior to COVID-19 and they said by May 15th, whoever has the highest self response rate will have their dirtiest firetruck washed by the other two town managers, which I thought was really cool. And they used the data May 15th and Dover won, and they had beat their 2010 self response rates in Dover and Dover and Newmarket had rates above the state and national averages. And Durham had the highest self response rate in Strafford County. So it was just really cool. It's a way that, you know, a challenge is a way to energize people that, you know, we see communities doing now and then the social media any ways, whether it's texting, whether it's telethons where, you know, people are calling out just these partners are, you know, when it would have been easy for them to say, oh, you know what? We're just going to hit the pause button, we're going to wait. They are reengineering their efforts and they're doing some really cool things.

Laura Knoy:
So just to clarify, Jeff, as we talk about, you know, some of the concerns from immigrant groups around the census, there is no citizenship question on the census.

Jeff Behler:
That's correct. There is no citizenship question on the 2020 census. And in addition, it's important to note that there's a law out there that protects every piece of data that we collect. Title 13 basically only allows us to when we release our data, we release it at a higher geographic level, whether that's a census tract or a town or a county or a state. We can never release data at a person or household level. Local, state, federal, law enforcement can never access our data at any time for any reason, which means homeland security or ICE or IRS can never access our data at any time for any reason. And even the Patriot Act does not supersede Title 13. It's put in place in 1954 and it has never been breached in its existence. So people need to understand that the census, the data they provide to us is truly safe. And everyone who works on a census, whether you're a professional with the U.S. Census Bureau or whether you work on a four week operation for us, we all take an oath of confidentiality, basically stating if we release data about a person or household, we will go to jail for five years. We will be fined up to two hundred fifty thousand dollars. And that oath is for life, not just while we work for the census, but for the rest of our lives. We take data security and confidentiality seriously because we know it's the foundation of getting a complete and accurate count.

Laura Knoy:
How much did the debate over this last year Jeff affect the willingness of people from immigrant communities, legal or not, to fill out the form?

Jeff Behler:
Yeah. You know, I'm kind of a glass half full guy, so I'll say it brought out the census much earlier in the decade than it typically would have. So in 2018, people were talking about the census and the importance. And it just brought out our partners in force. And after the decision was made, that momentum kept going and people knew what the census was. I mean, there was a time when the census was leading the news and not in a year ending in zero. And that's shocking. But it was due to the citizenship debate. So it really brought the census to the forefront and helped us to educate people on what the census truly was, what it was about, the protections and why it's so important.

Laura Knoy:
I got a lot more questions for all of you after a break, including some specifics, like what questions are on the census? How do you deal with snowbirds here in New Hampshire and college students, as Ken Johnson mentioned earlier? So we'll talk about that after a short break. We'll be back in a moment.

Laura Knoy:
This is The Exchange. I'm Laura Knoy. Today, we're looking at how the 2020 census is taking place and why some say amid a time of anxiety and uncertainty in America, the census is more important than ever. With me for the hour. Ken Johnson, professor of sociology and senior demographer at the Carsey School of Public Policy at UNH. Also Ken Gallager, principal planner and coordinator for the State Data Center and chair of the state's complete count committee. Also with us, Jeff Behler. He is regional director of the U.S. Census Bureau. And let's go to Bill. He's calling in from Amherst. Gentlemen. Go ahead, Bill. You're on the air. Thanks for being with us.

Caller:
Hey Laura. Thanks for taking my call. So I'm actually working as part of the census effort. And I wanted just to shine a light on some of the other stuff that we're doing. I actually work through the New Hampshire Funder's forum. This is a consortium of all the funders nonprofit support in the state that is really critical. The funders fourm really was concerned about the level of kind of disinformation and lack of information that might be out there about the census and so funded both the position of the consultant and also a mini grant program. And it's been really exciting to see community based organizations like Granite State Organizing Project or the overcomers organization up in Concord or organizations like Orest, which is an organization for refugee and immigrant. Organizations like the group I've never heard of before, the Non-resident Poverty Association of New Hampshire. All these different organizations that represent immigrants have been helping to get the word out. So that, first of all, people know they don't have to fear completing the sentence, which is really important because of all the kind of disinformation around the citizenship question and other things, and that it's actually a civic duty that people who will hopefully someday become U.S. citizens to understand that there is a need for them to take part just like voting when they have that opportunity. But they can way before they become a citizen, actually participate in forming what our community looks like in terms of the grant money coming down from the federal government and take part. So they've been doing this through with the COVID-19 situation. A lot of the outreach actually we planned to do have been postponed, as your guests have said, but they've been doing it through a number of different activities and reaching out directly through call-a-thons, food distribution, and just really kind of being out there in the community as people have, you know, extreme needs because of the COVID situation, being able to remind them if you have the opportunity, here's the phone number or if you've got that postcard in the mail, you can respond.

Laura Knoy:
Well, Bill I'm glad you called. Stick around for just a second I want to ask a question. So just to make sure I got it right. You are working with immigrant and refugee groups here in the Granite State to make sure that they are counted. And so it's really interesting to hear your input on that. I want to pick up on something you said. You said, you know, we're trying to get out there in the community. But it's tough, isn't it, Bill? And especially some of the people that you're working with maybe don't have Internet access. Now, things are, you know, partly shut down there were mostly shut down for a while. And then you have language barriers as well, Bill. So, you know, how are you getting around that?

Caller:
Well, fortunately, these organizations that we're working with speak multiple languages of people that come from, you know, whether they're coming from Bhutan or they're coming from DRC Congo or from places in Latin America. There is, as you know, strong ability for them to communicate. And, you know, as I think Mr. Behler said earlier, a trusted community partner aspect of this is really key because these are organizations that have been helping people with a, you know, a myriad of different issues from dealing with rent or looking at possibly trying to get into an ESL program or access to food or helping with the kids, you know, educational needs within schools. So these are trusted partners. And then they're really well-placed to communicate why the census is important and how to do it and kind of guide them through that process. So, you know, that's been really exciting. In addition to the other things that the Mini Grant program, which is initiated by Granite United Way is doing to reach librarians or town managers.

Laura Knoy:
Libraries are mostly closed still, unfortunately.

Caller:
We're getting ready. So when we open up, we can really get out there and hit the streets again. So that's the idea.

Laura Knoy:
So Bill I really appreciate you joining us today. And it's interesting to hear about your outreach among refugee and immigrant groups in terms of the census. So thank you for calling in. And let's take another call. This is Greg in Northwood. Hi, Greg. You're on The Exchange. Good morning. Go ahead.

Caller:
Good morning. My question is that I have been hired officially as an enumerator for the census and that's been over three months ago. I've had the background, FBI check, I've been fingerprinted, and I've been told that I have been hired, but I have not heard anything from anybody in about one month, actually three months. Nothing official. And then about a month and maybe a half ago, I got a call asking if I was still ready to go. I said, yes, I'm ready. But they didn't have any information for me. So I'd like to find out what's going on with the hiring and the new employees.

Laura Knoy:
Wow. Greg, thank you so much for calling. And Jeff, I'm sure you can't comment on the specifics of this, but I'm also guessing that there has been a lot of confusion, as you said, a ramped up to hire these temporary enumerators who are so important. And then everything just kind of fell apart in mid-March. So can you broadly address Greg's situation, please, Jeff?

Jeff Behler:
Yeah, absolutely. And, Greg, thank you for your patience. You know, when COVID hit, we had to reduce. Well, we never closed our offices. We had to reduce them dramatically. So our communication was a little constrained, unfortunately, at the time. But I do appreciate your patience and hanging on. We are in the process of ramping up for that big operation that starts August 11th. So, again, when we first have reached out to people months ago, it was under the premise that we were gonna be starting, you know, knocking on doors May 13th. And because of COVID-19, of course, that has been pushed to August 11th. So we're now in the process. First, the New Hampshire office kind of got back up to speed last week, started the update leave operation. We want to get all of our invitation packages out first. That's priority one. We've also started contacting those individuals. And as we learn exactly, we had to change the way we trained people before, you know, prior to COVID-19 people would be coming to a two days worth of classroom and then doing some online training. We've changed our training now to all virtual. Basically, you're coming in to get sworn in as a census employee. You're given your device, and then we're gonna send you home and you're going to do the rest of your training online or virtually and some phone calls with your direct supervisor. So we're in the process now of starting to call those people who've already accepted positions like you, Greg. So you should hear something within the next week. We'll get you scheduled for training. That'll probably come up towards the end of July as we get ready for that August 11th start.

Laura Knoy:
Well, and before the pandemic hit. And I'll throw this to you, too, Jeff. New Hampshire's main problem was a lack of workforce, a lack of skilled employees. And there was some talk about, boy, are there even going to be enough census workers to carry out the census next year. That was 2019 when that conversation is going on. Seems unbelievable now. Are you still having a hard time finding people, Jeff, or do you have enough given how many people lost their jobs?

Jeff Behler:
Yeah. No, we feel very confident that we're gonna have enough people now. Part of this, too, is remember, a lot of these people applied prior to COVID-19. So as we're calling people, we're certainly hearing, you know what? I'm no longer interested in walking around, knocking on doors in a community isn't what I want to do, you know, in this current environment. And we certainly understand, but we recruit at a five to one ratio. So we're confident that we have enough people we're gonna be able to hire throughout New Hampshire. We've really targeted those areas, you know, that we consider hard to count to ensure we have people with language skills, people who understand the culture of the community. And we hired at a very, very local level. So we're going to hire people who speak those languages, but we're confident we're going to have the workforce we need to get the job done in New Hampshire.

Laura Knoy:
Well, Greg, thank you very much for calling in. Again, we welcome your questions and comments, specific questions about how the census works or broad thoughts on why this is important, especially right now. JJ wrote in on Facebook and Ken Johnson I'm going to throw this one at you. J.J. says, I completed my 2020 census online in April and the historian and teacher in me is actually disappointed in how few questions were asked. JJ says, I realize people squirm at privacy issues, perhaps more so when it comes to government, but no questions about employment or education? Also, JJ says will that information still be made public after 70 years? This is a really interesting question. And Ken Johnson to you first. So the number of questions on the census is pretty limited. Right. But then there's a bigger survey that gets sent out where you demographers get all sorts of information to play with. So go ahead, Ken Johnson.

Ken Johnson:
Right, if he thinks he's disappointed that he only got to answer 10 questions, imagine me. No the Census Bureau stopped asking detailed questions on the decennial census in 2000. And since then, the what's called the American Community Survey, which is done constantly, is the replacement for what was used to be called the long form of the census, which did have lots of questions on income and education. So those data are collected continuously, not in this large volume as they were on the census itself, but they give us a continuous picture of what's happening to the American population. And they do include all of those detailed questions. And your audience may certainly be invited to be part of the ACS, the American Community Survey. And I would certainly encourage them to do so so that we do have the detailed information that we need to understand things like income inequality or which groups need more education or health conditions in given areas. So that's been shifted over to another Census Bureau product.

Laura Knoy:
So, Ken Gallager, what does the census ask people? What are the five or six questions that are on that form?

Ken Gallager:
Yeah, it's very simple. Certainly they want to know how many people are there, but they also want to know people's gender, their age, their race, also their ethnicity, which is slightly different. So whether Hispanic or Latino. The relationships between everybody. So is this a family household or is it roommates? Is it a grandparent with a grandchild, that sort of thing? And basically the name and basically that information for every single person who is living in that housing unit. So or even the sort of person who is there most of the time, we want to make sure that everybody gets counted. So even if there's somebody living temporarily with you, but they don't have anybody anywhere else that they are able to live at the time, if they were living with you as of April 1st, we want those people counted as well. But basically those four or five things that I just listed.

Laura Knoy:
Really interesting. So I'm guessing a lot of people asking, Ken Gallager, what about college students? In normal times they tend to live slightly more time away from home if they're studying on campus. This year, however, a lot of them, including in our household, our home. So how do you count college students, Ken Gallager?

Ken Gallager:
The pandemic made this particular question just that much harder to explain to people. It was already a little bit difficult to tell, you know, to explain that, well, college students spent on food, living on campus or near their college. Spend most of the year there. So that is where they're counted, they're counted at the university where they're going to college. Once they got sent back to set off campus and maybe some of them went back. Let's quote unquote, stay home back where their parents live. Then suddenly, you know, how do we tell people? But Jeff can confirm this is that they the census still wants to have the students counted at the place where they were living when they were on campus at college.

Laura Knoy:
Oh, really?

Ken Gallager:
But either in their dorms or living in some sort of off campus housing while they were going to college.

Laura Knoy:
Well, that's interesting. I'd love to hear you on this, too, Jeff. And just speaking from my own situation, it looks like our college student is going to be. Well, who knows? Definitely at least splitting the year with us, you know, six months on and six months off. What's your typical response to questions, Jeff, about college students? It is confusing.

Jeff Behler:
It is very confusing and as Ken mentioned, COVID-19, just made it even more so. So the census is really taking a snapshot in time and the date we click the camera button is April 1st. So regardless if you fill out the questionnaire mid-March or you fill it out July 1st, we're asking you who lived at that address as of April 1st, 2020. And this is really important to those communities that have off campus college students because a big chunk of a lot of these towns and cities population are those college students. And they should be counted there as of April 1st because that is where college students usually live or stay. As of April 1st, 2020 is at that college, you know, off campus apartment. College students are we kind of group amended into two separate groups. The first are those that live on campus. And we work directly with the administrators from universities and colleges. In most cases, we get an administrative list directly from the college to count those students who lived in that college dormitory. It's those students who live off campus that are going to be challenging because most of them, as it was mentioned, left prior to getting that invitation at their apartment in the mail, asking them to go online and to use the census ID or to call this toll free telephone number. And we certainly understand I'm in the same situation. My daughter was home on April 1st and finished her semester out virtually, but I did not include her on my census form because I knew the rules and the criteria in place. But it's OK if someone included their son or daughter on their form, that's OK. We still need their son or daughter to go online or to call the toll free telephone number and fill out the census as if they were living at that off campus apartments or home that they were renting. It's critical because our job is not only to count everyone once and only once, but to count them in the right place and the right place for college students is that off campus college apartment.

Laura Knoy:
Well, and again, if folks want to access that information, we're going to put it on our Website shortly after the show. So that's NHPR.org/exchange, some of the Websites and phone numbers that have come up. We'll put them there. Here's a quick question. I'll throw this to Jeff as well. An email from Theodore. He says, What about prisoners in the census? Good question, Theodore, and Jeff, how does that work?

Jeff Behler:
Yeah, so prisons are part of our group quarters, operations and group quarters, in addition to prisons are college dormitories, as we just spoke about, nursing homes, military barracks. And we do a special operation where we work directly with that group quarter Administrator, and we offer them the different ways we can count their populations. Most majority of jails and prisons, region wide and of course, nationwide, just provide us that administrative list. But those that are incarcerated as of April 1st will be counted within that facility that they're incarcerated.

Laura Knoy:
Interesting. All right. Well, a lot more to talk about after a short break, including we will look at some of the county by county data in terms of who has responded to the census so far here in New Hampshire. And stay with us. Especially if you live in Carroll County and Coos County, you'll be interested to hear what your numbers look like. All that's coming up.

Laura Knoy:
This is The Exchange. I'm Laura Knoy. Back to our conversation now about the 2020 census and your questions about how it's unfolding this year with all the limitations of a pandemic. And as we're hearing, renewed emphasis on getting everyone counted, including those groups that are typically undercounted. We have three guests for the hour. Ken Johnson, professor of sociology, senior demographer at the Carsey School of Public Policy at UNH. Also Ken Gallager, principal planner and coordinator for the State Data Center and chair of the state's Complete Count Committee, and Jeff Behler, regional director for the U.S. Census Bureau. I have some county by county data here given to me from the state about New Hampshire's response rate. So far, overall, almost 60 percent. But I think I'm gonna throw this to you, Ken Gallager, first. Carroll County, not quite 25 percent. Some of the other northern more rural counties, Coos, about 43 percent. Grafton, about 45 percent. And then in the southern more suburban and urban counties, you've got, you know, 69 percent in Hillsborough, 68 percent in Rockingham and so forth. First of all, Carroll County way below everybody else. Jeff, well, excuse me, not Jeff. Ken Gallager. What's going on there?

Ken Gallager:
Well, there's actually two things going on. One is what Jeff already mentioned, which is the fact that the update leave operation got suspended barely after it got started. So Carroll County and several of the other areas in northern and the western part of the state had higher numbers of addresses which were going to be get their forms that way. But the other thing to remember about the response rate is that it's not the number of people responding. It's the number of housing units who got the form and then have sent back their forms. And in places like Carroll County, especially, a lot of the housing units are not people's first residences. You have a large number of houses along lakes. Half of Lake Winnipesaukee is in Carroll County. And then you also have the whole Mt. Washington Valley area, which, again, has a lot of second homes or AirBNB type homes. Every single one of those addresses gets counted as sort of the base from which we determine the percentage. And so it's going to be expected that Carroll County, for instance, will be a little bit lower even when update leave gets completed.

Laura Knoy:
And just remind us, Ken Gallager, update leave is that person has a P.O. box as their address. So you have to physically find their, you know, their physical address and leave something there. Is that what that means? Just remind us.

Ken Gallager:
Yeah, that's right. It's either a P.O. box or it's just some sort of a rural address that it's not easily determined that the form can get sent to them through directly to their address via the mail. So it's the census workers who are delivering those forms.

Laura Knoy:
Ok. And this brings up, you know, a million dollar question. Ken Johnson here in New Hampshire. What about places like the Lakes region, like the Mount Washington Valley, where there are a lot of second homeowners? Where do those people get counted? If someone's a snowbird, do they count themselves in Florida or New Hampshire? Ken?

Ken Johnson:
Well, they're supposed to count themselves where they are most of the year, and so for somebody who has a second home in Coos County and lives in Massachusetts, they would be counted there. The housing unit is still counted. And the Census Bureau will report the housing unit is a second home if it can determine that it's a second home. That's the challenge that Ken Gallager was just talking about, is in order to know that's a second home, we have to have the data on it. So. People are counted at their principal place of residence. Now recognize that this has a lot of implications for these counties, too, because their summer populations or in some areas their winter populations could be substantially larger than their full time population is. This puts pressure on hospitals and other kinds of places that have to be prepared for larger populations at some time of the year than others and also contribute significantly to the local economies. So this is a very complex issue, knowing where the second homes are and what proportion of the homes are second is very important to demographers like me and other kinds of researchers, partially because what's a second home today may not always be a second home. Some people who have second homes around Lake Winnipesaukee may eventually move there. So we're seeing something about futures by seeing current trends. But second homes have always been an extremely difficult challenge for the Census Bureau, particularly because they're in rural areas which are less well populated.

Laura Knoy:
Well, and particularly Ken Johnson, this year, it's been widely reported that many people returned to their second homes a lot earlier than usual. They usually come, you know, after Memorial Day. But I heard from several people that these areas around the lakes and the mountains were filling up, you know, in mid-March. So second homes, Ken Johnson, are not counted in the standard census, but they are picked up in that broader community survey. How is that done? It sounds very complicated.

Ken Johnson:
It is complicated. Remember, in the census, the decennial census, two things are counted. The number of people and the number of housing units there are. There are a couple of questions about housing units on the decennial census as well. So the Census Bureau is enumerating both of those. Of course, the population is what's important for congressional representation and things like that. But we also enumerate the number of houses and so in the decennial census, we will have a count of those houses. How people answer to the American Community Survey is more complicated and uses a different set of rules. But this is a big issue for the Census Bureau, as well as for planners like Ken Gallager, who have to help communities understand what the situation is when their population at some times of the year might be very different than their populations at other times of the year.

Laura Knoy:
Sure. And you often hear, you know, certain communities in New Hampshire described as, you know, population 5000 three quarters of the year and 15000 during the summer or winter if it's a ski community. So. Boy, that's complicated.

Ken Johnson:
Imagine if you were an E.R. doc and you had to decide how many people to have on your staff at any given time. During the course of the year, it's going to vary quite dramatically. And that's a real challenge when you have limited health care professionals in some of the rural areas of the state.

Laura Knoy:
Well, here's a related e-mail from Janet who says, I filled out the census form online and have had several follow up phone calls asking me for more detailed information. Janet says, I don't consider myself paranoid, but how do I know these people are actually from the census? They told me on the phone that I would just have to trust that they were. I don't care to share my private information with anyone who isn't privy to it. Janet, I'm so glad you wrote, because, Jeff, this is a huge issue. In fact, the General Accounting Office reported just this week that, quote, The bureau will need to continue to provide a timely response to disinformation and misinformation. So how can you help Janet out and let people know what is legit and what is not? Janet, so glad you wrote.

Jeff Behler:
Yeah, that's a great question. I'm glad that she raised that. So on our main Web page at the 2020census.gov. We have a rumors and scam scams tab, and in there there's a toll free number you can call whether you want to do a employee ballot verification. Whether you have a question regarding a call, please reach out to us. We also include some of the rumors that are out there on social media. One time it was rumored that the census is tied to your stimulus check. That's not the case.

Laura Knoy:
Oh, my goodness. Wow, I hadn't heard that one.

Jeff Behler:
But we do put, you know, what we're seeing on social media. We try to address it immediately. So please check. The best thing to do is to check out our Website at 2020census.gov. I will mention regarding the scams and the calling that we're doing. We do have a coverage improvement operation. One of the things that we're doing if we're seeing a homeowner excuse me, or a response coming in from my household that has a college age child. And on the form, they mark that this college age child lives somewhere else. We're following up with those households to make sure. Should they really be counted at your address or does that student live somewhere else, such as an off campus apartment or at a college dormitory? So we are doing that. When we call, we are not asking for any new information. It's just simply verifying the information you provided. Couple other things we will never ask for. If you hear about this, please reach out to us. We will never ask for your Social Security number. We will never ask for a bank account or credit card information. We will never ask for money and we never ask for anything on behalf of a political party.

Laura Knoy:
So that American community survey that Ken Johnson talked about earlier, Jeff, that provides all that more granular data that demographers love. How does the Census Bureau gather that data? Is it possible that that call Janet got was related to the American Community Survey, or is that done differently?

Jeff Behler:
Yeah, it's done a little bit differently. We basically start with a mail out of questionnaires every month to sampled households throughout the nation. And then a subsample of those who don't respond after a couple of months, they give to us in the field and we'll mail a letter letting them know someone's going to be coming, knocking on your door, trying to collect this information. And it is great. We started the American Community Survey in 2005 because we realized, you know, collecting this information once every 10 years. By the time we tabulated it and released it, it was out of date. And now, as Ken mentioned earlier, we have the ability to release information, characteristics of our neighborhoods throughout the country every year because of the American community survey.

Laura Knoy:
So I'm getting a sense from all three of you that this is complicated and it's not going to be perfect. Here's a question, though. And Jeff, to you first. If the 2020 census is way off because of the pandemic, because of the difficulties in reaching people and getting responses, could it be adjusted? And by the way, how would we even know if it was way off? It's a tough question. Jeff, go ahead. You first.

Jeff Behler:
Yeah, it's a tough question to answer. So first off, we do a separate operation that measures the overcount or undercount on a 2020 census. So it's something that's a very secretive thing. It's kept away from our operational teams. They basically do a mini census from start to finish to try to measure what it is we missed and then provide that information publicly at the end. You know, the decision on whether or not we use administrative records or some other way to count the population. We're certainly using administrative records in the 2020 census, but we don't necessarily have administrative records for every community across the country. So it's not a one size fits all kind of thing. And it is going to be a challenge. But we have the time. We are focused now between now and August 11th before we start knocking on doors to work with partners. I appreciate the caller earlier, Bill, who all of the work he's doing with all the community groups to get the word out there to try to get people, the census can be really easy if people either go online or call it in over the phone or fill it out on paper and return it. It reduces the need for things like imputation or statistical adjustments or even sending people to knock on your door. So we have the time. We're hopeful that we can get the message out for people to self respond to the 2020 census.

Laura Knoy:
And Ken Johnson, has this question ever come up before, adjusting the census? It seems like a huge deal.

Ken Johnson:
Yes, it has. And in addition to I mean, Jeff was right about the post enumeration survey that's done separate from the census, trying to estimate the undercount. There's also a demographic analysis done after the census, which because we know how many people were, how many white males were 12 years old in 2010. And we know about mortality patterns. We should be able to estimate how many 22 year olds there are in 2020. So there are other ways in which the census is observed. The question of adjustment. In 2000, the census went all the way to the Supreme Court over the question of whether or not the population could be adjusted in the census itself. Supreme Court ruled that according to the Constitution, it was the enumerated population that was going to be reported. And so that's what happened. I mean, certainly we demographers make adjustments to some of the census numbers and other things we do. But the decennial census has always been the count itself, as well as there is an estimate of the undercount. Now, in 2010, the undercount was very small and it was so small that very few people adjusted any of this. I mean, demographers adjusted the census. The one group that we did work with when we were doing some very detailed analysis was one of the big undercounts is the children under the age of one or under the age of five. So they were undercounted by about four percent in 2010.

Laura Knoy:
That's a lot.

Ken Johnson:
That's one group that there's considerable concern about in 2020 as well.

Laura Knoy:
Well, really interesting. And Ken Gallager, you know, as chair of the state's complete count committee, you're gonna have a busy summer. What's the next step for you, Ken Gallager?

Ken Gallager:
Well, funny you should ask. We actually are having our monthly meeting very, very just tomorrow. And actually, I also want to thank Bill Maddocks for calling in. He has been doing just incredible work as the complete count consultant. So what we have to do tomorrow on our monthly call is just describe to one another what's going to happen as things continue to reopen. We need to find out from the libraries whether there's anything more that they can do. There's still money available. Bill mentioned that there was the New Hampshire Funder's forum, which has done a great job of putting money out there that can be used by groups. So we now still since some of that money wasn't able to be used. We now have that that we wish to be able to push out again. So stay tuned.

Laura Knoy:
Well, and we could have talked a lot longer. I really appreciate everyone's time. Jeff, great to have you. Thank you for your time this morning.

Jeff Behler:
Thank you. This was a great conversation.

Laura Knoy:
That's Jeff Behler, regional director of the U.S. Census Bureau. And Ken Gallager, a busy summer for you. Thank you very much for being with us this morning.

Ken Gallager:
Great. Thank you.

Laura Knoy:
Ken Gallager is principal planner and coordinator for the State Data Center. And as I said, chair of the State Complete Count Committee. And Ken Johnson, last but not least, we really appreciate your time. We'll talk again.

Ken Johnson:
OK.

Laura Knoy:
That's Ken Johnson, professor of sociology and senior demographer at the Carsey School of Public Policy at UNH. One more time Exchange listeners, if you want some of the information given out today on the census, we'll get it up soon on our Website. That is nhpr.org/exchange. And you've been listening to The Exchange on New Hampshire Public Radio.